Paul Holmes writes: In memory of Asad Shafi Qazi

Nicky Qazi, a good personal friend and political colleague, died in hospital last week aged 82. Nicky was one of those unsung heroes of the Liberal Democrats who give over a large part of their life to voluntarily pounding the streets, campaigning to spread the cause they believe in however unfashionable it may be at times.

I joined the SDP wing of the Alliance in Chesterfield in 1983 and soon got to know and admire Nicky a near neighbour who had joined the Liberal Party a few years earlier. He had a shrewd intelligence, a quiet but devastating sense of humour and was unfailingly polite and patient. I don’t think I ever saw him lose his temper although, always in private and never with rancour, he could certainly succinctly and with a sad air make clear his view of the occasional antics of some of our own colleagues let alone the opposition.

As a young man Nicky came from Pakistan to study for his degree and stayed to work for British Steel and to marry Adrienne –who sadly died a few years ago. He was elected to Chesterfield Borough Council for the first time in 1987 (as I was), and held his seat for the next 24 years standing down this year due to ill health and age.

Active to the end his large house was a Committee Room for no less than 4 Wards in last month’s elections and he was delighted to see ‘his’ Ward once again return 3 Lib Dem Cllrs as it has done ever since that first breakthrough in 1987. Neither of us back then thought that within two decades we would see Chesterfield run by the Liberal Democrats for eight years, have a Lib Dem MP for nine years and see Liberal Democrat Government Ministers in office.

Politically he was in many ways a trailblazer and not just by campaigning for his Liberal beliefs at a time when we had never had more than one or two councillors in Chesterfield for well over half a century. In his quiet, unassuming way he never ever made anything of it but it should be noted that in one of the ‘whitest’ constituencies in the UK (97.3% the last time I looked at the figures), Nicky was I believe the first non-white councillor to be elected, the first and so far only non-white Council Group Leader (1995-2000) and was Mayor in 2004-2005. Listening to one of his brothers reading from the Koran at the Mayor Making in Chesterfield’s 900 year old and high church ‘Crooked Spire’ was probably a first too!

I shall miss sitting and sipping his whisky whilst discussing politics with him and enjoying his gentle humour. Chesterfield is a better place because of his efforts and the Liberal Democrats owe him and his family a debt of thanks. His humanist funeral takes place on Friday.

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2 Comments

  • Paul Holmes Caron Lindsay 7th Jun '11 - 11:47am

    Paul, I’d heard from Kieran Harley on Twitter that Nicky had passed away and was really sad to hear it. He was a lovely, liberal, wise man.

    I have fond memories of Chesterfield social events at their house, which was just full of character. And I ran a committee room there just before Anna was born.

    These are very sad times – we are losing too many good people.

  • Toby Perkins MP 7th Jun '11 - 12:35pm

    Very sorry to hear that Nicky has died. He was a very nice and talented man, whose calm air won him friends from right across the political spectrum.

    I know that he played an important part in the rise of the Liberal Democrats in Chesterfield, but he was also one of those people that gave politics a good name, it was very hard not to like him, regardless of your policial affiliation.

    He was a very tough opponent because of his transparent wisdom and it was clear that he always had the best interests of Chesterfield at heart.

    My condolences to all his friends and family.

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