Friday, 12 April 2013
A one-time Labour Party member, John was elected to the London Borough of Hounslow at the local elections of 1998 as the sole Liberal Democrat member for Feltham South. He and his fellow Lib Dems refused to join in with the shrill cackle of indignation which followed my election as a community councillor the same year and we became friends, often enjoying a beer at a local venue in the company of his wife Pat and, sometimes, my own wife Caroline. From very early on it was clear that he was uncomfortable as a party politician and we often discussed the logistics of him becoming an independent without me really believing that he would ever actually go for it.
And then, one day, he did just that. Elected members arriving at a Borough Council meeting one evening were each greeted by a printed statement from John and myself announcing the formation of a new independent political group - the first in the history of the borough. Truth be told it created a slightly uneasy atmosphere for a while between myself and the Lib Dems, with whom I had got on well, but it was John's decision alone and of course I was pleased to have him as a comrade.
In 2002 John, Pat and another candidate contested the local elections on behalf of their newly-created West Hanworth Independent Group (the WHIGs) but were unsuccessful. But they continued to support us in the ICG in our work and were almost ever-presents at our regular pre-election Friday night drinks in Isleworth, Brentford and Hounslow. Even after illness had compelled John to renounce the demon liquor he, along with Pat, would still make the journey over and take part in the deep converations that abounded in every corner, satisfied (apparently) by his J2O.
John's specialist subject was undoubtedly health, and he could talk interestingly for hours about the pros and cons of our local health provision. He was also involved in some interesting issues around his parish, which made for more than a few amusing conversations.
John was an eccentric in the best tradition - persistent when he had a point to make, always humorous, deeply dedicated, sometimes awkward. He was one of those characters who loom large in their surrounds and who change the dynamic of any meeting they attend just by being present. Already his commitment, character and campaigning skills have been acknowledged by former councillors from across the spectrum. He would have been pleased by that.
My condolences go out to Pat and to all his family, friends and loved ones.