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:

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.

I may try to create a short video to go with this or subsequently but that remains as a project.

Editor’s Note: ALDC has also given Erlend life membership in recognition of his contribution to campaigning at local and national level. 

* Ed Fordham is a councillor on Chesterfield Borough Council and runs Brockwell Books of Chesterfield, selling many thanks, not least ephemera he bought from Liber Books over the last 25 years.

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8 Comments

  • I can think of very few people who could have done more to earn this honour; Erlend has been a champion of young Liberalism throughout his political life.

    I hope many of us will find an Orcadian flag to fly at the next available Glee Club in his honour.

  • That’s a lovely gesture; thank you for doing this.

  • Quite simply a good man. He will be missed.

  • I have always enjoyed talking to Erland whenever I bumped into him at Conference and above all at By elections all over the country.

    You are a great Liberal Erland but above all a wonderful human being. My thoughts are with you.

  • Erlend I had no idea you were so ill. Thankfully it looks like you are stronger than you thought – and long may that continue to be the case. Chris says it best: you are an indelible part of our great Liberal family. Dysfunctional though it may be, it matters a great deal to us all. Well done to the YLs for recognising that with this very fitting tribute. And Congratulations to Erlend the Legend!

  • Neil Fawcett 28th Dec '21 - 9:09pm

    This is a fitting tribute. Well done Young Liberals.

  • John Barrett 30th Dec '21 - 8:34pm

    So sad. Like many others, I have many happy memories of Erlend over many decades, from by-elections to conferences.

    The words of Russell Johnston come to mind when he said “Everywhere I go, to whomsoever I speak, I find the same yearning for a purpose, for an opportunity to live a life which, at its end, one can look back upon and say, ‘My time was well spent, I played my part”.

    Erlend, your time was well spent and without a doubt, you played your part.

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