Tag Archives: erlend watson

A marathon run in memory of our Erlend

Many of our readers will still be missing the wonderful Erlend Watson, who sadly died in January 2022, 8 months after a lung transplant carried out at the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge. The team there were so brilliant to him.

Tomorrow, Erlend’s great friend James Wright is running the London Marathon to raise money for the Royal Papworth. On his Enthuse Donation page, he says:

In May 2021, my dear friend Erlend had a double lung transplant, as an incurable lung condition had caused his lungs to fail.

He received the most amazing care from the team at the Royal Papworth Hospital in difficult circumstances.

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Raise a glass in York

Conference has always been a central element in my involvement in the Liberal Democrats. Like many of us, all year round I spend a large proportion of my waking hours doing things for the party – and being able to make links, exchange ideas and, yes, gossip with people from across the country at conference not only makes doing that year-round work easier, but also makes it very very much more fun. I have really missed them over the last three and a half years – with the final cruel punch of the last-minute cancellation for non-pandemic reasons of last autumn’s big return conference feeling particularly unfair.

So I will be thrilled to be back in York this weekend, surrounded by Liberal Democrats.

But as I finally get to catch up again with many of you, I will be giving more than a thought or two to some of those who I will not get the chance to see again at conference.

That last conference we held, in Bournemouth in 2019, “the one where Jo Swinson was leader”, was the last time I saw my former boss, Steve Hitchins, previously Leader of Islington Council. Steve was certainly not about to allow his walking difficulties stop him from getting up on to the stage and telling us how the health policies we were debating seemed to him as a former chair of an acute NHS Trust. Steve tragically and unexpectedly passed away just a few weeks later – a much too early sad loss of one of the party’s most robust campaigners and one of its most effective champions of frontline diversity.

In York I will, as always, go to an LDEG fringe meeting. But I will not see Derek Honeygold sitting – like Ted Heath – in a corner seat on the front row, as he must have done at pretty much every LDEG fringe meeting ever. In March 2020 Derek became one of the first victims of covid. LDEG fringes will not be the same without his twinkling eyes and intriguing contributions to the debate.

When I make it to the bar later, I will not turn round from ordering drinks to see there the beaming smile of Robert Woodthorpe-Browne, long a smiling stalwart of the party’s international scene, with something funny and interesting to say to me. Always so enthusiastic and encouraging, from LI Congresses in Africa and being chair of the international relations committee (FIRC), to the streets of London that I once went canvassing with him on, Robert’s utterly irrepressible energy made a huge contribution to the party before his very sudden death from a stroke this last autumn.

I will not have the chance to sup again from the well of the erudition of Jonathan Fryer – another deeply committed Liberal Democrat internationalist, former chair of the international relations committee and eternally super-enthusiastic MEP candidate. But too a regular BBC broadcaster, public Quaker, lecturer and so many other things – including, astonishingly, biographer and friend of Christopher Isherwood – before his awfully sudden and tragic death from a brain tumour.

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Save the date: Two events to remember Erlend on 23 May

News reaches us via Ed Fordham of two memorial events for party legend Erlend Watson, who sadly passed away on 25th January.

Memorial Service for George Erlend Watson (in two parts)

Memorial Service (1)
3pm on Monday 23rd May 2022
St Olav’s, The Norweigian Church and Seaman’s Mission
1 St Olav Square, Albion Street, Rotherhithe, London. SE16 7JB

Memorial Glee Club (2)
5.30pm also on Monday 23rd May 2022
National Liberal Club,
1 Whitehall Place, Westminster, London, SW1A 2HE
(the formal proceedings will be over by 6.30pm)

Donations in aid of The Royal Papworth Hospital Charity, Cambridge.

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Erlend

You might know sad news is coming, but when it actually arrives, it still smacks you round the chops.

That’s how so many people in the party will feel tonight. Few people were as loved as Erlend Watson.

We knew time was short. His update on Boxing Day was very him.

FAREWELL
I wanted to break it to you all personally.

I am more certainly not going to make it through more than the next few months. Any extra events could shorten that so my best guess is 3 to 6 moths. I will put myself down for a proxy vote for May (not Theresa) in case of any survival. Cynical to the end.

The affection shown on social media since my op was lovely but I have lost a quarter of my weight and I no longer have the physical reserves to do that.

I am currently able to communicate and will do so as long as possible but clearly the timetable is very loose and the end could be sudden.

My final affairs I am leaving to my siblings and my social media executor as Simon Drage as he knows more of you than they do.

In the meantime I will take/return calls as and when I can. Some longer some shorter according to what I can do.

There will be a funeral and I think a memorial service (probably the latter in London during parliamentary session for those who that works for. Elements of English and Norwegian I hope the committal of ashes to be in Orkney next summer about the time of the shows next August subject to to Covid but that is obviously an open story..

In terms of my politics I haven’t a Liberal and a Liberal Democrat since age 10. I see there being anti liberal forces working in the world and that makes me very sad. These must be fought. I am partisan but include on the side of good not just my own leaders but many Labour, Conservative and other politicians and obviously many non Party folk. I am a multiple identity person. In terms of nationality I am an Orcadian who was born in Fife with other IDs through my genome (but that leaves the key flag at the funeral as a St Magnus one rather than a rainbow 🌈 one).

To end with a couple of (mis)quotes.
1)You are not wholly gone from Earth until the last soul you touched comes up to heaven to greet you..

2) Well dear friends, now we have come to the end of our fellowship in Middle Earth. I will not say do not weep for not all tears are an evil. Or in Norwegian, Vel kjære venner nå har vi kommet til enden av vårt felleskap i Midtgård. Jeg vil ikke si gråt ikke, for ikke alle tårer er av det onde.

Number 2 may be familiar to readers of The Lord of the Rings.

Within days, both the Young Liberals and ALDC had honoured him.
And tonight the news came that he had died, very peacefully, and with a friend by his side.

We’d been hoping that he would somehow defy the odds.

Erlend was a familiar sight at by-elections and at the Conference Glee Club. He devoted so much of his life to the party, working to elect parliamentarians and councillors alike.

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ALDC honours Erlend Watson

Today it has been announced that the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaigners (ALDC) has conferred Life Membership upon activist, election and by-election talisman Erlend Watson.

This follows the announcement from Erlend that his health prognosis is poor following a sustained period in The Royal Papworth Hospital, Cambridge.

ALDC President, Baroness Scott of Needham Market said:

Behind every successful  Lib Dem campaign there is a vast amount of behind of the scenes work.  Erlend has given so much to campaigns all over the country for very many years doing the essential jobs which make a campaign.

He doesn’t just work tirelessly himself but is   full of encouraging words for others and is a font of knowledge especially for younger people just starting their journey with the Party.  His commitment to Liberalism is profound, and a beacon to us all.

It is perhaps appropriate to note that Erlend was born in 1963 – at precisely the date at which ALDC was coming into existence and a consensus was emerging that the party needed an independent body for local government and local campaigning.  ALDC and Erlend have a shared existence and his work over decades has been in the support and advocacy of local government.

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Forever young: Erlend Watson accorded life membership of Young Liberals

Long-standing Liberal Democrat member, activist, and election talisman Erlend Watson has been accorded Honorary Life Membership of the Young Liberals.

The announcement comes after Erlend has undergone a serious period of hospitalisation at the Royal Papworth Cambridge and after he has himself issued a Farewell statement on his own Facebook page (copied below with his permission).

Young Liberals Chair Eleanor Kelly said:

Erlend has been a great friend of Young Liberals since before most of our members were born.

With a long and varied career within the party, he has been a fixture of general and by-election campaigns for decades. He has often used his experience to act as a sounding board for our Chairs and Executives and has been a source of advice, wisdom and good humour for many young activists. Most notably, he served as Honorary President of the then Liberal Youth between 2011-12.

“As an executive, we think it only fitting that we award Erlend Honorary Life Membership of the Young Liberals, which we will be moving at our upcoming Winter Conference, and would like to reiterate our thanks to him for being a great ally to our organisation.

Alistair Carmichael MP said:

I have known Erlend Watson since he was chronologically a Young Liberal in Orkney in the late 1980s in Orkney. His commitment to the cause of liberalism and to the Liberal Democrats since then has been unwavering. Look up the word “stalwart” in the dictionary and you will find a picture of Erlend Watson.

For Erlend to be given honorary life membership of The Young Liberals is a fitting way for his commitment to be recognised. He is someone who will always be a young liberal, whatever his age! All of us who know and love Erlend thank them for taking this decision.

Annette Brooke, former MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole (2001-2015) said”

This is brilliant news and much deserved. It is right to recognise his work with Liberal Democrats nationwide and across generations. Erlend played the most important part in the successful campaign to win the Mid Dorset and North Poole seat in the 2001 General Election. His hard work late into the night, his good humour and his tolerance for my butterfly moments and my frequent visits to the hairdressers knew no bounds!

Erlend is the person to have with you at an election count. We shared and survived two nail biting occasions – the critical, but winning, Canford Heath double-council by-election in 2000 and the 2001 General Election where our winning majority was 384 votes.Erlend is like a walking computer in these situations.

My life obviously changed in 2001 and I know Erlend’s did too. When Erlend moved on from Mid Dorset and North Poole, he and the whole team had shared experiences of fun, hard work, enduring friendships, snap decision making, development of organisational skills, success, celebrations, and so much more. I like to think that Erlend’s experiences in Dorset set him on the path to making even greater contributions to future Lib Dem campaigns. Thank you Erlend.

May there be many more campaigns ahead to which you can contribute albeit in a more advisory capacity.

Erlend’s personal statement:

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Chesham & Amersham: a campaign we’ll be talking about for years

Every so often a by-election campaign comes along that will be remembered for generations. Orpington in the 60s, Edge Hill in the 70s, Hillhead in the 80s, Littleborough and Saddleworth in the 90s, Dunfermline in the 2000s, Eastleigh in the 2010s. Many of them came at critical moments for the party, maybe at times when we were a bit down in the dumps. And at those times the party comes together and runs a spirited and joyful campaign that everyone talks about for years afterwards.

Chesham and Amersham comes on top of, to be honest, unspectacular elections in Scotland, Wales and English Councils in May.  It would be a massive ask to win it. This is true blue territory, after all. A year and a half ago, we got less than half the Tory vote, finishing in second place. In 2017, just 4 years ago, we got 13%. We need the sorts of swings we were getting in the 90s to win.

But we’ve given it our best efforts. We’ve run a good old fashioned Liberal Democrat by-election campaign at full pelt in the middle of a pandemic. I’ve seen so many comments about how the warmth of the welcome was matched by the efficiency of despatch with leaflets or canvassing pack.

From as far apart as Edinburgh and Cornwall, activists flocked in their thousands to help Sarah Green’s campaign. It was clear that this was a campaign everybody wanted to be a part of. My tiny contribution was to help host the nightly maraphones, where people from Orkney to Cornwall made thousands of calls.

 

I was very touched that Simon Foster from Southampton dedicated 50% of his sterling contribution putting up stakeboards to me as I couldn’t get there. But the loveliest gesture was friends of Erlend Watson, our campaigning legend who has been a key and beloved presence at so many by-elections, taking his place in this campaign. Natasha Chapman and Olly Craven from Lincoln were Team Erlend. Erlend himself is recovering well from major surgery and we hope to see him back at a by-election or Conference before too long.

The positive feedback from voters was incredible. Phoning voters and asking them to put up stakeboards is far from my favourite sort of campaigning activity, yet I couldn’t believe how easy a sell it was.

The Tories have been doing all sorts of expectation management.

Sometimes you can do every single thing right in a campaign and not get the result you deserve. Sarah Green and her campaign team richly deserve a victory. Let’s hope that they get it. She’s been a fantastic candidate – impressing voters on the doorsteps and motivating her army of helpers. One activist, bitten by a dog the other day, was very surprised that she took time out of her day to phone them and make sure they were ok.

In an email to members tonight, Ed Davey expressed his pride in the campaign we ran:

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Erlend Watson replaces James Graham on the Lib Dems’ Federal Executive

James Graham’s resignation from the Liberal Democrats on Sunday created a vacancy on the Liberal Democrats’ Federal Executive committee.

The Electoral Commission has now recounted the votes from the original internal party election in 2010 and named Erlend Watson as the winner. Party President Tim Farron phoned Erlend this morning to formally welcome him back to FE.

Erlend told the Voice:

I regard myself as a critical friend of the party leadership, we agree on our destination although the precise route to get there is up for discussion.

I was previously on the FE from 2006-2010 including the post General Election

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