Generosity, compassion, 3am phone calls and no watching rugby – David Laws’ heartfelt tribute to Paddy

It’s still hard to get our heads round the fact that Paddy is no longer with us.

So many tributes have been paid to him. One particularly touching one was published on Somerset Live at the weekend. David Laws, who worked for Paddy and who succeeded him as MP for Yeovil, talked about life with this great character. Here’s an extract:

But those who knew Paddy best, most valued his personal qualities, not the titles or impressive CV.

He was a voracious worker, a natural leader, a person of great courage and conviction, and of a generous, compassionate and progressive spirit. He was, also, a deeply loyal friend and loving family man.

Politics is generally a profession of long hours and hard work, in spite of its reputation. But even in this field, Paddy was exceptional. Work was completed swiftly, with ruthless efficiency.

Party conference speeches had reached draft number 20, a month before they were needed. No holiday of his was ever truly a rest. No hour in the morning was too early for an urgent call, no time at night too late.

Indeed, Paddy once asked me to keep my pager to hand after 2am, in case he needed to be in touch “around 3am”!

And he never, ever, stopped. I remember telling him, after we had completed one lengthy five-hour Advice Centre in Yeovil on a Saturday, that I was going home to see a rugby match on TV.

“What!”, he said, “Spend over two hours doing nothing but watching sport?”

He was genuinely mystified that anyone could want to stop productive work for so long.

That takes us to Paddy’s second great quality – he was not one of life’s spectators. He was a player, a participant, a natural leader. If he was at a rugby match (unlikely) it would only be as a participant – on the pitch, in the middle of the pack, fighting hard to grab the ball and win the game.

As a soldier, his men – it was said – used to follow him anywhere – “out of curiosity!”.

In politics, too, he was a leader – never one to duck decisions, or follow the crowd, or wait until he had an opportunity to see which way the winds of public opinion were blowing.

He carefully thought through the issues, before reaching his decisions. But once he was decided, he could not be budged – and he raised banners which others could rally to.

The causes were not always popular ones. Offering refuge to citizens of Hong Kong. Support for the European Union. Endlessly raising Bosnia in the House of Commons, when his colleagues wanted him to address more vote-winning campaigns.

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One Comment

  • Doctor Johnson once said of the founder of Methodism: “John Wesley’s conversation is good, but he is never at leisure. He is always obliged to go at a certain hour. This is very disagreeable to a man who loves to fold his legs and have out his talk, as I do.”

    Many of Mr Wesley’s preachers (including at times this one) have deserved Doctor Johnson’s strictures about overworking. We may imagine him saying the same about Paddy – except that Paddy was willing to give time to people while working as well as being happy to give to those who had disagreements with him the compliment of serious and thoughtful debate, a quality much lacking amongst the current crop of national politicians.

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