Roger Roberts writes: Keepers of the Liberal flame

We were so near to taking the Conwy seat from the Tories. Only 995 votes separated us. So grateful to those who poured into the constituency to give us their support. Chris Rennard was the mastermind and I remember him organising my sharing a farm trailer with Paddy Ashdown whilst Ann brandished a Vote Rog poster.

David Penhaligon spoke and conducted the financial appeal at a crowded Conwy Town Hall dinner and that was just a week or so before his tragic death. Would our record as a party have been any different if David hadn’t skidded on that black ice ?

Arriving in the House of Lords I was delighted to be welcomed by David Alton, even though he was on the Crossbenches – I’d been there for his Liverpool by-election victory which was such a boost to Liberal fortunes. It’ll be interesting to see what happens there in this May’s Council elections.

David was a regular visitor to the Conwy constituency. Not many people know the Rachub Community Centre where the TV cameras filmed David speaking in front of a broken down hatch whilst Mrs Thatcher and Neil Kinnock addressed the TV World  from elaborate and expensive backgrounds.

Others also extended the warmest of welcomes. David Shutt a fellow nonconformist whose desk I took as he went on his way to Chief Whip. We shared our appreciation of the scripture reading in the Lords on Thursday mornings and lifted our eyes to the hills. Sadly with David’s recent death that is no more. I was delighted when David moved into the hills and bought a house in Beddgelert not far from Lloyd George country.

It was such a privilege to share the Westminster office with Tony Greaves and we remained sharing an office  to the present day. We all have our “days” and Tony was just like that but in all the years I never had a serious cross word. He had rescued the Liberal party in its darkest days, the Birchcliffe Centre and our Councillors organisations are the result of his vision. I wept when I learnt of his sudden death, and life at Westminster will never be the same again. I remembered marching with him in that demonstration against the Iraq war, remembered going to Pendle to help in a byelection to make certain that the unmentionable far right made no headway, appreciated that weekly Tony column in the Liberal News.

Those I have mentioned have kept the Liberal flame alive. They enriched our lives.

* Lord Roberts of Llandudno is a Liberal Democrat Member of the House of Lords

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  • A beautiful and very moving tribute, Lord Roberts.

  • Joseph Bourke 1st Apr '21 - 9:19pm

    Thank you for sharing those memories Lord Roberts.

  • Gordon Lishman 2nd Apr '21 - 8:01pm

    Thank you, Roger.
    Someone should point out here, although it might not occur to you, that you are very much one of those “Keepers of the Flame” throughout your years of practical, principled and moral liberalism. Your friends and admirers are legion.

  • In tough times the flame was kept alive by what was dismissed as the Celtic Fringe but you have reminded us Roger of the debt we owe to Pennine Liberals from both sides of the backbone of England. Thank you.

  • The ‘Celtic Fringe’ actually accounts for about 60% of the landmass of the British Isles.

    Yes, I have to think the party would have been much different but for that black ice and also the lack of care toward CK.

  • Had David not died – had he been wearing his seat belt – I think there’s very little doubt that he would have been the next leader after David Steel.

    I don’t know how much would have been different after that, but it would have been fun.

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