Tag Archives: ruth coleman-taylor

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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Ruth Coleman Taylor’s Funeral Details

It’s two weeks since liberal legend Ruth Coleman-Taylor died.

Ruth was a Council leader, six time parliamentary candidate, mayor and a kind and wise presence at Conference. I am missing her so much.

Her husband Mick Taylor has asked us to let you know her funeral details.

The Quaker Service will take place on Thursday 18th August at 2:30 pm at a venue steeped with Lib Dem history. It’s at the Birchcliffe Centre in Hebden Bridge which many of you will recognise as the home of ALDC until a few years ago.

Mick is asking for donations in Ruth’s memory for a cause close to her heart, the Abortion Support Network. ASN provides accommodation and support for pregnant people travelling from places such as Northern Ireland, Malta, Gibraltar and Poland, where safe, legal abortion is not available.

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Ruth Coleman-Taylor: The future of the state

Yesterday  we reported  that much loved liberal activist Ruth Coleman-Taylor had died. She will be very much missed. Back in 2014, she wrote this piece for us on the future of the state which is as relevant now as it was then, probably more so. 

The Liberal Democrat pre-manifesto sets out our ambitions to take power from ‘the stifling hand of Whitehall’ and return it to citizens and communities: but does the state have the power it once did? Can we rely on having a strong state to implement our plans?

After the Second World War, the new architecture of the international order was based on bodies like the United Nations, the World Bank and the European Union. These have all developed upon states agreeing to share sovereignty, to trade individual power for the achievement of shared objectives. In more recent decades, states have devolved, out-sourced or sold off functions to other agencies or spheres of governance. Some 80% of business transactions now take place in the unregulated space of the transnational domain. How much state is there and how much power does it have?

Posted in Op-eds | 3 Comments

Liberal legend Ruth Coleman-Taylor has died

Ruth Coleman-Taylor has been a friend to many generations of Liberals and Liberal Democrats – and to many generations of members of liberal parties across the world.

Many readers of this site will be very sad to hear that Ruth died on Wednesday in hospital in Greece, where she was moving with her husband Mick.

Ruth was one of the kindest, wisest people and I feel very lucky to have known her. I first met her back in 1992 at a Women Liberal Democrats (as it then was) AGM in Bath. Her daughter, Rachel was telling us about her experience at an international young person’s space school.

I loved spending time with her and Mick at every Conference. She gave excellent advice and was incredibly good at disagreeing well. She was a radical liberal and committed internationalist. She was as livid as many of us were about Brexit and its false promises.

She and Mick had the spirit, fearlessness and the drive to head off for a year’s travelling around the world in their 70s. While we missed them when they were away we couldn’t wait to hear about their adventures when they came back.

Ruth was Mayor of Todmorden when it was featured in the Sunday Times list of Best Places to live last year. Her comments to the Halifax Courier summed up the sorts of things she thought were important in a community:

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