Tag Archives: obituaries

Remembering Michael Anderson

Older members of the Liberal Democrats and its predecessor Liberal Party will be sorry to hear that Michael Anderson died just before Christmas.

Michael fought the 1978 Epsom by-election for the Liberals, and then the same seat in the general elections of 1979 and 1983, followed by standing in East Surrey in 1987. He then became a district councillor in Mole Valley from 1991 to 2004, chairing the council in 1995-6. He and his wife Anne had lived in Great Bookham since 1975, and Michael took a very active interest in local affairs, in particular the health service, education (as a governor of a local school), crime prevention, as a church sidesman, with U3A and the local football club, whose matches he regularly attended. He was also interested in local history, and ‘starred’ as the narrator in a film made about World War II in Bookham. 

However, Michael was probably much better known to most of us as a member of the Liberal Assembly Committee and then the Federal Conference Committee. His concern was always to ensure that Conference was as good as it could be.  Others could work on policy; he focused first on people. He was a robust and reliable chair of debates, employing a deft sense of humour – he was the person who told us that a typo in one particular submission had resulted in the assertion that ‘Education is a lifeless process’.  He was also an excellent speaker, and was exactly the person you would want to make the summation speech for your side in a complex debate.

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In memoriam Dr Yeow Poon 17 Jan 1956 – 17 Dec 2023

I believe that when countries and people with different histories, philosophies, religions and cultures collaborate there can be mutual learning to enrich ourselves and develop innovative paradigms for meeting 21st Century challenges as humanity evolves.

Dr Yeow Poon

Dr Yeow Poon

It is with deep sadness that we wish to announce the passing of our Hon President Dr Yeow Poon after a two year battle against pancreatic cancer.  He was a giant of man and will be greatly missed by all, not least his colleagues and friends at Chinese Liberal Democrats.

Born in Malaysia, Dr Poon attended university in the UK and became naturalised as a British citizen. He was the Chair of the Chinese Community Centre – Birmingham, President of England China Business Forum, Chair of Arts in the Yard, Trustee of Chinese Welfare Trust and a core member of the Covid-19 Anti-Racism Group. He was the Business Desk Midlands Leadership Award Winner: Public and Third Sector Leader 2018.

As management consultant he worked primarily in the public and voluntary sectors, on public administration reform, capacity building, management and leadership development projects in the United Kingdom, Vietnam, China, LAO PDR, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, South Africa and Greece. He had particular interest in cross-culture-AI governance, leadership, management and organisation development issues.

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Lib Dem Peer Brian Cotter has died

Sad news this morning. Brian Cotter, who was made a Lib Dem Peer in 2006 after representing Weston Super Mare in the Commons between 1997 and 2005, has died.

The Lib Dem Whips Office made the announcement on Twitter:

It is with sadness that we have to let you know that our own Brian Cotter died peacefully earlier today surrounded by his wife and children. Brian was a proud small business man who spent 8 years in the Commons and 17 in the Lords. He will be missed. Condolences to his family.

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Phoebe Winch 1931-2023

There may be some LDV readers with elephantine memories who can recall Phoebe Winch who died last week in Bristol aged 92. 

Described by Tony Greaves as “an outstanding community politician” she joined the Liberal Party in the early 1960s after attending a Jo Grimond meeting and served the inevitable apprenticeship as membership secretary in a (then) derelict Surrey seat. In 1966 she moved to Dorset and started campaigning on local issues – rural bus subsidies and the like – and then led a successful campaign to stop Sherborne being moved from Dorset into Somerset under the proposals for local government reform. This provided the platform for her election as the first Liberal ever to sit on Sherborne urban District Council in 1971. Two years later she was elected to the reformed Dorset Council County beating the sitting Tory by a majority of 2 to 1 in an election with an astonishing 69% turnout. This was the first time a Good Morning leaflet and a blue letter had been used in Dorset, and while now old hat, their impact was astonishing. 

On the renamed Sherborne Town Council, she ensured the introduction of a Public Question Time at Council meetings and stopped the extraordinary tradition of holding Planning Committee meetings in secret! She became Sherborne’s first female Mayor in 1976 – ending something like a billion years of male domination. The sky did not fall in. 

She lost her County seat in 1977 (partly the result of a poor national result but also because she supported comprehensive education in a grammar school-dominated town) and resigned her town Council seat two years later in protest at the decision of the Town Clerk not to accept Focus Grumble Sheets as expressions of public views. “I will not sit on a Council which only listens to the middle classes writing on Basildon Bond paper” she said as she left the Council Chamber.

In 1980 she moved to Bristol and was agent for Don Foster in his first successful council campaign but turned to being an “inky-fingered Liberal” printing, she estimated, about 4 million leaflets over a period of 20 years.

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William Wallace writes: Michael Steed, his Liberal history

Liberal Democrats in Kent, Yorkshire and Manchester in particular will remember Michael Steed as a candidate, councillor, and activist on many issues over more than 60 years.  Others will recall him as party president in 1978-9, as a regular attender of party conferences in spite of being wheel-chair bound by a neurological disease that resisted precise diagnosis, and latterly as an active member of the Liberal History Group and of its journal’s editorial board.

Michael grew up on a farm in Kent, went to a local independent school, and took six months before he went to Cambridge University in 1959 to work on the continent, coming back a convinced European and internationalist. After narrowly losing election to the presidency of the university Liberal Club he became president of the Union of Liberal Students (then a separate organization from the Young Liberals).  There he cultivated closer links with ‘the World Federation of Liberal and Radical Youth’ and its Swedish president, Margareta Holmstedt.  They married some years later, and set up home in Todmorden.

He was, however, always as much of a scholar as a campaigner.  He was a student of David Butler at Nuffield College Oxford from 1963-65 (alongside Alan Beith), and then for many years a lecturer in government at Manchester University.  As a student he already demonstrated an astonishingly detailed knowledge of parliamentary and local government elections.  He contributed the statistical appendix to the Nuffield election studies through many elections, in later ones in cooperation with John Curtice.  Teaching about the British constitution and commitment to political and electoral reform linked his professional and political lives.

Michael was on the radical wing of the 1960 Young Liberals, becoming vice-chair of NLYL’. He campaigned on apartheid in South Africa, on gay rights and on joining the European Community. He fought his first parliamentary campaign in the Brierly Hill by-election in 1967, gaining less than 8% of the vote. From his study of constituency histories and results he then decided that Truro was one of the most promising prospects, and travelled down to fight it in the 1970 election – disappointingly coming third.  He came closest to entering Parliament in the bitter Manchester Exchange by-election in 1973 – a safe Labour seat, almost entirely council housing, where Labour reacted furiously to what councillors saw as a Liberal ‘invasion’, in the wake of by-election wins elsewhere.  After an enthusiastic campaign in a seat that had had no Liberal activity (and which Labour had taken for granted) he gained 36.5% of the vote.  Typically, he afterwards wrote an academic article which noted that the real winner had been the 56% who had not voted.

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John Pugh writes…Lord Ronnie Fearn 1931-2022

Most people who knew Ronnie have a Ronnie story. If there is a book written about how to become an MP or a Lord, Ronnie never read it.

He was never going to be one to tick all the boxes in a bloodless modern selection process  and yet he was loved by his constituents and possibly the only one who could have in the 1987 General Election delivered the only Liberal gain in England. He won because he was no political careerist using the constituency as a stepping stone, but because his only ambition was to represent the town of his birth and the people in it.

Southport, albeit it has its eccentricities and detractors, has deep Liberal roots and the heart of Southport liberalism is valuing each individual regardless of where they stand in the social hierarchy.

Ronnie practised rather than theorised about Liberalism showing an omnivorous and genuine interest in the daily life of ordinary and not so ordinary folk, patronising ,in the proper sense, all sorts of groups and associations.

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Hans van Baalen (1960-2021)

It has been announced that Johannes Cornelis “Hans” van Baalen, President of the ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe) Party, passed away this morning after a short period in hospital, having recently been diagnosed as suffering from cancer.

A member of VVD (The People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy), he served as a member of the Dutch Parliament between 1999 and 2002, and from 2003 until 2009 until he took his seat in the European Parliament. His political career started as the International Secretary of VVD, the first step in what became a love of international politics that saw him rise to the top of European and international liberalism.

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Ed Fordham on Jonathan Fryer, Tony Greaves and Derek Barrie

They come along in three’s: but none of us expected to put Jonathan Fryer, Tony Greaves and Derek Barrie in the same sentence in such a short period of time. Three liberals who now feature in our hearts, in our memories and in our stories. But if we do them justice they will feature in our actions, our principles and that will keep them alive in our hearts.

LDV has published obituaries for Tony Greaves and Derek Barrie. Jonathan Fryer is terminally ill and has sadly written his last Facebook post.

These were three very different people.

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Lib Dem legend Frances Alexander remembered in the Guardian

You may remember that former Lib Dem Mayor of High Wycombe sadly died in September. Members of her family wrote a beautiful obituary for us. 

Today, her daughter Louise writes in the Guardian about her mother’s life.

While listening to the debate on the 1967 abortion bill in the House of Commons, Frances heard only men’s voices. No one was telling the stories of the botched abortions that she had seen the results of as a nurse and she knew that parliament needed more women. She joined the Liberal party and stood for parliament three times between 1974 and 1979. She was a founding member in 1980 of the 300 Group for equal numbers of female MPs.

The family had moved to Wycombe in 1970, after which Frances taught first aid, health education and childcare at a local secondary school, Wellesbourne, and went on to be a careers adviser.

In 1991, she was elected to Wycombe district council, going on to become chairman of the council (1997-98) and mayor of High Wycombe (1998-99). Her achievements on the council included pedestrianisation of the high street, protecting a local nature reserve and setting up a charity that gives furniture to recently homed families.

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John Roberts – a tribute

John Roberts with Judith Trefor Thomas had the idea, and with the great support of Emlyn Hooson, founded the Welsh Liberal Summer School meeting first in Llangollen. It developed ultimately into the Lloyd George Society of which he was an executive member for many years. His purpose was to have a meeting place where we could discuss Liberal policies and exchange ideas, with a Welsh flavour.

Having broken away from the central Liberal organisation, the LPO, in 1967, the new Welsh Liberal Party needed its own distinctive policies. John was foremost in engaging academics and journalists who threw us ideas. I remember in particular how we worked on economic policies with the theme that bribing industry with cash subsidies to open branch projects in Wales was ultimately fruitless. What was needed was investment in infrastructure which would make Wales a desirable place for investment – roads, rail electrification, airlinks, trading estates, a new Severn crossing and upgrading the A55. Free Ports in Cardiff, Newport and Swansea was one of the policies we developed, a concept which this Tory government fifty years later seems now to have latched onto.

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Obituary: George Grubb: The epitome of all that is best about the party

It is often said, rightly, that the Liberal Democrats are like a family. We share good times and bad. We sometimes quarrel and we frequently spend more time around each other than is healthy. It also means that, when we lose one of us, we feel it as intensely as losing a close relative.

That’s certainly how I and other Liberal Democrats feel at the loss of George Grubb. The first ever Liberal Democrat Lord Provost (mayor) of Edinburgh, George was not only a friend and mentor, he was an inspiration to me and so many other Liberal Democrats in the City.

He was the very epitome of all that is best about the party. A radical liberal at heart, it was quite something to hear George rail against institutions (even the monarchy) in the softest and most polite of tones. He devoted his life to helping others, first as a church minister and then as a local councillor. However for me, George was more than a role model. He was a good friend, a confidant and guide, who not only married my wife and I but oversaw the funeral of my grandmother.

Politically, George first stood for the party in 1999 for the “unwinnable” ward of Queensferry in west Edinburgh in order to “get some experience”. He found himself elected with a majority of 300. In fact, George is one of those rare liberals who stood for office and never actually lost an election!

George also broke the infamous ‘Queensferry curse’, where no party had managed to hold the ward beyond a single term for more than 20 years. Not only was he re-elected, he was returned with a thumping majority four years later and well over 50% of the vote.

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First Liberal SDP Alliance MP Bill Pitt dies at 80

Back in the Autumn of 1981, not long after David Steel had told us to go back to our constituencies and prepare for government, the 14 year old me was pretty excited when Bill Pitt won the Croydon North West by-election.

I remember that much as I loved Shirley Williams, I was quite glad that he hadn’t caved and let her stand there. Maybe there was a wee bit of Awkward Squad in me even then.

Anyway, for a while I did think the Liberal/SDP Alliance might just form the next government. The June 1983 election was my first lesson in the perils of believing your own hype.

Anyway, a week ago today, Bill Pitt died aged 80.

Today’s Telegraph has an obituary of him:

Pitt began as a Tory, chairing South Norwood Young Conservatives in 1959-60, but soon afterwards joined the Liberals. He went on to chair the London Liberal Party and serve on the party’s national executive.

He fought Croydon North West in the February and October 1974 elections and again in 1979, losing his deposit with his vote more than halved to 4,239.

Nothing suggested it would be worth Pitt’s while trying again, but when Robert Taylor, the sitting Conservative MP, died, he was quickly readopted as candidate. Heavy pressure was brought on constituency officers to let Mrs Williams fight the seat instead, but the Liberal Party Council stood by Pitt, and he fought the seat as a “Liberal with SDP support”.

It was during Pitt’s campaign that the term “Alliance” was coined – and it stuck as the parties swept to victory in a string of by-elections.

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David Blackburn OBE 1931-2017

My father died last month. Not the way I’d want to start a piece for Lib Dem Voice, but that’s the fact of the matter. And after mulling it over for a while (and being very occupied with everything such a bereavement entails), I thought it would be relevant to write about him here.

Like his father before him, and his son after him (me), David Blackburn stood as a Liberal (Democrat) Parliamentary Candidate. He fought Brentford and Isleworth in West London in 1974; I remember campaigning for him as a 16 year old and I still have the press cuttings. He was a very successful car importer and as a result was a significant party donor too. Wealthy enough to send me to boarding school where I was the only Liberal in a Tory hotbed.

I wasn’t just a Liberal because my dad was. I was keenly interested in politics and soaked up all the literature. I passionately believed in what I read. There were parallels in the seventies with conditions now – economic challenges, a growing threat from the far right. My father was deeply pro-Europe and stood for the European Parliament as well – the slogan on his election address states ‘Make Britain Great in Europe’. Quite possibly a stronger message than any we used in the referendum! His literature appeals directly to young people, and “oppose(s) all forms of discrimination and demand(s) equal opportunities for women”. These values ran and run through my blood.

I’m proud to say it goes back even further than that. I admit to being something of a hoarder (to the frustration of my wife) and I have my grandfather’s election literature too. He stood in Islington East before WWII and in Chippenham and Calne just after the war; his manifesto speaks of a ‘National Housing Policy’ to build affordable homes, protecting leasehold tenants and among other issues proportional representation! Plus ca change. After he’d had a stroke and while I was studying at the LSE, I used to visit his flat and we’d talk politics and read his books together; it was he who taught me about Beveridge and the five evils.

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Obituary for Tor Foster

Sad news, reported in the Bath Chronicle, that Tor Foster, married for almost half a century to Liberal Democrat peer and former Bath MP Don Foster, died last week.

From their obituary:

Tor supported Don ceaselessly in his political career. Intelligent, articulate, wise and warm she was universally admired, although always happier to take a back seat in public life.

When they moved to Bath in 1992, after Don had unseated the sitting MP, Chris Patten, Tor took great pleasure in creating a fine home in Northend. Myrtle Cottage became a haven for family, friends and political colleagues alike. An excellent cook – insisting on an aga, wherever they lived – many will recall long convivial lunches and suppers alive with discussion and debate. Often challenging and thought provoking, Tor had her own opinions and was never afraid to challenge Don, or anyone else, but always in a warm and inclusive manner.

As Don’s career progressed, and their children left home (Stuart, their son, to settle in Australia), Tor’s career in adult education also developed. She was a lecturer in education at both the University of the West of England (UWE) and latterly at Bath Spa University, and many tributes have been paid by former students, particularly citing her kindness and her sense of humour – and her insistence on good grammar.

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Obituary: Annette Hendry

Veteran Liberal Democrat campaigner and former Councillor, Annette Hendry sadly passed away on Wednesday 31st May after a long battle with cancer, at the age of 74.

It’s very sad that my first ever article for Lib Dem Voice should be this, but I wanted to celebrate Annette’s life and all she achieved. Annette was one of my local liberal heroes.

She met her husband Alan while she was reading English at University College London and the couple eventually moved to Reading for Alan’s job. Annette started her long service to the community in Reading by teaching English as a foreign language to the new arrivals from the sub-continent. They later had three children, Douglas, Anne and Neill.

Her passion for helping people led her to take on a second degree in Social Work at Oxford Brookes University, which meant she was able to become a social worker at what is now Bracknell Forest Council, where she worked with with troubled teenagers, dysfunctional families and children in care, which she found incredibly rewarding and life enhancing.

Annette was active in the Liberal Party, then the Liberal Democrats, and was a tenacious campaigner for the Party in the 1970s, 80s and 90s until finally becoming Councillor for Peppard ward on Reading Borough Council in 1999, a role she held until 2007. She was also a long-standing Chair of the Caversham Branch of the Greater Reading Local Party.

As well as being a Councillor she was a school governor and strong advocate for the Reading Citizens Advice Bureau which she became a trustee of.

I only joined the Liberal Democrats in late 2011, but Annette was one of the first people I met and we were soon friends. Ever cheerful, she simply got stuff done, both as a Councillor and as a general campaigner. I always knew I could rely on her to help organise an event or campaigning session. She was a liberal to her core. One particular moment will always stick in my mind when she took umbrage with another Liberal Democrat who was expressing some not so-Liberal views – I’ve never seen anyone go so white. Behind her cheery disposition was a very strong core liberal belief when things were wrong they should be fixed and addressed.

I asked some Local Party members to describe Annette:

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Paul Keetch obituary in the Telegraph

The Telegraph has published an obituary of former Liberal Democrat MP Paul Keetch who died last week at the age of 56.

Locally-born and a former city councillor, Keetch built on the efforts of previous Liberal candidates – among them Sir Robin Day. He ousted the long-serving and highly regarded Sir Colin Shepherd by 6,648 votes when the national anti-Conservative swing became irresistible, then fought hard to hold the seat, his majorities in 2001 and 2005 being 968 and 962 respectively.

Keetch was an assiduous party defence spokesman from 1999 to 2005, when Charles Kennedy dropped him. His main concern was the SAS, based in his constituency, but he became a tenacious campaigner on service welfare issues, with the interests of other ranks particularly at heart. It was Keetch who ascertained prior to the Iraq War that half the troops heading for the Gulf had refused a voluntary anthrax jab. He probed, uncomfortably for the MoD, why only three officers had been caught by drug tests, compared with 3,400 junior ranks. Keetch suspected the military had done its best not to test officers.

He also championed the cider industry, which was in the doldrums when he founded the All-Party Cider Group in 1997. Bulmer’s of Hereford recovered soon after on the back of a marketing campaign for Magner’s Irish cider, halting a situation in which many Herefordshire growers were grubbing up their orchards. In 2007 cider overtook beer in off-licence sales.

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Memories of Tam Dalyell 1932-2017

At the 2005 General Election the people of West Lothian entered a new era. For the first time in 43 years there were facing the fact that for the first time in 43 years none of them would be represented by Tam Dalyell.

At that election I was selected to stand in the parts of his former West Lothian constituency that lay to the north, including his ancestral home the House of the Binns. When he first posed the West Lothian question, as it became known, about the role of MPs of devolved parts of the UK, I don’t think he thought he’d still be waiting for the definitive answer 40 years later when he died.

He dedicated his autobiography “The Importance of Being Awkward”  to

the men and women of West Lothian – Labour, SNP, Conservative, Liberal, Communist – who, whatever their political opinions, were kind to me in all sorts of ways over 43 years as their representative in the House of Commons.

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Obituary: Peter Grender 1936-2017

Peter Grender, Dad, showed tactical genius from an early age.  So determined was he to win the heart of my Mum – Iris, the girl he met at the school dance, that he offered to memorise her phone number for his mate who had spent the evening dancing with her and promptly pretended to forget it. When Iris went out with another boyfriend, Peter would pop round for a regular cuppa with Iris’s Mum, his innate charm won the day!

He was a mix of generosity, wit, creativity, relentless attention to detail but most of all a loyalty and warmth that won and kept him friendships of all ages.

At school, St. Dunstans College Catford, he formed strong friendships that lasted his whole life.  After national service he went into sales and advertising joking that he started at the bottom with sales of laxatives and condoms, so the only way was up.

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Obituary: John David – an immense presence in the Pendle community

john-davidLifelong Liberal stalwart John David died early on Monday morning. John David was an immense presence in the Pendle community who served as a Liberal and Liberal Democrat member of Pendle Borough Council for 28 years. He was elected in May 1986 for the Fence area until retiring in May 2014 due to ill health. He was Leader of the Council from 2008 to 2010 and Deputy Leader from 2012 to 2014, and served as a highly distinguished Mayor of Pendle in 1992/1993.

A proud Welshman (not least when Wales were on the rugby field) John was a lifelong Liberal. He stood for the Liberals in Bosworth in the 1964 General Election, polling 10652 votes, almost a fifth of the total, in a seat the party had not previously contested. By the 1980s he was living in Pendle in Lancashire, running a business in Burnley, and in the 1986 Council elections Gordon Lishman (then the Pendle PPC) sat in his kitchen until, in Gordon’s words, “John signed the nomination form to get rid of me on the promise that he had no chance of election”. He won and held the seat for 28 years.

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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.

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David Rendel 1949-2016

David Rendel on Newbury Town Hall steps - Some rights reserved  by Martin TodAs we reported earlier, former Liberal Democrat MP David Rendel has died aged 67.

David was born in 1949 in Athens, Greece. His father was a foreign correspondent for The Times, and he was a great-grandson of civil engineer Sir Alexander Meadows Rendel, and a great-great-nephew of Liberal MP Stuart Rendel, the first Baron Rendel, a benefactor of William Gladstone, as noted in Roy Jenkins’ book “Gladstone: A Biography”.

David was educated first at Horris Hill school, Newtown, Hampshire, and then as a scholar at Eton College. He spent 14 months as a volunteer teacher in Cameroon and Uganda with Voluntary Service Overseas. Afterwards he went to Magdalen College and St Cross College, Oxford where he gained a degree in Physics and Philosophy and rowed in the record-breaking Boat Race crew of 1974.

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Obituary: Jonathan Webber MBE DL 24th February 1957 – 15th February 2016

Jonathan Webber 1Jonathan Webber, the former West Midlands Chair (2011 – 2013) and one of the most popular figures among West Midlands Liberal Democrats, has died after a long battle with cancer, which he had described as “something of a nuisance and an inconvenience.” He was 58 years old and died peacefully at home cared for by his partner Kathryn Ball.

Born in Oxford, Jonathan spent most of his working life in a business environment.  Fluent in Greek he spent 17 years working in Athens and Salonika as a literary agent / publisher, whilst there he founded the “Athens Ramblers’ Cricket Club” and the “Thessaloniki Cricket Club”, he became Chief Executive of the British Greek Chamber of Commerce in Athens and returning to the UK in the ‘90s he joined the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) advising on trade with Greece and the Balkans.

More recently Jonathan was Director of International Trade at Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce where he was described as a “real one-off…a maverick.” Former Chamber Chief Executive Jerry Blackett said: “I realised he was never going to respond to traditional management. He was not one for bureaucracy or for rules but he never missed his targets and he got the best out of his team.”

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Baroness Celia Thomas writes…Derek Ezra 1919-2015

Liberal Democrat peer Derek Ezra died on 22 December 2015 at the age of 96. Celia Thomas remembers him.

Liberal Peers were absolutely delighted when Derek Ezra took the Liberal whip on becoming a Peer in 1983. He was one of the best known men in public life at the time, having been a well-respected Chairman of the Coal Board from 1972 to 1982. He had been a Liberal since university days, he told us, where he joined the Cambridge University Liberal Club in 1936. There he was a friend of Richard Wainwright, who was later to become the Liberal MP for Colne Valley.

A few years later, when war broke out, Derek became a gunner, rising eventually to the rank of Lt. Colonel; he later joined British Intelligence, where he was secretary of the Combined Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee. After the war, he spent four years in Luxembourg as a member of the UK delegation to the European Coal and Steel Community where he worked with Jean Monnet, largely regarded as the founding father of the European Community. From that time on, Derek was a passionate, but not uncritical, supporter of the European Union.

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Obituary: Dennis Wrigley

Dennis Wrigley, who died earlier this week, was an inspirational pioneer in the rejuvenation of the Young Liberals and the Liberal Party in the Manchester region and the North West during the 1950s and 1960s.

Dennis came to national prominence in the High Peak by-election in 1961, in the year before Orpington. A combination of the rising national Liberal vote, a lot of outside help including Manchester students and YLs, and Dennis’s personal charisma and campaigning energy produced a Liberal vote of 30.5%, narrowly third but up by more than 10% from the General election in 1959. He contested the seat at the following three General Elections, polling well but never as well as at the by-election.

In 1964 the Labour candidate was the subsequent Liberal Democrat peer and Lords Chief Whip John Roper. The story that both of them told is (from Dennis) “Of course I was able to preach in every chapel in the constituency” with the riposte from John “Yes but I drank in every pub!” Unfortunately neither won that year.

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Obituary: Ruth Pentney, Councillor, agent and dedicated activist

Ruth Pentney“F*** off!” That was Ruth’s succinct response to those who requested her to back ‘Lib Dems 4 Change’ and their ill-fated attempt to oust Nick Clegg as leader in the summer of last year. That two worded response aptly illustrates the three worded summary of Ruth given by former Torbay MP Adrian Sanders, when he described her as: “tenacious, dependable and loyal.”

Attracted by the ‘self-help’ tradition that the party was closely associated with, Ruth joined the Liberals in the early 1970s. Having known what it means to be poor, she saw the hope that the  Liberals could inspire in deprived communities. She fiercely rejected the individualistic values of the Conservatives and the statism of Labour. Only the Liberals offered the vision of an equal society in which communities, once unburdened by the oppression of poverty, could stand on their own feet and strive for the good of all their members. Inspired by this vision she would go on to spend the next four decades passionately fighting to advance the cause of liberalism, and in the mid-nineties she would help turn Torbay yellow whereas before it had only ever been blue.

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Walter James, last surviving Liberal Party candidate from the 1945 General Election, dies aged 103

The Times (£) has reported the death of Walter James, who was the Liberal Party candidate for Bury in the 1945 General Election. As such, he is thought to be the last Liberal candidate from 1945 to pass on, leaving, it is believed, just two candidates surviving from that election, both of them from the Labour party: Denis Healey and Jeremy Hutchinson, now Baron Hutchinson of Lullington.

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Obituary: Bob Pritchard

ek focuses2Last night some of you may have been watching ‘Code of a Killer’ the story of the first murderer to be caught through DNA fingerprinting, pioneered by Dr Alec Jefferys at Leicester University.

Professor Robert (Bob) Pritchard, the man who set up and recruited him to the Genetics Dept at the University passed away over the weekend after a long period in a vegetative state. As well as being a notable scientist he was a prominent Liberal activist for over two decades.

Alec Jeffreys said that as soon as he met Professor Robert Pritchard, who founded the university department of genetics, he felt drawn to it.

Bob created a collegiate environment, almost on the lines of a commune: no prima donnas, just everyone interacting well with each other. I knew I could be happy within that, so I took a gamble, and have never regretted it.’

When the Tories in Leicester proposed to make Gary Lineker a freeman of the city in a fit of blatant populism the Labour administration responded by putting Alec Jeffreys forward. At the ceremony they were mortified when Alec spent part of his speech praising Bob as a professional inspiration. The Labour councillors hated Bob as the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the council and the most effective challenger to the Labour orthodoxy in what was effectively a one-party state.

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Tributes to Sutton’s Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader, Colin Hall

We’ve heard the sad news that Cllr Colin Hall, the Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader of Sutton Borough Council, died last week after a short illness. He was only 53.

Tributes have been paid to him on the Sutton Liberal Democrat website. Go below the cut to read a beautifully crafted and heartfelt obituary by his old friend Ed Fordham.

Council leader Ruth Dombey said:

Colin was a wonderful colleague and a good friend. He was passionate about the borough and dedicated to his work as a councillor.

His particular interest was the environment and how to make Sutton a more sustainable place to live. He was highly respected across London for his knowledge and experience and tributes are flowing in from people who admired his work.

He was kind and generous and always ready to help and guide others.  Colin’s wife and three children are overwhelmed by depth and warmth of the huge number of tributes they have received.

He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

Tom Brake MP said:

It was very clear that he was totally committed to Sutton and he had a particular commitment and interest in environmental issues. His passing will be a great loss to Sutton and my thoughts are with his family at this very difficult time.

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