Cllr Ruth Dombey writes: In memory of David MacDonald

Where to begin?

A young man of 28 – with his whole life ahead of him – has had that life cruelly and unexpectedly snatched away. It’s hard to find the right words.

Dave MacDonald was truly special. As the emails and Facebook comments pour in from across the country, we all remember his kindness, his generosity and his boundless enthusiasm.

He was a tireless campaigner and set himself the highest standards.The trouble is he then expected the same from everyone else – and would never take no for an answer. I had barely had time to make myself a cup of tea during the recent Grove byelection Polling Day, take two gulps and he was pushing me out the door again.

He was deeply committed to the Liberal Democrats and after the disappointments of elections elsewhere, he was so excited to be joining the team in Sutton. The look on his face when we won our first byelection together was priceless. He couldn’t stop grinning – and nor could we.

It was that grin with his infectious laugh that charmed people into doing what he knew needed to be done. After a few weeks in the Sutton & Cheam office he had won over cynical activists who had been campaigning for decades and were reluctant to try new things. He cajoled us into using MiniVan, produced even more target letters and relentlessly made us up our game – all with a smile.

After our excellent Council election results in 2014, we had high hopes for the General Election last May but sadly national events overtook us. It was a bitter disappointment for everyone – but for him in particular. Yet the following morning he was on the phone to other organisers and campaigners, checking they were okay and giving them support.

He had just found a new job and was beginning a new chapter in his life. He was full of excitement and expectation about what life had to offer. It seems impossible that he is no longer here.

I want to talk to him about our Autumn campaigns and our preparations for the London elections next year. I want to tell him the latest good news from the Council and have a good old rant about the Tory government. But I can’t.

We always say we are like a family. And that’s what it feels like – we’ve lost a friend, a colleague but above all we’ve lost a member of the family. It hurts.

He was loved by many – his family, his girlfriend, his many friends. He was admired and respected by many – his colleagues, his fellow campaigners, so many Lib Dems all across the country.

There is a void that can’t be filled. In time – and when we have spoken to his family – we want to organise something in Sutton to mark his passing. And we have an idea to set up a bursary in his memory so that other young people like him can have the chance to get involved in politics and make a difference.

But for now we will grieve his loss – and continue to campaign. Because that is what David would have wanted.

* Councillor Ruth Dombey OBE is the Leader of the London Borough of Sutton and the Liberal Democrat Deputy Group Leader at the Local Government Association. The LGA is a politically-led, cross-party organisation that works on behalf of 415 councils to ensure local government has a strong, credible voice with national government.

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  • Rosie Sharpley 7th Aug '15 - 1:16pm

    Thank you Ruth for sharing your thoughts with us. What a tremendous loss for us all.

  • I think I met David just once at Lib Dem HQ when I was doing some work for the Lib Dem Christian Forum in the run up to the General Election. We only had a brief conversation and I remember David mentioning his epilepsy then, and that he was involved with the Sutton and Cheam constituency. He was looking for people to knock on doors, which I wasn’t able to do, but I was so impressed with his commitment that I donated a small sum to Paul Burstow’s election campaign – the only election donation I made. He was obviously a real campaigning talent and I am sure he will be very much missed.

  • Kevin McNamara 8th Aug '15 - 10:59pm

    I think the idea of setting up a bursary to help young people access politics would maybe be the most wonderful way to commemorate David. This was a lovely post, Ruth.

  • Michael Bukola 10th Aug '15 - 8:48am

    This is desperately sad news. David was a keen activist right across London and had supported the campaign on action days in Southwark when i believed he resided in Lambeth for a time. David was prolifIc on Facebook and had only recently reported on the fact that he had finally found a job. My heart goes out to his close family and friends and of course his girlfriend.

  • sarah ludford 10th Aug '15 - 10:38am

    Very sad indeed to hear this terrible news, having been much impressed by, and a beneficiary if when MEP for London, David’s campaign prowess and energy. He was always cheerful, welcoming – and rightly, a hard taskmaster – on my campaign visits to Sutton & Cheam.

    I have no knowledge of the circumstances in which David’s epileptic fit took place, but as somone with family experience of Type 1 diabetes, I venture to make a plea for more public understanding, awareness and education in how to identify and assist people experiencing both epilectic fits and diabetic ‘hypos’ (extreme low blood sugar). It may not have assisted David, but it might help prevent other tragic fatalities.

  • Pierre Caspersz 10th Aug '15 - 11:49am

    Thank you, Ruth, for sharing this message; this is a very grave loss, made all the more so by the fact that David was very young.

    My thoughts and condolences are for his family and friends.

    Kind regards,


  • vincent galligan 17th Aug '15 - 5:26pm

    I only knew David for about 2 year but had come to rely on him to help us new folk which he did without complaining.

    he will be missed

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