Category Archives: Obituaries

Remembering Eleanor Stanier

The Guardian published a tribute to Eleanor Stanier last month but it has only just appeared in the print edition where someone spotted it for us. It seems an obituary had previously appeared in The Telegraph, but I imagine fewer Lib Dems read that.

Eleanor was a longstanding member of Richmond and Twickenham Liberal Democrats. She represented Mortlake ward from 1997 and served as Mayor of Richmond upon Thames from 2001-2002. Eleanor expressed her commitment to community by serving on a variety of local bodies such as Richmond Housing Partnership,  the East Sheen Society, Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond Museum, Barnes and Mortlake History Society, as well as on the governing body of two schools. She ran a number of successful local campaigns including getting a new post office in East Sheen after one closed and opening an old air raid shelter.

To describe her, people have use terms like “hardworking”, “effective”, “indefatigable”, “formidable”, “warm”, “lively”, “energetic”, “idealistic” – she sounds like great company and I wish I had known her.

Our sympathy goes to Eleanor’s family and friends, along with apologies for not writing about her before.

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Pamela Brown O.B.E. 1924-2024

Pam Brown’s death on 2nd March at the age of ninety-nine means that Hastings Liberalism has lost one of its greatest campaigners and advocates. Pam was first elected to Hastings Borough Council (with its much greater powers over education and other services in those days) in 1968 by a margin of five votes and remained there until her retirement from the Council in 2006. Housing was her main political interest and she served several terms as Chairman of the Housing Committee.

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Cllr Alan Gloak MBE- a life well lived

“They don’t make them like that anymore” – and this time, I really believe it to be true.  The certainly would never be two Alan Gloak’s, and given his witness and contribution to the gay rights, the struggle for liberation and equality and inclusion for all LGBT+ communities we really won’t see his like again.  Born in 1942, Alan died on 29th December aged 81, an active party member and former councillor in the Wells Local Party in Somerset.

Alan’s life is a rich tapestry indeed, but his political contribution for the Liberal Democrats was in Somerset, or more specifically Glastonbury.   Alan was elected in 1995 to Glastonbury Town Council and to Mendip District Council.  He lost his seat on Mendip in 1999, but continued as a Town Councillor, but in 2001 he gained the seat of Glastonbury on Somerset County Council, held it in 2005, 2009 standing down in 2017 after 16 years. 2001 was a good year for Somerset Liberal Democrats and we took majority control, defended in 2005 and 2009.

In 2002 he was the portfolio holder for Community Regeneration and Economic Development, but in 2005 he became Chairman of the Council. And it was in this role that Alan was to thrive. As the ceremonial face of the Council Alan was to throw himself into the role with energy, passion and aplomb. As Alan toured round the County at shows, events, breakfasts, seminars and at the many offices where staff were based he listened and learnt.

Empowered with knowledge and insights into the front line of the Council, Alan became a personal champion for looked after children, for the social groups who might get left behind, and for the community aspect of politics.


Memorial Service for David Patterson

Following the sad passing of Wandsworth activist and former councillor David Patterson last April – reported here on Liberal Democrat Voice – readers might like to know that there will be a memorial service for him later this month. This will be held at the Quaker Meeting House, 59 Wandsworth High Street, London SW18 2PT on Monday 26 February at 7pm.

This meeting will follow the Quaker format of an introduction by an elder, with an invitation to anybody present to speak, to share their memories of David and any reflections. David was a Quaker, but this is not a …

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The Rosalynn Carter I knew

Years ago in Plains, Georgia, people had to stand in two separate lines, for Republicans and for Democrats, when they registered to vote. Rosalynn Carter told me she used to be the only white person standing in the Democratic line.

The world has lost a tireless campaigner for justice and peace with the passing of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, age 96. She never lost sight of the moral calling to give a voice to the world’s voiceless and persecuted, and she advocated for those with mental illness decades before it became a more socially acceptable subject.

I had the honour of knowing Mrs Carter through the work of the Carter Center, which she and her husband Jimmy established after they left the White House in 1980. Rather than making money from corporate directorships or after dinner speeches, the Carters threw themselves into creating an NGO to fight disease and poverty in the developing world, and to ensure elections were free and fair.

In the early 2000s, my husband Henry and I were invited to a dinner in London to meet Mrs Carter who was on her way to see their projects in Africa. We were unenthusiastic, assuming we would be stuck on a table at the back of a banqueting room, there to be squeezed for money.

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Brian Cotter 1936-2023, former Lib Dem MP for Weston-super-Mare

Brian was born in London, the son of a doctor from Weston-super-Mare and was educated in London and Somerset. After doing his National Service he entered business, eventually running his own small manufacturing company in Hampshire. Brian married Eyleen in the 1960s and they had two sons and a daughter together.

Brian came into politics relatively late, not joining the Liberal Party until his 40s. He became active in Woking and was elected to Woking Borough Council in 1986, as a Liberal/SDP Alliance candidate, representing the Mount Hermon West ward. He retained this seat until standing down in 1990.

Brian moved to Weston-super-Mare that year following his selection as our Parliamentary Candidate for the 1992 General Election. He set about campaigning with gusto and personally knocked on thousands of doors and helped to recruit new members and deliverers everywhere he went. He took us to a strong second place securing more votes than any Liberal or Liberal Democrat candidate in the history of the seat.

Brian was reselected and contested the seat again at the 1997 General Election, winning this time with a majority of 1,274 over the Conservative – the first non-Conservative for 74 years. He successfully defended the seat in 2001, holding on with a reduced majority.  In 2005, Brian was defeated by the Conservatives, and in the following year was nominated to the House of Lords by the late Charles Kennedy MP and he served in the upper chamber until his death.

My standout memories of campaigning with Brian include in the run-up to the 1997 General Election when we were expecting a flying visit from Paddy – literally, as he was landing in a helicopter on the beach. Paddy was running late (of course) and the Conservative candidate drove round and round the Beach Lawns – where Brian and around a hundred of our supporters were waiting for Paddy – and heckled through the loudspeaker on her Land Rover: “They seek him here, they seek him there, they seek that Paddy everywhere”. Brian delivered an impromptu speech and pointed out that if the best the Tories could do was watch us then we were winning already – and he was right.

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Michael Steed obituary in The Guardian

Last month Michael Meadowcroft wrote an obituary for Michael Steed in The Guardian, but it has only just appeared in the print edition where it occupies a whole page.

It focusses on his pioneering work as a psephologist, working with David Butler and John Curtice on, amongst other things, some new approaches to measuring election swings, and as a Lecturer in Government at Manchester University.

Amazingly he had been a member of the Liberals, followed by the Liberal Democrats, for 65 years. He was at various times a Parliamentary, European and Council candidate. I only got to know him a few years ago through the Social Liberal Forum, where his deep knowledge of liberalism and the Liberal Democrats influenced our thinking.

A prominent Liberal party activist, he was the vice-chair of the National League of Young Liberals during its radical phase in the 1960s, frequently at odds with the party leader at the time, Jeremy Thorpe. He consistently championed gay rights, called for a federal Europe and proposed constitutional reform, including regional government. Steed did not just snipe from the wings but took on key roles in the party, becoming a member of the party executive and serving as its president (1978-79) under an election system he had devised and which the party backed.

William Wallace wrote a beautiful tribute to him on Lib Dem Voice last month, and Michael Meadowcroft’s contribution stands alongside that.

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Young Liberals, youthful radicalism: remembering Peter Hellyer

For most current members of the Liberal Democrats, the tensions within the Liberal Party in the late 1960s and the different ways we responded to the student revolts of 1968, the Vietnam War, the apartheid regime in South Africa and the aftermath of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, which ended in the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, are all ancient history.  For those of us who were Young Liberals then, however, this is a key part of what shaped our approach to politics.  A phone call last week from Hisham Hellyer to tell me that his father Peter had …

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David Patterson RIP

It is very sad to report that David Patterson passed away peacefully in hospital on 24 April 2023 at the age of 83. David was the backbone of Tooting Liberals and the Battersea and Tooting Liberal Democrats for more years than I can think of.

David’s sister reports that David was a Liberal as a teenager. He shot to (relative) fame by winning a Wandsworth Council by-election in the Earlsfield ward in October 1983, joining his colleague Paul Bowdage who had been elected at the 1982 all-up elections. Both subsequently lost their seats …

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Tributes paid to Paul Hannon, former LibDem leader of Newbury District Council

Over on, there is a fine obituary of Paul Hannon, former LibDem leader of Newbury District Council.

The piece includes this tribute to Paul from Lord Benyon, former MP for Newbury:

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Robert Woodthorpe Browne MBE (1943-2022)

The unexpected death of Robert this week, in the run-up to an ALDE Party Council meeting, the scene of so many of his contributions to the Party’s international work, has cast a shade over the work of our delegation this weekend.

Robert Woodthorpe Browne, the former veteran Chair of the Party’s International Relations Committee, latterly Federal International Relations Committee, died on Tuesday morning, following a stroke the previous week. An internationalist to his fingertips, his reputation as one of the leading players in global liberal politics was a tribute to hard work, an almost uncanny ability to make deals and a sense of pragmatism that stood him, and the Liberal Democrats, in good stead over many years.

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A tribute to Nigel Jones

From left: Nigel Jones, Max Wilkinson, Martin Horwood

Nigel Jones gave so much to Cheltenham.  To me and many others, he was a friend and a mentor.  As generous with his kindness as with his wisdom, he was a liberal to his core.

I did not know him as Nigel the MP, who achieved so much for his hometown.  I became his friend after he left the Commons.  But his legacy lives long in Cheltenham and it’s hard to knock more than a handful of doors without somebody mentioning his name.  After winning the seat in 1992, he lobbied successfully to keep GCHQ in Cheltenham and supported the trade unionists who worked there, alongside very many other local activities.  In parliament he was chair of the parliamentary beer group and was a true internationalist, serving in several party spokesperson’s roles.  Others will, I’m sure, pay much more expansive tributes to Nigel’s work as an MP than I can.  What I can do is tell the story of how he helped me.  It’s a story I know others in Cheltenham will recognise, such was the breadth of his generosity.

My friendship with Nigel started almost as soon as I joined the party.  He helped me so much in my earliest moments as a liberal activist.  For that I will be forever grateful.

Nigel was there to help when I was producing and delivering my first Focus leaflet.  After being introduced to the local office by Martin Horwood, Nigel’s successor as our MP, I received some important advice: “Nigel lives in Park ward.  He might deliver a round for you.”  That advice came from Andy Williams, our longstanding organiser well-known to many Lib Dem campaigners.  Andy had worked with his friend Nigel for many years.  Later that day, I phoned the number I was given by Andy to see if Lord Jones, our former MP and a busy working peer, was indeed interested in helping my longshot council election campaign in what was then the strongest Conservative part of town.  Soon after, I was in Nigel’s lounge, learning about how he had won the very same ward himself in 1989.  “It was by four votes and only because we called on a family of four at 9.50pm to get them to the polling station,” he advised.  “Remember that when it comes to election day”.  Nigel took three batches of leaflets and assured me he’d make time to deliver – an offer he repeated every time I asked.  What I didn’t know until long afterwards was that he was also helping out an old friend by delivering in an adjoining ward – typical of his self-effacing way of helping the liberal cause.

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Welsh Liberal Democrats pay tribute to former Assembly Member Mick Bates

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have paid tribute to former Welsh Assembly Member Mick Bates following the news that he has passed away following a battle with cancer.

Mick Bates was elected as the Liberal Democrat member for Montgomeryshire constituency in the inaugural Welsh Assembly elections in 1999 and continued to serve as its member until 2011.

Prior to becoming the Assembly Member for Montgomeryshire Mick had worked as a teacher, as a farmer and as a Liberal Democrat County Councillor.

Mick was well known for being a tireless campaigner for rural communities, but also for being decades ahead of his time on the need to tackle climate change advocating for action to save the environment years before it entered the political mainstream.

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You are invited to Shirley Williams’ Memorial Service

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You are invited to celebrate the life of
Shirley Vivian Teresa Brittain Williams

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Welsh Liberal Democrats Pay Tribute to Former Assembly Member Aled Roberts

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds Stated:

I am devastated to hear of the passing of Aled. Aled was a committed liberal and was known for his extraordinary hard work as both an Assembly Member for North Wales and as a senior councillor on Wrexham Borough Council. This news is a deep blow to the Welsh Liberal Democrat family and my thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this difficult time.

Throughout his time as an Assembly Member Aled continued to put standing up for his communities at the very heart of everything he did. Just one example was his tireless and successful campaign for Llay to have solar panels installed on all homes within the estate.

In his role as Shadow Minister for Children, Education and the Welsh language, he fought tooth and nail for investment in our young people, not least for the Welsh Government to maintain the Pupil Deprivation Grant. He is also well remembered for only ever making his contributions in the Siambr in Welsh.

As a councillor, Aled was a role model community servant and represented the Ponciau Ward from 1991-2012 and served as Mayor of Wrexham in 2003-04. He was elected Leader of Wrexham County Borough Council in March 2005.

Outside of politics, Aled also had a distinguished career as local solicitor and in 1985 he was part of a campaign to protect a local Miners’ institute from closure. He also was the Chair of Governors for many years at Ysgol Gymraeg I D Hooson and a Governor at Ysgol Maes y Mynydd, Rhosllanerchrugog. He was also a committed Christian.

Aled will be most remembered for his dedication to the Welsh language. A tireless advocate of the protection and promotion of Welsh, he excelled in his role as the Welsh Language Commissioner and sought to promote the language in all aspects of life, including in his role as an Assembly Member.

Aled’s passing will leave a deep hole in Welsh political life and in our Party, he was someone who knew everyone and left a positive impression on all those he knew. We will miss him greatly.

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John Pugh writes…Lord Ronnie Fearn 1931-2022

Most people who knew Ronnie have a Ronnie story. If there is a book written about how to become an MP or a Lord, Ronnie never read it.

He was never going to be one to tick all the boxes in a bloodless modern selection process  and yet he was loved by his constituents and possibly the only one who could have in the 1987 General Election delivered the only Liberal gain in England. He won because he was no political careerist using the constituency as a stepping stone, but because his only ambition was to represent the town of his birth and the people in it.

Southport, albeit it has its eccentricities and detractors, has deep Liberal roots and the heart of Southport liberalism is valuing each individual regardless of where they stand in the social hierarchy.

Ronnie practised rather than theorised about Liberalism showing an omnivorous and genuine interest in the daily life of ordinary and not so ordinary folk, patronising ,in the proper sense, all sorts of groups and associations.

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World Review: Troubles in Poland, Nigeria, Brazil & the US, and Colin Powell

In this weekend’s commentary on world affairs, LDV’s foreign correspondent Tom Arms reviews the conflict between Poland and the Commission over the primacy of EU law. Nigeria is in a bigger mess than usual as corruption is exacerbated by Jihadism, the pandemic, a rapid rise in gang violence and a resurgence of Biafran secessionism. Brazilian senators are investigating Bolsonaro’s responsibility for 600,000 Brazilian covid-19 deaths. In the States, Trump aide Steve Bannon will go to prison for a year for contempt of Congress. Colin Powell who died this week, was universally recognised as a decent and honest man.

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Sir David Amess – a tribute

David Amess was a kind, thoughtful and sensitive man. We may have been political opponents but he was a good friend to me and countless others, right across the political divide. He was a thoroughly diligent and distinguished Member of Parliament, who was unstinting in his commitment and service to his Essex constituents.

I first met David in 1989 soon after I was selected by Labour to contest the election in Thurrock, Essex, a marginal Tory-held seat. David was then already Member of Parliament for Basildon, next door to Thurrock. (Later he represented Southend, also in Essex).

We would sometimes meet on the underground whilst travelling to the constituencies. We would engage in banter – laugh and joke – on other occasions we would sometimes be deeply engaged in discussion about the state of British politics. Surprisingly, we often agreed! We both had a passion for Parliament and its history.

After I was elected we also found that we had much in common. We both shared the need to champion the interests of the people of Essex. Neither of us sought Ministerial office; on the contrary, both of us shared the view that being recognised as an independent vocal backbencher was sufficient reward.

We collaborated in championing the interests of the Iranian opposition politicians who faced persecution and exile. This was ongoing business for David. He was passionate about trying to protect and promote the rights of people arguing for democracy in Iran.

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Obituary: Tom Sharp CBE

Guildford Liberal Democrats have shared with us the sad news of the death of Tom Sharp on 20th August. We send our sympathies and love to his wife, Baroness Margaret Sharp, and to his family, friends and colleagues.

Tom served as a County Councillor from 1989-2005 and as a Guildford Borough Councillor from 1991-1999. Professionally he was a civil servant, including a secondment to the British Embassy in Washington DC in the 70s. In 1987 he was awarded a CBE for the work he did on the privatisation of British Telecom.

Cllr David Goodwin writes on behalf of the Borough Lib Dem Group:

My overriding memory of Tom was his belief in and commitment to the Liberal Democrats both locally and nationally. He was a true liberal and this extended through to his work with residents and fellow councillors (from all sides) – balanced, hard-working and fair. So, it was a real honour to take over from him on both the Borough and County Councils.

With his wife Margaret, Baroness Sharp (an equally avid Lib Dem member who served in the Lords and fought the Guildford parliamentary seat between 1983 and 1997), they generously opened their home to Guildford Liberal Democrats – as both the local party office and for their legendary fundraising dinners. They were real cornerstones of the local party, always helping at events alongside their councillor and other community work.

Tom supported so many councillors and candidates past and present in their elections – not only with his words of wisdom but also delivering election leaflets right across our constituency. He knew it inside out and impressed us all with his tenacity & fitness to deliver so many of them well into his 80s!

Former MP for Guilford, Sue Doughty, writes:

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Obituary: Trevor Smith – Liberal Democrat Peer

I first met Trevor Smith fifty years ago when I arrived at the Joseph Rowntree Social Service Trust – now the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust – in 1970. I was Pratap Chitnis’ assistant and Trevor ran the Acton Society Trust which was, in effect the Trust’s research arm. We were in touch sporadically thereafter, meeting for the last time at Geoff Tordoff’s funeral in June 2019.

Trevor joined the Liberal Society at the London School of Economics in 1955 when the party was almost at its lowest ebb. He fought the 1959 general election in Lewisham West – at 22 the youngest candidate in the UK – but never fought another election. He retained his Liberal and Liberal Democrat membership but he chose an academic career and only again became publicly active politically when appointed as a Life Peer in 1997, not long before he retired.

Trevor was never prepared to allow what he regarded as self-seeking or unprofessional conduct to go unchallenged and controversy followed him around his academic posts. It was the same with his politics. His thirty-five year absence from Liberal politics did not inhibit his criticisms of the party and he wrote a number of articles in Liberator critical of the party’s management and direction, including calling for Nick Clegg’s resignation as leader in July 2014.

His final academic post in 1991 was as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ulster, the biggest university on the island of Ireland and based at four separate sites around the north. It was a brave job to take on, given the political situation in the province and the academic difficulties at the university. As ever he set about changing the top personnel and successfully challenging the entrenched attitudes at the university. He embarked on a number of imaginative and liberal initiatives including establishing Incore, the International Centre for Conflict Resolution, with the United Nations University, Tokyo. He also wanted to establish a fifth Ulster University campus on the Belfast peace line between the Shankill and the Falls Road, with entrances at each side.

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Jonathan Davies (1962-2021)

It is with deep sadness, the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel (LDFI) announce the passing of our dear friend and long-time LDFI Vice-Chairman and Treasurer Jonathan Davies, after a year-long illness.

Jonathan, an Oxford graduate and former Partner and Head of the Financial Services team at a large City law firm, was a Liberal Democrat stalwart. On a local level, Jonathan was a phenomenal activist in the London Borough of Barnet. He represented Childs Hill as a councillor from 1994-1998, stood for Parliament in Finchley and Golders Green on three occasions and was appointed the ward’s election agent in the very high profile 2019 election, as well as being elected as Chair of the English Party of the Liberal Democrats in 2010. His talents, dedication and calming influence spanned decades, and he devoted countless hours to campaigning for and supporting the Party.

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Hans van Baalen (1960-2021)

It has been announced that Johannes Cornelis “Hans” van Baalen, President of the ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe) Party, passed away this morning after a short period in hospital, having recently been diagnosed as suffering from cancer.

A member of VVD (The People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy), he served as a member of the Dutch Parliament between 1999 and 2002, and from 2003 until 2009 until he took his seat in the European Parliament. His political career started as the International Secretary of VVD, the first step in what became a love of international politics that saw him rise to the top of European and international liberalism.

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Liberal Democrat Voice pays tribute to Shirley Williams

Members of the Liberal Democrat Voice team pay tribute to Shirley Williams

Paul Walter:
I took the (rather fuzzy) photo of Shirley (above) at the Spring Conference in Brighton in 2013.

My mother is not “Political” although she has a great political understanding, with a small “p”.

Back in the late 1960s, she saw Shirley Williams as her favourite politician. Simply because she was, in my mother’s words, “so sensible”,

I knew what she meant. There was always something about how Shirley spoke.

In debates she would never get heated or involved in “argy-bargy”. She would listen carefully to the opposing views, with her head slightly leaning to one side, and take notes. (In fact, reviewing photos of Shirley over the years, I see that she often had her head leaning slightly to one side as if to emphasise that she was listening). When it came to her turn to speak, she would be absolutely devastating (to the opposition) because she would be composed, informed, “as sharp as a tack” and take down the opposing view with extreme precision. In doing so, she always appeared to be totally calm but absolutely precise.

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Shirley Williams – a tribute

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I first met Shirley as a teenage student. I served with her on the Labour Committee for Europe. I was at her side as she chaired every session of every SDP conference. And latterly I worked with her closely in the Lords where initially she was my leader and, more recently and improbably, I was hers.

Over these 50 years, Shirley didn’t really change. She was passionate about the things she believed in – principally social justice and Europe. She was fearless in advocating these things and was prepared to take political hostility head on to promote them.

But what set Shirley apart from any other politicians I’ve met was her empathy and her charisma. She was genuinely interested in other people, their ideas and their lives. And she had a special magnetic charm which meant that people warmed to her and were energised by her.

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Tributes to Shirley Williams

Many warm tributes have been paid to Shirley Williams, who sadly passed away yesterday.

Here are a selection of the tributes:

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David Penwarden dies at 88

The Liberal Democrats lost a much-loved colleague, mentor and campaigner on February 8th.

David Penwarden was a member of the Party for about 70 years, his first role being President of the 1000-strong Oxford University Liberal Party. He took pride in making it the largest political society at the University, a feat he attributed to holding meetings at the women’s colleges rather than the men’s colleges where the other parties operated!

He first stood as a Liberal candidate in the 1955 General Election in a, not unsurprisingly, unsuccessful campaign in West Ham North where he used beer-mats with the message ‘Vote Penwarden for peace, progress, prosperity’. He did get elected later, however, as a Liberal councillor for the County Borough of West Ham.

In 1961 he moved with his wife and young children to Berkshire where he was elected to Reading Borough Council. In 1963 he stood unsuccessfully in a by-election for the Deptford constituency.

In 1966 the family moved to Harpenden and David stood in the South Bedfordshire constituency in both the 1974 general elections. David was the Chair of the Liberal Party’s Candidates Committee in 1978-80. He stood for Hemel Hempstead in the 1979 general election.

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Ed Fordham on Jonathan Fryer, Tony Greaves and Derek Barrie

They come along in three’s: but none of us expected to put Jonathan Fryer, Tony Greaves and Derek Barrie in the same sentence in such a short period of time. Three liberals who now feature in our hearts, in our memories and in our stories. But if we do them justice they will feature in our actions, our principles and that will keep them alive in our hearts.

LDV has published obituaries for Tony Greaves and Derek Barrie. Jonathan Fryer is terminally ill and has sadly written his last Facebook post.

These were three very different people.

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A tribute to Ann Winfield

At Lib Dem Voice we were sad to hear of the death of Ann Winfield.

Her husband, Rif, writes:

My wife Ann Winfield, Liberal Parliamentary candidate in the 1983 General Election for Newham North East, former Assistant Secretary of the London Liberal Party, and Leader of the Liberal Group on Newham London Borough Council from 1982 to 1986, died in Bronglais General Hospital at 8pm on Christmas Eve, 24 December. She was 69½ years old.

Born Ann Spriggs in Ladywood, Birmingham, in mid 1951, she was recruited into the Liberal Party (at the age of 9!) by Wallace Lawler, who subsequently became Liberal

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Joan “Penny” Ewens (1926-2020)

Michael Meadowcroft has kindly drawn our attention to an obituary recently published in the Yorkshire Post

Joan “Penny” Ewens, who has died at 94, was a two-term Leeds councillor and honorary Alderman, having been elected to the council in her late 70s after a lifetime of activism.

Born Joan Penwill, she adopted the forename Penny at her school in Liverpool to differentiate her from five other Joans in her class. She served in the Intelligence Corps during the war and met her future husband, David Ewens, on VE day in London. They were married soon afterwards.

David’s job brought them to Leeds in 1960 and, as a mature student, she enrolled at the James Graham Teacher Training College. After a spell at the Kitson College she settled into a long career at West Park High School where she took a particular interest in careers and in drama.

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John Roberts – a tribute

John Roberts with Judith Trefor Thomas had the idea, and with the great support of Emlyn Hooson, founded the Welsh Liberal Summer School meeting first in Llangollen. It developed ultimately into the Lloyd George Society of which he was an executive member for many years. His purpose was to have a meeting place where we could discuss Liberal policies and exchange ideas, with a Welsh flavour.

Having broken away from the central Liberal organisation, the LPO, in 1967, the new Welsh Liberal Party needed its own distinctive policies. John was foremost in engaging academics and journalists who threw us ideas. I remember in particular how we worked on economic policies with the theme that bribing industry with cash subsidies to open branch projects in Wales was ultimately fruitless. What was needed was investment in infrastructure which would make Wales a desirable place for investment – roads, rail electrification, airlinks, trading estates, a new Severn crossing and upgrading the A55. Free Ports in Cardiff, Newport and Swansea was one of the policies we developed, a concept which this Tory government fifty years later seems now to have latched onto.

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