Sunday, September 25, 2005

Gone but not forgotten...

It goes without saying that in the past year the Labour Party has lost three of it's great movers and orators: James Callaghan, Robin Cook, and Mo Mowlam.
Whilst Callaghan's death was not entirely unexpected (He died the day before his 93rd birthday), Mo Mowlam's (after a brief illness), and Robin Cook's (a heart attack) were a shock to many of us who feel that they had much left to offer.
They will be well and deservedly remembered.

(BBC News)
Callaghan for his forty-two years as a Labour MP (many of which were spent in the high echelons of the Party), as well as his time as Prime Minister from 1976-1979, where he helped save the British economy during the IMF crisis.

(BBC)
Mo Mowlam will be remembered for her involvement in helping to bring about the 'Good Friday' agreement during her time as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and Robin Cook, for his time as Foreign(BBC News Online)
Secretary, as well as his principled resignation from the cabinet over the Iraq War.
Doubtless this afternoon at the Labour Party Conference, there will a minutes silence for all the Party members who died last year, with these three prominent in people's minds.
However, at this time someone else springs to mind, the person I was thinking of last year when, as a delegate, I stood in the main conference hall, observing the silence.
The person I am thinking of was a great influence to me, with regard to Labour politics and she did a great deal to encourage and support me, and I never got the chance to properly repay her, so maybe I can here.
Her name was Tammy Wilband. She was never an MP, never even stood for Parliament (although she was shortlisted for, and came in third place, the seat of Camarthen East shortly before her death), was not even an 'old hand' as it were.
She was simply a close friend of mine from University who tried to get me to join the Labour Party, whilst I was trying to get her more involved with Church life (This was in the year 1997, and like Government Minister, Alun Michael, my University years were spent with the Christian Union and not tussling in student politics), we both had mixed results.
That said, her constant nagging paid off and five years later I joined the Party as a twenty-seventh birthday present to myself. She was surprised, but enthusiastic. She was then the only friend who went out of her way to help me when I twice stood for district council, coming to stay for the odd weekend so that she would help me canvass and leaflet every available street in Baldock Town. She even invited me to the interesting 'An Evening With Alistair Campbell' at the Royal Festival Hall. The following walk across the bridge to the House of Commons where we had drinks with my then boss, Geraint Davies, would have been romantic had it not been for the fact that she was gay and I saw her as a sister-figure.
Tammy was also an ardent Blair-loyalist, but that didn't stop her from making a stand. So whilst I, who takes a more critical stand towards the Prime Minister, dragged my feet at the start of the Iraq War. Tammy went on the first major march in London, protesting against it.
She died last year, at just twenty-seven years old, after a freak accident caused by a diabetic blackout she had on the London Underground. Then, as now, I have thought of her and feel how unfair it is that her life and career was cut-short like that, and her firendship is one that I still keenly miss. There are not many people of my age you can say for certain, as ending up as an MP, but of Tammy I am certain it would have happened, sooner or later.
So whilst we honour those famous politicans who have died in the last year, let us not forget the ones we knew and loved, whatever their political colours, who were not so well known.

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