Cllr Richard Kemp writes… RIP Sir Trevor Jones

 

Sir Trevor Jones
Sir Trevor Jones died on 8th September in hospital in Chester. He was an inspiration to a generation (and more) of Liberal and then Liberal Democrat activists after he saved the Party from a near death experience in the 1970 General Election. This Welsh descended scouser linked his deep liberal traditions and principles to the marketing techniques which had led him from being a seaman to owning the biggest and oldest ships chandlers in Liverpool.

He was the second Liberal councillor in Liverpool and worked with Cyril Carr to take control of the Council in 1973. He joined because his business was going to be razed to the ground to build a inner city ring road. Not only would his business be affected Bur scores of others I a city which even in the 60s was desperate for jobs.

Liverpool was the first major council to be Liberal controlled for more than 40 years. He never forgot his antipathy to demolition and as Chair of the Housing Committee produced his “Big Thick Book” a proposal to end the demolition of communities which would have brought the end to all but 5,000 terraced homes in the city by 1995. Instead the BTB produced the biggest housing renewal programme in the Country and subsequently the biggest housing cooperative programme in Western Europe.

He was awarded a Knighthood and the title which he loved most “Jones the Vote” after leading campaigns throughout the Country including by-election wins in Sutton, Berwick, Ripon and Isle of Ely. I well remember him making his presidential address at the Liberal Assembly and telling us how he loved those votes!

His brand of community politics and politics in the community is still successfully followed by Lib Dems and occasionally imitated by the other Parties. As a “Jones boy myself” I have so many stories I could tell of him, his manner in the council and his generosity of spirit. Without a doubt he was the outstanding council leader of his generation. His put downs to opponents were not the vicious nastiness that we see all too often today but a witty quip that totally demolished his opponents. I recall one particularly tedious and raucous lady councillor being stopped in her tracks by Trevor standing up and enquiring sadly, “Have you ever thought of selling Echos?”

I am delighted that before he died he saw the final version of a booklet about Liberal leadership in Liverpool which I will now launch in his honour at our Party Conference later this month. His words and his actions still inspire me and many of my generation.

His spirit lives on in our Party. Our thoughts are with his family and especially his wife, former Lord Mayor Lady Doreen Jones.

This article originally appeared on But what does Richard Kemp think?

* Cllr Richard Kemp CBE, Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

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14 Comments

  • Jim Forrest 9th Sep '16 - 4:01pm

    A great guy who would travel anywhere at the drop of a hat to encourage Liberals to roll their sleeves up and work in their communities. I recall an inspiring visit he made to Glasgow, along with a young man he introduced as “the next MP for Liverpool Edge Hill”. Five years later that prophecy was fulfilled, and what a morale booster it was in the dark days when Thatcher was coming to power in a climate of bitterness and racism. (Remind you of anytime?)

  • Trevor fought Gillingham in Kent in 1974. I was the deposed candidate to make way for him. Unfortunately his style and campaigning techniques did not go down well in this southern town. I remember David Alton being sent on numerous journeys back to Liverpool to keep the money coming in. Lord Alton also mysteriously won the raffle when the prize appeared beyond our means to pay for.He got Jeremy Thorpe to come and speak, flying in on board an helicopter. Certainly a larger than life character
    RIP

  • Chris Rennard 9th Sep '16 - 6:16pm

    There are many comments on my Facebook page.

    I will post my own in three parts:

    Trevor became a Liberal Councillor in Liverpool’s Church Ward in November 1968, the ward in which I grew up and where he joined Cyril Carr whose had been elected in the ward in 1962 with the first ever campaign based on leaflets called ‘Focus’. It was Trevor who then spread the Focus campaigning style across the city and such was the effectiveness of his approach and the techniques that he built on that following the 1973 City elections, Liverpool became the first city in modern times to be governed by Liberals, winning 48 of the 99 seats on the City Council.

    In the meantime, Trevor oversaw the use of those techniques in the Sutton & Cheam parliamentary by-election in December 1972 where Graham Tope (now Lord Tope) came from third place, 18,000 votes behind the Conservatives to win by over 7,000 votes. The result revived the Liberal Party after its electoral drubbing in 1970 when it had elected only six MPs. As Party President, Trevor toured the country attending meetings of party members persuading them to adopt the mantra that he taught me, ‘the object of the exercise in any election campaign is to find out the issues on peoples’ minds and deal with those issues’. This meant getting something done about those issues, then finding a printer and putting out a series of leaflets telling people what you had done and involving them in campaigns. It was revolutionary then and this approach transformed the way in which elections were run.

  • Chris Rennard 9th Sep '16 - 6:20pm

    2)

    Trevor’s protégé in those early days was a Young Liberal, called David Alton, who had chosen Liverpool to do his teacher training having been inspired by what Cyril Carr and Trevor Jones were reported as doing in the weekly ‘Liberal News’. David later became Trevor’s Deputy on the Council and the Liberal parliamentary candidate in Liverpool Edge Hill. When a by-election occurred there on the eve of the 1979 General Election, the Liberal Party was at just 5% in the polls. I was a young but full-time volunteer helping organise the campaign that Trevor and David directed. The gaining of the seat from Labour, with a 28% swing, was what saved the Liberal Party in the 1979 General Election.

    Trevor at his best was a truly inspirational Liberal who had a ‘gut instinct’ that helped determine how people felt about issues and how to campaign on them. I spent many hours listening to him about campaigning, messaging and leaflets when I took over writing many of the Focuses in Liverpool, whilst he led the Council. He always pointed proudly to the first Sutton & Cheam by-election Focus on his office wall, with the heading ‘Death stalks the crossroads’ showing how to write a leaflet to capture peoples’ attention, and he spoke of the AIDA formula (Attention, Interest, Desire and Action) being the key to success.

  • Chris Rennard 9th Sep '16 - 6:28pm

    3

    It was from Trevor that I learned much of what I know about election campaigning and then sought to spread across the party when I became a key member of parliamentary by-election teams, eventually overseeing how his techniques could be developed, modernised and professionalised as the Lib Dems won 13 parliamentary by-elections between 1990 and 2006, often at critical points for the party’s survival and revival. These by-elections provided to be the models for campaigning in our target seats as we increased our number of MPs to 62 by the time of the 2005 General Election.

    For all that Liberals and Liberal Democrats have achieved over all the decades, much is really owed to ‘Jones the Vote’.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Sep '16 - 8:00pm

    Respect and condolences to Lady Jones and family of Sir Trevor , a man admired by reputation and known as very individual.

    I was not around in his era of politics in Liverpool, but as a youth I admired the Liberals in Liverpool, and knew what they did, and as a youngster in Labour in London, before I joined the Liberal Democrats, I was an opponent of the Militant Tendency in the mid to later eighties , and was well aware of what they were up to in the capital and northwards.

    I was hugely impressed by Sir Trevors record, earlier on , and to this day think David , Lord Alton , a loss to our party.It is really good to have on board, those such as, Lord Storey , and the poster of this article , Cllr Richard Kemp, who over the years since, have themselves made a difference in that important city , engaged fully with our party.

    The politics they espoused was and is, activism by and for a party , and action by and for a community. The phrase community politics is a memorable and useful one , but it does not do justice to the real fight for peoples well being , and against others extremism in that whole period from the seventies onwards, that carries on .

  • grahame lamb 10th Sep '16 - 9:14am

    I never knew Trevor Jones. I seem to recall that he was sometimes called “Jones the Vote” because he was very successful at getting the vote out in the great city of Liverpool. I did however meet the young teacher David Alton who was a Councillor- was it for Low Hill? Subsequently a MP for Edge Hill. (I did go round to his flat once with some friends and met him and another Councillor [Eddie?] One friend (on TP at the Comprehensive -Ruffwood or was it the other one) was returning an LP she had borrowed.) I think it was a number 40 bus that went through to the city. Lord Alton (as he now is) is no longer in the Liberal Democrat Party.
    I very much respect the work he has been doing to address the appalling trade in women for sexual exploitation. He is in the Lords as an Independent or cross-bencher. But perhaps he remains a Liberal in politics. It will be for him to say – if he wishes to do so.

  • If the only thing he ever did had only led to the recruitment of David Alton, Trevor Jones would have done our Party an immense service (If he had managed to keep David active in the Party during his trials and tribulations, he would have done more!) But the group of young Liberal Councillors who were able to follow him and take over the Council with him were an inspiration to a generation in showing that Liberalism was relevant to the urban centres, not just a product of the rural hinterlands. When I returned to the UK from Africa, I laid out leaflets for David Alton, David Croft, John Bradley etc in the Jones ‘style’ in the late 1970s prior to the parliamentary by-election. Seeing the success of this approach, I produced the first ever Southport ‘FOCUS’ in Southport’s Park & Marine Ward in 1977, in a very different style to the leaflets then circulating in the town. There is a whole generation of (now rather aging) urban Liberal Liberal Democrats who took inspiration as a result of Trevor’s willingness to accept people taking responsibility before they reached the age of 30 – and helped young people to recognise in reasonable numbers that the Liberal Party was the Party which would accept them and enpower them. This is something which the Liberal Democrats could do well to contemplate today.

  • Gordon Lishman 10th Sep '16 - 11:33am

    Nothing original to add. Just to say that Trevor was inspirational by doing and a natural throw-back to Welsh radicalism. Also very say at his death – apart from all else, it’s a reminder that some of us are part of his ageing generation.

  • I think there must have been many like me who heard about what Trevor was doing in Liverpool and were inspired to join the Liberal Party and get active as a result. Trevor found a way of making Liberal politics relevant and popular, and helped moved us away from the image of being just a good debating society of well meaning individualists.

    Jo Grimond spoke of the Liberal Party as “the party of the governed.” Trevor put that into practice against a Labour political culture which was remote, pompous, and patronising. The political message resonated with me, and as a teenager at the time the irreverence of those early Focus leaflets appealed to my rebellious instincts!

    R.I.P. “Jones the Vote” – we`ll never forget what you did for Liberalism.

  • Paul Tilsley 11th Sep '16 - 11:46am

    Trevor Jones and Cyril Carr, were role models for many of us who were elected in the large cities in the 60’s. In Birmingham we never thought that we could be more than an irritant to Labour and the Tories. The fact that Trevor was able to take control of Liverpool in 1973, ensured that we carried on the fight for Liberal values based on communities. Trevor’s legacy is not just in Liverpool, carried on by Mike Storey and then Richard Kemp, but the community politics that Sir Trevor pioneered is still alive. Thoughts with family and friends in the wider Liberal family.

  • Chris Rennard 12th Sep '16 - 9:26am
  • Richard Underhill 12th Sep '16 - 2:32pm

    I was inspired to go to an annual dinner in Edge Hill, advertised in the Liberal Democrat News. I came back on the milk train and walked the last leg, downhill all the way, to Charing Cross. There was no underground service at that time.

  • Simon Banks 12th Sep '16 - 4:22pm

    I remember Trevor coming to talk to activists in Devon. It was said that some candidates were upset at the suggestion that they might not have their photos on their election addresses.

    His role in promoting and establishing community politics is too often forgotten today. He was a living contradiction of the opinion common in the 1960s and 70s that Liberals, while nice, were ineffective and indecisive.

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