Splendid and moving tribute to David Rendel, former Liberal Democrat MP

David Rendel at Anti-Iraq war demo 15th Feb 2003 Some rights reserved by Paul Walter

David Rendel at the 2003 London march against the Iraq war. David described voting against the Iraq invasion, in the House of Commons, as his proudest moment.

Last Monday, a memorial event was held for former Liberal Democrat MP, David Rendel. This was at the Corn Exchange theatre in Newbury. Family, friends, colleagues and former constituents of David filled the hall to overflowing.

The tributes started with a film of David’s life put together by Rachael Clarke, Deputy head of policy of the Liberal Democrats. This film included video footage and photos from David’s political and family life.

One piece of film, which I had not previously seen in full, was of the 1974 Oxford versus Cambridge Boat Race when David rowed at number three in the Oxford team, which beat Cambridge by 5.5 lengths and set the new time record for the race. It is an extraordinary piece of film, because it shows that Oxford were ahead of Cambridge from the very first stroke!

The event included tributes which reflected the different sides of David’s life – family, working in Newbury, at Westminster and as a friend.

During the tribute from David’s eldest brother, Robert, we heard that David was extremely competitive in rowing. He dramatically improved the rowing performance of his college, Magdalen. When new students arrived, he would be at their door within 30 minutes, asking if they wanted to join the college rowing club, lest they be snapped up by any of the other clubs.

And this competitive streak showed in David’s politics later. We heard how he was “very determined” in signing up new members, how he would always encourage members to canvass a “few more streets” as the sky drew dark.

We heard that the most frequent word used to describe David was “courteous”. Indeed, I think David was the politest person I have ever met. We heard about David’s gentleness, his caring nature and his huge capacity for hard work. The speakers told of David’s impeccable honesty and integrity, his immense commitment to helping others, his leadership of campaigns to build the Newbury by-pass, rescue and refurbish the building we were in, the Corn Exchange, re-open Greenham and Crookham Commons to the public and establish a new hospital for West Berkshire.

Don Foster, now Lord Foster, who worked alongside David in parliament, told how David championed a myriad of causes with huge tenacity. As Higher and Further Education spokesman for the party, for example, he endlessly asked questions and made speeches about visas for foreign students.

In his tribute, Portsmouth Liberal Democrat leader, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, who was David’s agent for numerous years, said:

I sometimes wonder if David really was right for our time in politics or whether he would have been happier in an earlier and nicer time, but his honesty and integrity shone through. Politics, Newbury and the Lib Dems have all lost a man of great kindness, great humanity and great presence.

The event included some magical choral singing including one of David’s three sons, John.

Former Newbury Liberal Democrat agent, Chris Day, was asked by David’s family to read out part of the Preamble to the Constitution of the Liberal Democrats. I think that brought moistness to the eyes of many present.

Afterwards there was time in the Corn Exchange function room for old friends of David to share memories of him, surrounded by memorabilia from past elections and his life.

This was a splendid and moving tribute to a wonderful man, who will be greatly missed.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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This entry was posted in Obituaries.


  • Chris Rennard 7th Jul '16 - 9:37pm

    It was a great event and a great tribute. The speakers were all excellent and also often emotional as you might expect. Sue Farrant was a brilliant compere and it was a delight to catch up with many members of the Rendel family, friends from the 1993 by-election from the constituency and further afield, including Tim Payne who was the by-election agent, and many others. Thanks to Tony Ferguson for the archive records of the campaign which were on display. My own comments about David appeared on my Chris Rennard FB page.

  • John A Boyd 8th Jul '16 - 4:47pm

    Apart from everything else we learned about David that day was one thing I found so incredibly thoughtful on his part. David recording ‘Tales of Narnia’ in order that his Grandchildren will grow up listening to the voice of their departed Grandfather reading them bedtime stories. This I felt showed what an extraordinary man he was outside of his public life.
    In my own tribute to David, which I wrote prior to the memorial service, I used the words ‘inspirational’ and ‘tireless’ in describing him, and these two words were repeated several times by others throughout the service.
    A friend to us all, and we can feel truly blessed for the experience….. Thank you David.

  • George Crozier 9th Jul '16 - 12:19am

    Well done for posting this Paul. I agree it was a lovely appreciation of David’s life.

    Like John I was touched by the story of David dictating the Narnia books for his grandchildren to listen to after he was gone. I told my wife this story thinking she’d be touched too but she just said she hoped he’d stopped halfway through one of them and told them he was now a ghost and would be haunting them! However I suspect David was far too good-mannered to have done that.

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