Pamela Brown O.B.E. 1924-2024

Pam Brown’s death on 2nd March at the age of ninety-nine means that Hastings Liberalism has lost one of its greatest campaigners and advocates. Pam was first elected to Hastings Borough Council (with its much greater powers over education and other services in those days) in 1968 by a margin of five votes and remained there until her retirement from the Council in 2006. Housing was her main political interest and she served several terms as Chairman of the Housing Committee.

Pam became Leader of the Council in 1986 when the Liberals became the largest party. We had something of a celebration after the count at our Queen’s Road HQ, including a rousing rendition of The Land. I also remember the following Saturday in Pam’s flat when she and I (wearing my agent’s hat) sat down to carve up the committee chairmanships. At the first meeting of the new Council, the Tories found the voters’ choice a bit difficult to comprehend and there was a wonderful moment when Pam had to insist that they remove themselves to the opposition benches for the first time, explaining that they were no longer in charge. Happy Days! Pam became Leader for a second time in 1996 but this time with an overall majority. “There were no Tories!” she always recalled with pleasure.

Pam was Mayor of Hastings from 2004 and 2005, Speaker of the Cinque Ports in those same years and was made an Honorary Freeman of the Borough in 2006. She received the OBE for political service in 1992 on the recommendation of her hero Paddy Ashdown. Always on the side of the underdog and committed to social justice, Pam’s politics expressed a robust Liberalism which took no prisoners, be they Thatcherite or of the Militant Tendency.

Pam was also a County Councillor for almost twenty years, including three years as Chairman of Social Services.

After standing down from Hastings Council after an unbroken thirty-eight years, Pam remained very active in civic life, doorstep canvassing into her eighties and telephone canvassing after that. Not long before she died, Pam had arranged her postal vote for the forthcoming General Election.

I remember trying to persuade her to apply to be our parliamentary candidate for what turned out to be the 1983 General Election. I failed to do so and it is tempting to write a counter-factual history of Hastings politics. However, Pam’s heart was in local government where she gave politics a good name. Should our enthusiasm and energy ever flag at the thought of yet another round of leaflet delivery,  just think of Pam and the fact that she joined the party in response to a leaflet delivered by a now unknown Liberal. And be inspired.

* Paul Hunt was the constituency agent for Hastings and Rye Liberals in the 1980s and is a former Chairman of the National Liberal Club. He is now a Vice-President of the Club and the Honorary President of the Hastings and Rye Liberal Democrats

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6 Comments

  • When I first got to know Pam 17 years ago she was already 82, and still very active in Hastings politics and voluntary service.

    She had a lovely, cheeky sense of humour, and there was always a twinkle in her eye (or thunder – it was always one or the other). She liked nothing better than to gossip about local and national politics over a meal and a glass of wine, and to plan a way back for the Liberal Democrats in Hastings & Rye.

    I often tell this story about her which I hope captures something of her spirit… A few years back I took Pam to a fundraiser dinner for Stephen Lloyd in Eastbourne where her political hero, Paddy Ashdown, was the guest speaker.

    She knew that I had joined the party under Charles Kennedy and hadn’t really been won over by Paddy (although I did like the Avuncular Years). So, when he came around the tables chatting to the punters Pam introduced me: ‘This is our parliamentary candidate Paddy,’ she said, ‘and he doesn’t think much to you’. Of course, she delivered it with her naughty laugh and, although I had wished the ground to open up and swallow me, it was very funny.

    (In his Cromwellian way, Paddy quipped ‘We have cruel and unusual punishments for young candidates like this!’)

    So farewell Pam – you have given the cause of Liberalism and the people of Hastings so much. We will miss you terribly.

  • Stephen Lloyd 13th Mar '24 - 9:41am

    As Eastbourne’s former MP I had the privilege of meeting Pam many, many times. She was an absolute stalwart of Hastings Liberals and despite her great age by the time we met, she would always step up to help me in Eastbourne when Nick Perry and Paul Hunt would come over for our Action Days.

    An absolutely wonderful lady who improved my life simply by knowing her. Truly.

    She was also still much appreciated in Hastings up to the end. Only a few months ago I was taking her to a wedding in a taxi. The driver was a Hastings lad and tho it had been many years since she was an active politician – by then she was 99 years old – he recognised her immediately and rhapsodised just how popular she’d been for the two. It was lovely to hear and see, and she was so chuffed.

    Pam Brown RIP. 🙏

  • William Wallace 13th Mar '24 - 9:46am

    Pam was a life-long Liberal, and worked to build up the Hastings party from the ground up. I first met her in 1964, when visiting my parents in Hastings while a graduate student in the USA. She immediately tried to persuade me to delay my return to the USA to take on the role of agent for the constituency in the coming election (just as well I didn’t accept: I hadn’t a clue at that point about its obligations). Dedicated local activists like her who kept going through thick and thin have been the bedrock of our party

  • Mr C P Lewcock 13th Mar '24 - 1:12pm

    I was the Chair of Hastings Liberal Democrats when Pam was into her nineties and an active and pugnacious voice on our Executive. She had been a WREN many years before and I sometimes wondered whether she wanted me to walk the plank after her withering dismissal of another fondly cherished but probably badly thought out idea. She had much experience and memories for us to draw upon. She could be fierce, she could also be tender. It was a joy to see her at a garden fete surrounded by our younger members and their children all wreathed in smiles. She was always the first to volunteer for leafletting, canvassing (whilst she still could) and envelope writing and stuffing. The latter enhanced by endless pots of tea and Pam’s home-made cakes. Every year she would organise our annual most successful fund-raiser – woe betide anybody who tried to change the arrangements. A force of nature. Doubtless wherever she has gone she will be telling them off because they didn’t let her get to 100.

  • David Rogers 13th Mar '24 - 9:10pm

    I write to endorse every word of Paul Hunt’s tribute above, and indeed also those of Nick Perry, Stephen Lloyd, and William Wallace. Pam and I first met when she won an East Sussex CC by-election in 1979 or 1980, joining me and one other Liberal in our small group. The 1981 county elections added to our numbers, and in 1985 we overtook Labour to become the opposition to the Tories. In 1993, we became the largest party, and formed a joint administration with Labour – during which 4-year term Pam chaired the Social Services Committee, as noted by Paul. In group meetings Pam always spoke her mind, usually with great good humour, and that carried through to the council chamber where she was much respected by all sides. As group leader, I drew on her long experience and greatly admired her indomitable spirit. She was an exceptionally loyal member of the group. In the nearly two decades since her “retirement”, I only saw her occasionally at conferences and other events, but I shall always remember her wisdom and campaigning spirit in the Liberal and Lib Dem cause.
    Former Cllr. David Rogers OBE, East Sussex CC member 1977-2013, and group leader 1977-2005.

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