RIP Simon Titley

Just two and a half months ago, we had to report the desperately sad news that Simon Titley, stalwart of the Liberator collective, was seriously ill.

Simon passed away yesterday morning. The thoughts of the LDV team are with all who were close to him.

At this time of year, the Liberator Collective are busy preparing for Conference, putting together the Liberator Song Book and their pre-Confeernce magazine. The Glee Club will be full of emotion this year.

Simon wrote several articles for this site as well as his regular Liberator previews which you can read here. I want to highlight just two.

In 2012, just after that dazzling Olympics opening ceremony, Simon told us to basically stop being so craven and to get out and shout our liberal message because we clearly had support out there for it:

The Liberal Democrats should take heart from this trend. For as long as I can remember (and I first joined the Liberal Party in 1975), Liberals have been inclined to apologise for their liberalism, too willing to pull their punches, too keen to split the difference, more concerned to mollify illiberal opinion than to enthuse and mobilise liberal opinion. (Don’t believe me? Just look, for example, at the shameful way our party has fought recent Euro elections). And this is basically why the Liberal Democrats have failed to consolidate a core vote.

The question of a core vote has been the subject of two recent pieces on Liberal Democrat Voice (here and here). In response to both of these pieces, I commented that a potential core vote already exists, among people who are younger, better educated and more cosmopolitan, as I explained in more detail here.

Social trends are moving our way; more people have what pollsters describe as ‘drawbridge down’ values. So the party should abandon its habitual cringe towards illiberal opinion and express pride in its Liberalism. Let the Tories, Labour and UKIP fight over the ‘drawbridge up’ vote; we have no business competing on that crowded territory. Our job is to rally the growing number of tolerant, educated and cosmopolitan Britons – people who have nowhere else to turn if we let them down by being too timid or defeatist to be true to our values.

Three years earlier. he was irked by the use of jargon and translated the opening of the Bible into PR speak to illustrate his point.

1. At the outset, God’s agenda was to basically focus on his core deliverables, namely two leading-edge products, (a) heaven and (b) earth.
2. However, the earth lacked an overall concept, and had a low profile in terms of its key audiences. Obviously the Spirit of God had to step back and benchmark the existing waters before his game plan could get the green light.
3. And God’s key message was that light was a strategic objective, and it was covered-off.
4. And God’s perception of the light was that it was fit for purpose. However, his desired goal was that light and darkness should be differentiated in the marketplace.
5. So God branded the light ‘Day’, and the darkness he branded ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Light’. And the evening session and morning session made up Day One.
6. Then God set out with the object of factoring-in a firmament to interface with the existing generic waters, to bring to the party two segmented brands.
7. So God tasked himself with the job of rolling-out a firmament, to supply a proactive vehicle for launching his two distinct waters products, and it was up and running.
8. And God branded the firmament ‘heaven’. And at close of play, the prioritised actions for Day Two were ticked off.

Please feel feee to share memories of Simon in the comments thread.

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

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  • Mark Smulian 1st Sep '14 - 10:20am

    The first time I met Simon I inadvertantly nearly poisoned him as it turned out the cheese used to stuff rolls at a Liberal student conference in 1977 had spent the night in an underground car park and was thus richly flavoured with petrol fumes.
    Alarming as this was to such a noted gourmet, it was start of a long friendship. Simon had contributed to Liberator from the late 1970s but became fully involved around 1985 when he found a book review he’d written had been insensitively edited. On being told this was to make room for a picture of a cat, Simon – fond as he was of cats – decided the only way to prevent such future vandalism was to join the collective.
    From then on he, without imposing himself, provided much of Liberator’s political direction and its most telling analysis of events. As Caron has noted, he despaired of the Liberal Democrats failure to build a core vote and to instead chase transitory grievances and split the difference in the ‘centre’.
    Simon was noted for his love of fine food, wine and beer. He was deeply serious about politics, yet a satirist of great ability and the driving force behind establishing the Liberal Revue, which entertained conference goers on and off for 24 years.
    He had a vast collection of erudite books on politics and economics, yet his favourite entertainment was the innuendo-strewn 1960s comedy show Round the Horne.
    Simon leaves a huge gap not only in his family and friends’ lives but in the party’s resources for thinking about its future.

  • David Evans 1st Sep '14 - 10:43am

    A good man. He will be sadly missed.

  • Peter Chegwyn 1st Sep '14 - 11:39am

    Very sad news. A friend and colleague to many of us over many years, Simon’s wit and wisdom really will be missed.

  • Bill le Breton 1st Sep '14 - 11:54am

    Great Liberal – best of comrades.

  • Giles Goodall 1st Sep '14 - 1:15pm

    Simon was a sometime member of the Brussels & Europe local party exec while based in Brussels. He talked a great deal of sense on the EU debate and always contributed to our discussions with insightful wit and good humour. A great liberal who will be sadly missed.

  • John Commons 1st Sep '14 - 3:00pm

    I remember Simon Titley as a young sabbatical at Keele in the ULS days which he went on to lead . We always enjoyed his company and esp. his wit and repartis. A serious politician, a committed European, a dedicated Liberal and a good friend.

  • Vince Cable MP 1st Sep '14 - 3:27pm

    Like many people in the party, I have been greatly saddened to see the passing of Simon Titley, long before his time.

    He was in liberator especially, a tough irreverent critic of the party establishment and of conventional thinking.

    I want to record my appreciations of his insights, originality and sharp wit. I benefitted personally from his advice and what he had to say was always thoughtful, considered and helpful. He will be greatly missed.

  • Simon was unique – funny, thoughtful, irreverent, kind and generous He worked with me for many years and was an invaluable source of sound advice . I shall miss him enormously

  • Richard Duncalf 1st Sep '14 - 8:45pm

    I went on a British Youth Council Delegation to Yugoslavia, way back in 1980 with Simon – when I belonged to another Political Youth Organisation – he was great fun and a erudite ambassador for the Liberal cause. He was certainly one of the reasons why I chose to join the Lib Dems . He will be sadly missed.

  • Ian MacFadyen 2nd Sep '14 - 12:50am

    My condolences to Simon’s family and friends. For a time we lived on the same street in Forest Gate and I enjoyed our conversations when we bumped into each other on the way to the station or the shops.

  • Serena Tierney 2nd Sep '14 - 8:36am

    Simon was one of the wisest, most generous and liberal of people. He was also an incisive Liberal as well as liberal thinker who , despite long exposure to colleagues in his chosen public relations work, wrote in the clearest of English.

    I have known him since he was a prominent leader of ULS and I was a new Young Liberal with ‘O’ levels on my mind. I have so many reasons to be grateful for his kindnesses over the years: most recently when a speaker for a major conference backed as I was on my way to Brussels to chair a conference and Simon found me a replacement who was not only able and prepared to step in at the last minute but gave an exceptional speech.

    Losing Simon is not just sad but leaves us a future without the unflinchingly consistent liberal analysis of our party and its policies. I would love to have a collection of his writings so that at least his work can continue to communicate his liberal view of the world.

    Is there any support – especially from the Liberator collective to provide editing – for the idea of collecting and publishing his writings? I would be pleased to help with setting up a crowd-sourced publishing operation to do so?

  • Tony Dawson 2nd Sep '14 - 9:59am

    Simon was one person who you could actually remember the process of sharing a drink with.

    I used to think that brain tumours were rare: I have, sadly, now experienced three people who I knew well dying from this condition.

  • David Bertram 2nd Sep '14 - 10:04am

    Expected, but still very sad, news. We have lost a thinker, a humourist, a connoisseur of life’s finer things and an all round nice bloke. There aren’t enough of any of these for us to have been able to spare Simon. If anyone knows of an event to mark his life to which other than close family are welcome, please share it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Sep '14 - 12:07pm

    One of those old-school Liberals with whom I agreed on most things, except, of course, those few things where we strongly disagreed. I wish we were still recruiting that sort of person today, although I fear Simon’s wish for the party to build a stronger core vote around key principles is being used by people pushing it down a route which is very much not our view of Liberalism.

  • Simon Titley was one of the few Liberals who were not afraid of talking about class.

    The best way to celebrate Simon Titley is in his own words.   Here in a comment in LDV is a characteristic example —

    Simon Titley 15th Feb ’14 – 12:17pm
    Almost every insult and discourtesy that Caron describes is also done by ex-public school boys to people from humbler backgrounds. And I should know. I’ve had to put up with nearly 40 years of this treatment from privileged, so-called Liberals.

    Our party has a big problem with class privilege that it refuses even to acknowledge. The result? Over 40% of our MPs are public school educated, compared with 7% of the population as a whole.

    We should never assume that discrimination is solely or even mainly a question of gender. This assumption has led to places on the party’s Leadership Programme being dominated by affluent middle class women, at the expense of people less privileged.

    Discrimination can be based not just on gender but also on ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, disability or age. If the party is serious about being more representative of society and non-discriminatory, it must consider all forms of discrimination, otherwise what we gain in gender equality we will lose in other form of representativeness, which is hardly an advance.

  • The Lib Dem friends of Palestine have lost a good friend – we all mourn him.

  • Jonathan Hunt 2nd Sep '14 - 8:21pm

    Simon wrote brilliantly about politics and political events, both generally and about the party. Howver deeply one had thought about an issue or news item, Simon invariably stated new aspects that were the bleeding obvious.

    His passing is a great loss to Liberator, the party and all those who care about the clarity of political thought.

  • Stephen Donnelly 3rd Sep '14 - 10:41pm

    Our paths crossed briefly many years ago whilst I was in ULS. I remember him as someone who genuinely encouraged all liberals whatever their background, which was not always the case in ULS, in those days.

  • Andrew Duff 7th Sep '14 - 8:58pm

    Simon’s commitment to Europe was rare even for Liberal Democrats. He knew that Europe was the best place on earth to live, and that the hostility of most of the British Establishment to Europe diminished our politics and our country. European federalists are feeling more lonely now. A very bright light has gone out.

  • Mick Marshall 7th Oct '14 - 1:30pm

    I stumbled across these posts whilst searching for news on the Lib Dem conference last night and was greatly saddened to learn of Simon’s passing. Simon and I were school classmates in Lincoln during the early 1970s so I had the privilege of knowing him during his formative years. Even as a young teenager Simon was very bright and witty with a mischievous sense of humour. I remember a particularly hilarious essay he wrote which explored a literal interpretation of the challenge: ‘No Man is an Island: Discuss’. We were both greatly influenced by local politics in Lincoln at that time and in particular by the principled stand taken by Dick Taverne in the famous 1973 by-election. I suspect that was one of many factors that drove Simon towards liberalism. We would spend long hours in Simon’s bedroom discussing politics and philosophy while listening to Simon’s record collection where I first heard the likes of Caravan, King Crimson and Captain Beefheart. After finishing school in 1975 we went our separate ways both geographically and politically, Simon to Keele University and the Liberal Party, me to Oxford and Labour. In our last conversation I remember him asking me why I couldn’t follow him into the Liberals and my answer was that, unlike Labour and the Tories, the Liberal Party didn’t have a social base. Although we hadn’t spoken for nearly 40 years, lately I’d followed his online articles which were always intelligent and insightful. He’d probably be gratified to learn that I voted Liberal Democrat at the last election for the first (although almost certainly last) time but I guess he passed on still searching for that elusive core vote.

  • Tom Benjamin 14th Jan '15 - 5:21pm

    I am late to the news of Simon’s passing, so sorry for this untimely post, however I feel compelled to offer something albeit small about Simon. I met Simon in early 1999, when I arrived at the same PR firm in Brussels as a totally green and misguided Yank (yes, I am an American and even a moderate conservative). Even with these factors against me, Simon graciously took me under his wing and showed me about Brussels- neighborhoods and of course great restaurants that I never would have found on my own. My fiancée arrived in Brussels a few months later and the three of us would dine nearly every Sunday for an epic multi-hour experience that we called “Dunch”–half dinner half lunch . We would talk politics spiritedly, my fiancée always on Simon’s side, and also revel in Simon’s witty observations about Belgium, a land that he did also consider a ‘home’. I could go on for many more graphs about Simon, but instead will raise a toast to him tonight when I share the news with my wife. While sad to hear the news, we are grateful for the time that Simon shared with us, it was a rich experience and without him and his kindness and friendship, we would have been quite lost. Cheers to you, Simon!

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