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.

In 1980 a job in Oxford at the ‘Ecole D’Affaires de Paris’ led to a move to the city and active involvement in the Local Party. He pulled off a dramatic victory there in the local elections of 2000 when he came from fourth place to a dramatic victory, winning a clear majority over an established Labour councillor. He was President of the Local Party for many years.

David and his wife, Lydia, were wonderful hosts, holding many garden parties for the Liberal Democrats in their beautiful riverside garden.

He was a lovely, kind and generous man who worked hard for the Oxford East Party. He will be greatly missed.

* Peter Coggins is a member of the Liberal Democrats and Treasurer of the Oxford East Party.

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This entry was posted in Obituaries.


  • Graem Peters 2nd Apr '21 - 10:14am

    Thanks for the obituary. A couple of points;
    According to my research, at the age of 22 he was the youngest Liberal to contest the 1955 general election.
    According to The Times Guide to the House of Commons for 1974 he was a Reading Councillor from 1965-66 and a Councillor in West Ham, from 1960-63. (Though my research had had him elected to West Ham in 1961) I also gather that before his election in 2000 he had previously represented the ward some years earlier.

  • Gordon Lishman 2nd Apr '21 - 7:58pm

    Thank you for reminding me about David. I knew him as a member of the Liberal Party’s Industrial Affairs Advisory Panel in the late 1960s when his experience and professional background was helpful. A thoroughly nice man.

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