Local liberal heroes: Daniel Brown

Earlier in the year, I did a series of posts profiling forgotten liberal heroes (to which a couple of other people also kindly contributed), looking at some of those who achieved great things for liberalism in their time but have been unjustly forgotten – such as Margaret Wintringham, the very first female Liberal MP.

There is also another group of people who I think are often unjustly obscure – those local campaigners who are often at the heart of their local community and local party, delivering liberalism and helping others, but as their stage is a local one they are often unacknowledged in the wider party.

So welcome to a new series, profiling some of those local liberal heroes from around London. The first is Brent councillor, Daniel Brown.

For Daniel, liberalism was a family affair as his mother was already a party member when he joined (and she too was a Lead Member when the Liberal Democrats led Brent Council). Becoming a councillor seemed the natural progression for someone who wanted to do more than talk about liberalism.

It was the death at a tragic young age of the highly talented Mike Harskin which put Daniel on Brent Council, as he won the resulting by-election in Brent’s Alperton ward in 1992. The ward is bisected by the Grand Union Canal and includes the stretch of its towpath used for one of the most famous scenes in British soap opera history – the 1989 shooting of Dirty Den in Eastenders.

Daniel Brown has been a councillor consistently since, including a time as a lead member during the Liberal Democrat-led administration of the council.

A predominantly residential area, it has always been home to a large number of small issues, encouraging the sort of classical pavement politics style that Daniel has made his trademark. The technology may have changed – it is many years since he last deployed the Letraset and now his Blackberry is used in a fearsomely efficient way to handle casework emails – but the ethos has remained the same: fix the individual problems that most matter to people. “Politics is about people,” he says.

Typical is the issue Daniel instinctively first mentions when asked to recall his most important campaigns – helping to resolve the problems faced by a woman who had built up huge housing arrears and was facing eviction. The issue was specific just to her, but being able to keep your home makes a massive impact on someone’s life.

Fixing the details that can seem small to a distant bureaucrat yet have a major impact on people’s lives was the same theme in another issue he mentions – that of ensuring that train services between East Croydon and Milton Keynes stop regularly at Wembley Central.

As a result he says of the traditional party Focus newsletter – “It has to be about things you’ve actually done. You can’t be just a paper delivery machine”. Moreover, if you do things for your community, not only will you have things to say but also, “if people value what you’re doing, they’ll deliver your paper for you. Just ask”. No wonder that his ward consistently has a pretty complete delivery network.

He says he does not do political heroes. Instead the motivation comes from wanting to promote and assist in the empowerment of the individual and as a local councillor the opportunities to do that come in every day in his inbox as people raise local issues with him and he not only takes their grumbles seriously but tries to help them get power over their own lives as he helps out.

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7 Comments

  • Ben Sheperia 11th Aug '11 - 4:07pm

    Daniel, you are placing people on a pedestal that were being paid to do a job as councillors, they are not heroes.
    A hero is a soldier who is prepared to be shot at to defend others, or a policeman who stands his ground against rioters. Don’t make out that politicians are heroes it makes you look stupid.

  • Ben Sheperia 11th Aug '11 - 4:09pm

    My apologies to Daniel, i should have aimed my observation to Mark Pack.

  • Chris Rennard 12th Aug '11 - 11:09am

    When Brent Councillor Mike Harskin died tragically at the age of 28 in 1992, I felt that the party had lost a great talent and tremendous character. I employed Mike as editor of Liberal Democrat News. It wasn’t always an easy relationship but he helped me in a number of critical by-election campaigns in that era including the Bootle and Eastbourne parliamentary by-elections in 1990. Trying to defend Mike’s Alperton ward in the subsequent by-election was going to be difficult. I discussed the campaign frequently with the exclellent Paul Lorber. All of the personal letters in the campaign were written by me in Cowley St and Paul was able to tell me much about the excellent Daniel Brown on which to base them. I personally photocopied them all in Cowley St and Paul would collect them in batches. I was delighted when Daniel won and his victory was a significant landmark in Brent Lib Dem history. Chris

  • Chris Leaman 16th Aug '11 - 10:43pm

    Mark this is an excellent post and an excellent idea for a series. There are many unsung Lib Dem heroes around the country and Daniel definitely deserves to be up there with them. I have so many campaign stories of Daniel’s tenacious campaigning desire I can’t do them justice in a single response to a blog post and some of them are definitely not suitable for a public forum.

    I’m honoured to count Daniel as a dear friend his commitment to the cause is unquestioning. I have certainly dined out on the great election success of Brent Lib Dems in the ’03 by-election, ’05 GE, ’06 locals and ’10 GE. One thing is certain those successes wouldn’t have happened without Daniel’s day-in-day-out tenacity.

    Chris R is absolutely right to also point out the contribution of Paul Lorber as well. As an organiser I can remember many late nights with me in the office with just Paul and Daniel. Paul and Daniel almost certainly arguing over the best method to put two bits of paper into a DL envelope. In later years when I reflect on my time at Brent Lib Dems certainly Daniel and Paul will be at the forefront of my mind leading the campaigning no matter what the weather metrologically or politically.

    A great post to a great guy. Daniel deserves all the accolades he gets.

    Chris Leaman
    Brent Lib Dem Organiser 2003-2006

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