David Blackburn OBE 1931-2017

My father died last month. Not the way I’d want to start a piece for Lib Dem Voice, but that’s the fact of the matter. And after mulling it over for a while (and being very occupied with everything such a bereavement entails), I thought it would be relevant to write about him here.

Like his father before him, and his son after him (me), David Blackburn stood as a Liberal (Democrat) Parliamentary Candidate. He fought Brentford and Isleworth in West London in 1974; I remember campaigning for him as a 16 year old and I still have the press cuttings. He was a very successful car importer and as a result was a significant party donor too. Wealthy enough to send me to boarding school where I was the only Liberal in a Tory hotbed.

I wasn’t just a Liberal because my dad was. I was keenly interested in politics and soaked up all the literature. I passionately believed in what I read. There were parallels in the seventies with conditions now – economic challenges, a growing threat from the far right. My father was deeply pro-Europe and stood for the European Parliament as well – the slogan on his election address states ‘Make Britain Great in Europe’. Quite possibly a stronger message than any we used in the referendum! His literature appeals directly to young people, and “oppose(s) all forms of discrimination and demand(s) equal opportunities for women”. These values ran and run through my blood.

I’m proud to say it goes back even further than that. I admit to being something of a hoarder (to the frustration of my wife) and I have my grandfather’s election literature too. He stood in Islington East before WWII and in Chippenham and Calne just after the war; his manifesto speaks of a ‘National Housing Policy’ to build affordable homes, protecting leasehold tenants and among other issues proportional representation! Plus ca change. After he’d had a stroke and while I was studying at the LSE, I used to visit his flat and we’d talk politics and read his books together; it was he who taught me about Beveridge and the five evils.

Part of the reason for me writing this is that hopefully some of those who knew my father will read it, and I’d like them to know about his death. My brother and I both spent time as party interns while we were at University, and I remember many people he worked with at the time, most whom have now been elevated to the Lords! There will be a memorial service for him – well, a celebration of his life actually – in London on Tuesday November 7th. If you remember my father and would like to attend, do please let me know. (The people who sometimes call me David by mistake!)

As for me, I’m now going to take a sabbatical from political activity for a year while I sort out the very complex family matters following my father’s death, on top of my regular commitments. But I’ll be back, and in the meantime remain an ardent supporter of the party and of the Social Liberal Forum, which I believe espouses, promotes and imbibes the party with the liberal values my father and grandfather before him fought for. Our party has to be the party of Beveridge and Keynes, a party of fairness and opportunity, with equality of opportunity. The party this country needs.

* Mark Blackburn, SLF Council and ex-Westminster Chair and PPC for Westminster North.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Geoffrey Payne 27th Oct '17 - 1:20pm

    I am sorry about your loss, he sounds like a wonderful man and a wonderful Liberal. I know that both the Liberal Democrats and the SLF will also miss you for the forthcoming year. However politics cannot always be the priority.
    Your recollections are very useful in showing what the Liberal party stood for in years gone by. From the leadership of Jo Grimond (1956-1967) onwards it was a social liberal party.

  • Paul Pettinger 27th Oct '17 - 8:20pm

    Very sorry for your loss. Great that your liberal flame still burns brightly.

  • Tony Greaves 27th Oct '17 - 9:36pm

    Not a trivial matter, David helped to keep the Liberal News going for quite a few years with his full-page adverts for Colt cars! A lot of us remember him, Mark.

  • Very nice article. We owe so much to the members and activists who kept the party going over the years.

  • I met David Blackburn, or ‘DCB’ as I knew him, quite a few times. A lovely man, very gentle but perceptive and a great Liberal. I am sorry to hear of his death.

  • Trevor Smith 28th Oct '17 - 3:35pm

    I knew him, too. A very good Liberal.

  • I never met your Father, but certainly heard of his name. As a 17 year old i joined the then Liberal Party, being active in London. I also was a member of the national fund raising group, meeting in an attic room of the National Liberal Club. Your Fathers name was often mentioned in the context of donating to the party in different ways.
    I offer my condolences to you and your family

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