Shirley

The death of Shirley Williams has touched me deeply; she was a unique politician and a very good and decent human being. As a fresh-faced lad new to Liberal politics in 1980 I was soon swept up in the most amazing political experience; the Crosby by-election.

I met many famous politicians of the day during that campaign such as Roy Jenkins, David Steel & Jo Grimond but it was Shirley who I grew to know, respect and admire. Apart from her boundless enthusiasm and ability to put in many hours of hard slog day in day out she was the most enjoyable person to be in the company of. I recall that when she was listening to you she always seemed to lean her head to one side which I found most endearing.

Of course, like many others at this sad time, I’ve gone looking for photos of Shirley so here they are:-

Andrew McKinlay with Shirley – Maghull Country Club December 1981

Either side of Shirley are Dave Hylands and Jack Parkin – Maghull Country Club December 1981

1983 General Election in Southport – Shirley is with Iain Brodie Brown

Shirley with Anthony Hill in 2009 – Pritchards Book Shop Crosby

Shirley with Andrew Blackburn also in Pritchards Book Shop 2009

Lord Ronnie Fearn, Shirley and John & Annette Pugh

Tony Robertson, Shirley and Richard Clein – 2008

We shall not see the likes of her again and our political life is all the poorer. Today, at least to me, our leading politicians seem to have little stature and few if any are held in high regard across the political spectrum. Shirley was liked and indeed loved by many who did not share her left of centre and sometimes radical views; today our politics in comparison looks childlike, petty and far too tribal and no good will come of that. Shirley’s guiding hand will be missed by many for years to come but her legacy is to have inspired many young women to become politically active and that is a huge legacy of good.

Remembering Doreen Service

Doreen Service lived on Foxhouse Lane in Maghull, opposite the former Red House pub (now The Fox), for many a year before retiring to Rock Lane in Melling opposite the Bootle Arms pub. Her husband Ian died quite some years ago when they lived in Maghull and Doreen herself passed away very recently at the grand old age of 91. Doreen had been a teacher and a local magistrate.

I relate this information not just because some Maghull and Melling residents will have known Doreen and will be sad to hear that she has passed on but because she was a significant part of one of the biggest political events of the 1980’s – The famous 1981 Crosby By-election (see link below) won by the SDP’s Shirley Williams, now Baroness Williams of Crosby.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1981_Crosby_by-election

Doreen and Ian’s Foxhouse Lane home became akin to a parliamentary by-election HQ full of photocopiers, state of the art computers and dot matrix printers – it was the very early days of IT becoming big in UK politics. As a fresh faced young Liberal helping in that 1981 campaign I recall going to their house to find it full of people, boxes of leaflets to be delivered and with well known political faces of the day popping in and out for tea, sandwiches etc.

Not many people would allow their homes to be taken over in that way but Doreen and Ian were very much into helping Shirley Williams win in any way they could. And even after Shirley’s victory they backed her up whenever she needed help often putting people up (including Shirley) at a moments notice.

I really got to know Doreen well after these momentous times, following Ian’s death and her move to Melling. I would call to see her now and again to talk about the old days and indeed more modern political problems as Doreen never lost her reforming zeal. Sadly, her physical health was poor and she could no longer get around much at all, Finally she had to go into a nursing home where she died a few days ago. Her funeral was yesterday.

Thanks to Andrew Blackburn I managed to track down the photo of Doreen above which was taken in May 1992. She was a strong person who had strong views and she did not have much time for fools. We got along well and I will certainly remember her. On the face of it just another elderly lady living out her retirement under the radar yet she was of huge local political influence in the early 1980’s. RIP Doreen

Shirley Williams & Norman St. John-Stevas – 1979

A guest posting by Andrew Blackburn, who is in the first photo below with Shirley Williams

Tony Robertson and Richard Clein with Shirley Williams

At the 1979 General Election, the Conservative MP Norman St. John-Stevas, on hearing that Labour’s Shirley Williams had lost her seat, said:

“I am very sorry to see Shirley defeated, that is speaking personally, because I had a great admiration for her. We were on opposite sides of the Commons, we debated very fiercely but she is a marvellous person. She is one of the most honest and sincere people in politics and I’m very sorry that she’s lost her seat because she’s a loss to British political life and I hope she’ll soon be back in the Commons.”

She was, in 1981, as the SDP MP for Crosby, including Maghull and Lydiate.

However, the more important thing is that you can’t imagine a political opponent saying anything so generous today.

Do the remarks say more about those times, more about the person making them or more about the person they’re being made about?

1983 General Election campaigning in Southport with a young Iain Brodie Browne and Shirley Williams.

Former Cllr. Anthony Hill in Crosby’s Pritchard’s Bookshop with Shirley in 2009

Tribute to Ronnie and Maureen Fearn on their retirement from Sefton Council

Lord Ronnie Fearn, who has been a councillor in Southport since before Sefton Council was even created back in 1974, and his sister-in law Maureen Fearn are both to retire as Sefton councillors this May. Both have been tireless workers for their community and indeed for Southport and the Borough of Sefton generally.

I have known them both for many years and it was Ronnie, together with Anthony Hill, who pushed me into standing for Sefton Council.

Ronnie was once the Leader of the Lib Dem Group on Sefton and he was also a member of the short lived Merseyside County Council. Before both of these he was a member of the old Southport County Borough Council. Of course he was elected as MP for Southport twice as well and then entered the House of Lords where he still sits.

Lord Ronnie Fearn with, Baroness Shirley Williams, John Pugh MP & Annette Pugh

Lord Ronnie Fearn with, Baroness Shirley Williams, John Pugh MP & Annette Pugh

Not long after I was elected to Sefton Council a combination of unusual circumstances found me as the Lib Dem Group Leader and then Leader of the Council. They must have been desperate! But of course this meant I was now Ronnie’s Leader and I always thought it was a bizarre situation. The man whom I looked up to looked to me, a lad from Maghull, for leadership! To be honest Ronnie did not interfere but when asked for his opinion he would give it in a kindly and helpful way but he always seemed to be my boss in my head.

And what about Maureen – 3 times the Mayor of Sefton. A tough but kind lady who is not taken in by anyone but is always a delight to talk to about anything. She reminds me of my dear old Mum offering advice and encouragement but firm with people who cross her.

Maureen would chair Lib Dem Sefton Council Group meetings during my time as Leader in a fair and even handed way until someone had, in her view, overstepped the mark. Then she would say ‘right I have heard enough we are moving on’ and the culprit usually backed off. If they seemed to challenge her she would turn into a Victorian School Marm and you got a real ticking off.

Those who were on the end of Maureen losing her sense of humour know who they are – Tony D, Simon and Fred, mentioning no names of course.

Ronnie has a political radar for trouble that I have rarely seen elsewhere, indeed only Andrew Blackburn, whom I nick-named Radar (MASH watchers will get this), has the same sixth sense for ‘elephant traps’ as Ronnie called them.

Maureen was President of the North West of England Lib Dems a while back and she sprung quite a surprise on my dear old friend Charles (Uncle Albert) Walker when she called him up to the podium at a conference and presented him with an award for all his efforts for Lib Dems. Charles, now a young 94, only showed me his award certificate a couple of weeks ago; he is very proud of it and Maureen who presented it to him.

Charles Walker being present with his award by Maureen Fearn.

Charles Walker being present with his award by Maureen Fearn.

Maureen is loved across the political spectrum and indeed Ronnie is too.

They both deserve a long and happy retirement from politics because they have devoted their lives to helping others. Happy retirement Ronnie and Maureen.

Shirley Williams – In praise of a great servant of the public

News that Shirley Williams is to retire from politics after many years in the public eye brings back memories of her for me.

I first met Shirley in the famous Crosby By-election when as a young Liberal I was working to help get her elected as the SDP/Liberal Alliance candidate.

She came across as a down to earth friendly person who really cared about people and this proved to be the case over the many years I have known and met her.

Here are some photos of Shirley with me and others:-

1983 General Election campaigning in Southport with a young Iain Brodie Browne.

1983 General Election campaigning in Southport with a young Iain Brodie Browne.

Lord Ronnie Fearn, Barness Shirley Williams, John Pugh MP & Anette Pugh

Lord Ronnie Fearn, Barness Shirley Williams, John Pugh MP & Anette Pugh

Myself and Richard Clein with Shirley at Tree Tops Restaurant

Myself and Richard Clein with Shirley at Tree Tops Restaurant

Former Cllr. Anthony Hill in Crosby's Pritchard's Bookshop with Shirley in 2009

Former Cllr. Anthony Hill in Crosby’s Pritchard’s Bookshop with Shirley in 2009

A decent and well liked politician and there aren’t too many of them around now nor indeed in the past. I hope she is able to enjoy her retirement. I feel privileged to have known and worked with Shirley.

Shirley Williams – the best Prime Minister we never had?

A guest posting from Cllr. Jen Robertson

www.politicshome.com/uk/article/77979/this_place_doesnt_like_change.html

Lord Ronnie Fearn, Barness Shirley Williams, John Pugh MP & Anette Pugh

Lord Ronnie Fearn, Barness Shirley Williams, John Pugh MP & Anette Pugh

Good article (see link above), she as ever comes across as reasonable and sensible in a way politicians so often fail to. Even if I don’t always agree with her she’s always so compelling and rational.