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.
Lib Dem (John Pugh) 1680 55.96%
Conservative 790 26.32%
Labour 417 13.89%
UKIP 69 2.30%
Green 45 1.50%
Lib Dem gain from Conservative
Wow this was some result indeed last night, especially because of the collapse of the Conservative vote and Labour’s really poor showing.
This old political warhorse went to assist John and what was really noticeable was the number of young people involved in the campaign to get John elected. So often middle aged and old folk are involved in politics so it was great to see a new generation of Lib Dem campaigners pounding the streets.
As for John, I have known him for many years as a Sefton Councillor (for of course he has previously been one in the time before he became an MP), as a really effective MP for Southport, and now back on the council again.
My guess is that Labour-run Sefton Council will have wanted John back like a hole in the head. He’s already exposed Labour to some publicity they would rather not have had with regard to the them buying Bootle Strand Shopping Centre and there’s probably more to come on that front before he gets his teeth into other things Sefton’s Labour leaders would rather he did not.
Well done John, happy to have done my small bit to help you get back on Sefton Council.
John and his supporters celebrate after the count
My good friend John Pugh MP has decided after many years serving the good folk of Southport that the June General Election is the time for him to step down.
I know John has been an excellent MP not least because opposition party members have told me such. And I don’t mean in tribute after hearing he is standing down but before that whilst he has been Southport’s MP.
Dr. John Pugh Lib Dem MP for Southport
John is independently minded but then again that is the test of a good Liberal. Show me a politician who is prepared to be whipped time and time again to vote for things they really can’t abide and I will likely show you someone who is not a Liberal. Remember John stood out against Nick Clegg’s dropping the the Lib Dem pledge to oppose an increase in Tuition Fees, which were originally brought in by Labour when they were in Government. John was right.
On a subject close to my heart, John has been up front in his support for the revitalistion of rail services into and out of Southport to the east and north of the Town. That is an ongoing campaign that has a long way to run and his successor will have to show the same determination to support and promote that cause because the economic future of Southport is very much bound up in such campaigning.
I can’t say that I always agree with John but hey I’m a Liberal too and hope I have a reasonably independent mind too. What I do know is that John is a deep thinker who analyses every matter before him and you can bet that if you challenge him over an issue he can demonstrate a clear thought process that took him to the view that he holds.
I think Southport has had a really exceptional MP in John and they will be big boots indeed for his successor to fill.
Happy retirement from Westminster John but not from the local political scene.
Yes, it was probably a significant contributory factor. You see at the heart of the Labour Party is that ‘our way or no way’ instinct but in 2015 it probably led to tribalism topping common sense.
Take a look at the seats where Labour tried to do some damage to the Lib Dem vote because of their hatred of Nick Clegg. In quite a few cases it will show that their actions either led to a Tory MP being elected or in Southport’s case it very nearly did.
This is Cllr. Iain Brodie Browne’s take on it:-
We do not have multi party politics. Britain does not have a culture of coalition. Tribalism is alive and well in politics. Unless and until we have major constitutional reform, including electoral form for Westminister, any strategy which is based upon coalitions will fail.
Just look at how the Labour Party behaved on [election] Thursday. Ed Balls lost his seat whilst Labour activists , motivated by loathing of Clegg spent time failing to unseat him rather than defend Balls. The same happened on a smaller scale in Southport. Labour activists were receiving emails beseeching them to go and help in the marginal seat of South Ribble (which Labour failed to take) but choose instead to work their socks off in Southport where the only outcome which they could hope to achieve would be to reduce the Lib Dem vote and let the Tory in. Fortunately our ground war was just strong enough to repel them. Lab/Con do not have pluralist bone in their body.
But let’s look at another way; what on earth did Labour have to gain by trying to stop John Pugh being returned to Parliament. John is clearly of the left indeed he will hold far more radical views than many Labour MP’s! It was of course naked tribalism that was motivating Labour in Southport and other seats where Labour was clearly always going to finish 3 or 4th – our way or no way, but it led to Tory MP’s being helped to be elected under our warped electoral system!
I have seen the tribalism at first hand in the trade union movement which I worked within for many years. Yes, now a days there are few union activists openly supporting Labour in trade unions because of the Party’s stance for example on starting privatisation within the NHS. And of course this is where Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham has problems because of his involvement in NHS privatisation when Labour were last in Government.
But tribalism can also help forget the past. It’s as though Labour had nothing to do with NHS privatisation if you listen to them these days; it has been expunged from the memory. So you end up with the Labour Party and those trade union leaders who still support Labour openly arguing for someone who helped bring in NHS privatisation to be the next Labour Leader! It did not happen because we say it did not happen.
Not all Labour party members are tribalist of course, indeed I know some who were quite happy to vote tactically this year for Lib Dem candidates to ensure that Tories did not win. Trouble was there were not enough of them this time around and that’s why Labour’s tribalists helped win the election for the Tories!