Lord Eric Avebury passes away

It has seemed from Eric Avebury’s blog recently that he has been nearing the end of his life. His openness over the past few years in speaking about his terminal Leukaemia in the years since it was first diagnosed has been so helpful to many.

His family announced earlier that Eric died this morning. The sympathy of everyone at LDV goes to his wife Lindsay and his family.

Until December, he had attended the House of Lords every day that it had sat, bar a few days in June last year:

With the exception of a few days missed in June last year, due to ill health, Eric attended the House of Lords on every day that it sat.  However, he last attended in December, before his illness overcame him.  He died of acute myeloid leukaemia on Sunday February 14, at his home in London.

That’s pretty impressive for an 87 year old.

Eric was a lovely, kind man who went out of his way to fight for those who were oppressed across the world. He fought for LGBT rights, against caste discrimination and for human rights and social justice. He wrote often for LDV and was always unfailingly kind and wise. You can read all his posts here.

Tim Farron: “a true champion of the liberal cause”

Tim Farron paid warm tribute to him:

Eric Avebury will be sorely missed by his friends and colleagues. He was a true Liberal who will be remembered as much for his unyielding commitment to fighting for Liberal causes as his sensational by-election victory in Orpington in 1962.

He campaigned to lower the voting age, founded the Parliamentary Human Rights Group and fought for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, taking up the cases of hundreds of individuals fleeing persecution.

He was a committed internationalist, regularly promoting human rights around the world. He was a strong supporter of citizenship rights for British minorities in Hong Kong and campaigned against the persecution of religious minorities across many countries.

It was a personal honour for me to speak at the 50th anniversary of his by-election victory at the National Liberal Club.

The Liberal Democrats have lost a great campaigner, a great friend and a true champion of the Liberal cause.

We will update this post with other tributes to him and in the next few days will re-publish what he wrote for us.

Tributes from the Lords

His Lords colleagues have been paying tribute to him:

And other party figures also mourn him.

National Secular Society honours “human rights champion”

Eric worked very closely with the National Secular Society for many years. They have put a lovely obituary on their site, with their Executive Director Keith Porteous Wood, a long time friend of Eric’s saying:

He was so charming and knowledgeable, working with him – as we did for well over ten years – was such a pleasure. He certainly helped the NSS hugely and I got the impression he thought that our assisting him over that period had enriched the end of his career. And what a distinguished one it was. I have been moved by the number of politicians who have approached me as it has become clear that he was dying, to say that they thought he was one of the most effective peers of his time.

He was always disarmingly frank and pragmatic about his death and he told me once how long a consultant said he had to live. He took the prediction very literally and precisely; I even joked with him he seemed to be treating it like an appointment and we both laughed. Similarly he joked with me how many of his ancestors had met their ends by being executed. Was it ten? I forget.

He certainly comes from a great lineage. The first baron Avebury was a polymath, and close friend of Charles Darwin. He was a successful banker and the most successful lawmaker of his time. He was responsible for introducing Bank Holidays, creating the cheque clearing system, the Shop Hours Act, Open Spaces Act, Public Libraries Act, the Ancient Monuments Act, which paved the way for the creation of English Heritage. He bought the stone age circle in Avebury, Wiltshire to save it for the nation – from jobbing builders who were about to destroy it.

I have lost a very close friend, The nation has lost a Human Rights champion. Our condolences to Lindsay his wife, and all his family.

Please add your own memories in the comments.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Feb '16 - 2:38pm

    I have often cited Lord Avebury as an example of the very best in the House of Lords that politics and public life has to offer, and does so in the person of the quality of Eric Lubock. He was an inspiring man and a great Liberal.To my generation , born after the famous Orpington by election ,and those then or since , he was a Liberal legend.But he was so much more than this .

    Whereas some found the merger and unity between Liberals and Social Democrats , at best a marriage of convenience , at worst outright irritation, this never seemed relevant with Lord Avebury.Already in the House of Lords, he just got on with it .And what he got on with made a difference.

    I admired his work on human rights , especially.Of all those our party has had who have spoken out and acted on these issues , he had a particular gravitas and humanity.I welcomed his efforts on behalf of Raif Badawi, the brave , imprisoned Liberal writer ,in Saudi Arabia,it was on this very site , two or more years ago , his case first emerged for many , and in an article by Lord Avebury, and he spoke of him whenever a chance too could be found, such as in debate or questions in the Lords. I hope others can take up that case more.

    All in all a great , and more than that actually , a good man. Consolations to his family on a day celebrating love , the loss of one loved.

  • Religious minorities of Bangladesh have lost their great friend. He has been campaigning for democracy and human rights for the last 25 years.

  • Sadie Smith 14th Feb '16 - 3:05pm

    I always felt that Eric would automatically reach for and find a Liberal response on issues.
    He was also generous with advice. When first faced with a case of what sounded an unreasonable refusal of a visa, I got in touch with him. He gave me really good advice and helped me to see the issues which I needed to check. Quite a long and fairly chatty phone call. It was very sound advice.
    Lovely man.

  • Eddie Sammon 14th Feb '16 - 3:34pm

    Sorry to hear the news. My thoughts go to his family and friends.

  • Eric was an inspiration for so many Liberals and he will remain so. He was a stalwart supporter of the Orpington Dinner at the National Liberal Club of which he was an honorary member for services to Liberalism. Liberalism has lost one of its greatest servants.

  • Chris Rennard 14th Feb '16 - 4:57pm

    A truly great Liberal. I first met him when he came up to Liverpool Mossley in 1983 where I was the agent for David (now Lord) Alton when we first won that constituency. He was brilliant arguing for radical principles on some very Tory doorsteps. I learned much from him and his team about they had won the Orpington by-election in 1962. This is what I wrote for Lib Dem Voice in 2012 on the 50th anniversary of that famous by-election: https://www.libdemvoice.org/chris-rennard-writes-50-years-after-the-orpington-byelection-27633.html

  • David Evans 14th Feb '16 - 5:13pm

    A good man who will be very sadly missed. I met him only once, but he impressed with his instinctive committed liberalism and he was clearly a very nice man. He helped achieve so much for the party and his by-election win in 1962 was our first gain and then hold in decades. His action and commitment shone out like a beacon and we need inspiration from people like him again.

  • Angela Davies 15th Feb '16 - 9:48am

    RIP Lord Avebury a truly great LiberaL

  • Sandy Walkington 15th Feb '16 - 11:04am

    Very sorry to hear this. I worked very closely with him when I was in the Liberal Whips Office between 1978 and 1981, he wasn’t just passionate about human rights and civil liberties, he was also very effective at campaigning for them and a really nice man who was always courteous and kind. His Orpington by-election victory (which followed Torrington) was crucial in showing Liberals could campaign and win outside the Celtic fringe.

  • Richard Underhill 15th Feb '16 - 3:50pm

    Chris Rennard 14th Feb ’16 – 4:57pm
    Please confirm that a Young Liberal called Tony Greaves was at the Orpington by-election.

  • Simon Banks 27th Feb '16 - 3:10pm

    A good man. He will be missed.

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