Sad news in the Liberal Democrat family

Libby - Some rghts reserved by David SpenderThe Liberal Democrats are a family that does politics. We fight like cat and dog at times, but when push comes to shove, the ties that bind us together are strong. That’s why it’s so difficult to factionalise us.

The last 24 hours have brought some really awful news about the health of two Liberal Democrats, both of whom are seriously ill tonight. The first I won’t name, but many of you will have seen the details on Facebook. Call me old fashioned, but I still consider what appears on Facebook to be private and only to be reproduced with permission. As I say, many of you will know who I mean. Please don’t mention their name in the comments, but I couldn’t write this post without referring to them.

The other is much more public. Simon Titley, stalwart of the Liberator Collective, has been diagnosed with a brain tumour and the outlook is not good. In recent years, Simon’s online domain has been over at Liberator’s Blog which, when he was blogging regularly, frequently made up a good deal of our Golden Dozen. I had some good barneys with him over there and elsewhere over the years. They were arguments that were worth having. Over at Liberator’s Blog, a “living obituary” has been published about Simon by his friend Roger Hayes. Here’s an extract:

He’s a human being and so he is infuriating and severally flawed, but he is quite simply one of a very few people on the planet who just gets it – all of it. His sharp wit; his radical liberalism; his excellent taste in music; his hilarious sense of humour; his love of great food, good beer and fine wine; whatever it was Simon enjoyed it and for the most part he got it right – spot on right. For those who have enjoyed his company and his writing over the past four decades will know, although a stubborn bastard at times, Simon had one of the best brains in the party – his ability for clarity of thought and his skill at putting that succinctly in writing was a talent to be prised and revered. There is a manifesto’s worth of good ideas out there and I hope they can be collected together for future generations to appreciate and for the party to fully understand what it has missed.

Simon’s contribution to our sense of fun has been as great as his contribution to our beliefs and understanding. It was largely his idea in 1984 to start the Liberal Revue and for many years he wrote and directed shows that had hundreds in stiches with some of the sharpest satire anywhere in British politics. Senior journalists from Vincent Hanna, to Elinor Goodman, to Michael Crick would seek him out for comment because they knew he would not just have his figure exactly on the issue of the day, but he would say it in a pithy, witty and memorable way.

Of course like most great Liberals Simon’s mind was ahead of its time and often out of step with what some might call mainstream thinking. But for those who have followed his many contributions in Liberator over the years know he has been proved right time and again and the party would have done well to have listened to him more often.

Such an eloquent, rounded post. Beautifully written. You can read the whole thing here.

The thoughts of all of us at Liberal Democrat Voice are with our two family members and their loved ones tonight.

Update: It was tears before breakfast for me this morning when I read Stephen Yolland’s emotional and wonderful tribute to his lifelong friend full of beautifully described  political and personal reflections:

In his serious writings, in Liberator and many other outlets, he was nothing more nor less than the most cerebral yet coherent and intensely relevant commentator that the Liberal side of politics has produced in my lifetime. A PR professional of some reputation, he could have devoted his life to simply piling up gold, yet he could never drag himself away from the pressing need to inform the body politic long enough to end up a mere careerist. His was, above all, the polemic of personal responsibility, and he was as hard on himself as anyone. Where he saw cant and obfuscation instead of candour he exposed it consistently and ruthlessly. He continually advanced new and exciting ideas on how to construct a society where all were participants, where opportunity was available to all, and where the deadening hand of conservatism was lifted off the levers of power when it was serving no remaining purpose. He fought for innovation both within the party he loved and without, but always, especially, within it, infused with the passion of the ironed-on supporter, the pick and stick determination that is born of the deepest convictions.  One only has to pop the words “Simon Titley Lib Dem” into your preferred search engine to gain an insight into the breadth and depth of his influence.

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

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  • Eddie Sammon 18th Jun '14 - 9:16pm

    I don’t know Simon personally, but he occasionally commented on here and I can’t let the terminal illness of “one of us” go without paying my respects. I Googled to see some threads where we were both commenting and found someone who in my opinion rightly warns against right wing economic policies creeping into the Lib Dems and also undertook the sometimes painful job of trying to get recognition for class discrimination.

    Caron is right to say that whilst we often argue we are like a family and beneath it all the love is always there.

    Best wishes to Simon, his friends and family and the same to the other Lib Dem who is seriously ill.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 18th Jun '14 - 9:57pm

    Thank you, Eddie, for taking the time to look back on Simon’s posts. I suspect we will all be doing that in the years to come.

  • 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.

    And as I said at the time because Simon (who I have known since the 1970s) and I are from similar backgrounds —
    JohnTilley 17th Feb ’14 – 12:35pm
    I can echo these words from Simon –
    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.

  • Shouldn’t this post be in the members only forum ?

    What’s the point of writing a post that deliberately excludes non-members then posting it in the non-members part of the site ?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th Jun '14 - 10:10am

    Martin, not all Liberal Democrat members are in the Members’ Forum and it’s hardly surprising that a site run by Liberal Democrats would want to publicly recognise a member of the Lib Dem family.

  • David Bertram 19th Jun '14 - 11:43am

    I met Simon socially in London before I knew his politics and I later also encountered him professionally in Brussels. While he and I were not similar socially or in our Liberalisms, nor ever really close, I enjoyed his company and his thinking tremendously; he was one of those larger than life characters who enhance any occasion, from the humblest to the highest, just by being present. I admired his clarity of thought and language and his ever-present bullshit detector. I still regularly share and plagiarise his excellent piece on business language “Let’s run this up the flagpole and see who salutes”.

    I am pleased and grateful to have known him.

  • Mark Smulian 19th Jun '14 - 12:25pm

    We have not quite yet heard the last from Simon.
    A few days before being rushed to hospital he completed what is now almost certainly, sadly, his last article for Liberator. It will appear in the issue going out next week.
    Its a typically pungent analysis of the party leadership and May’s dire election results.

  • Ruth Bright 19th Jun '14 - 7:13pm

    Simon is a big league thinker and wit. He really belonged in an eighteenth century teashop debating “Liberalism and Liberality” with Hume and Boswell and the pair of them coming off the worse. Thank you Simon for praising my leader’s speech parody – it was so kind of you and it made me so very, very happy.

  • @MartinB You don’t have to be a member of a party to know, like and care about one of its members. I was lucky enough to know the fabulous Mark Hanson before he died and admired his skills as well as enjoyed his company before his tragic death. I’m glad that when Labour members shared their memories of him they did it in a way that didn’t just exclude non-Labour members like myself.

    I’m sure there are many who know and care about Simon outside the bounds of his party too and it’s a good gesture by both this blog and the Liberator one to publicly share these pieces.

  • Very sad news, I often enjoyed Simon’s commentary and perspective, usually written in consideration of his own experience, rather than merely echoing the sentiments of others. At a time where we need all the different voices we can get chiming into the debate on how to make things better, he will be sorely missed.

  • Like so many others I was so shocked and saddened when this news filtered through. I smile with Mark’s comment and empathize with Ruth’s. Just when we need Simon’s perspective the most too.

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