Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Kemps 'valedictory banquet'at LGA conference

I am at the LGA conference in Birmingham  staying at the Weatherspoon's  Lodge. I am being stared down on by a large picture of Joe Chamberlain and William Morris. This establishment is called the Briar Rose named after a series of paintings by Morris's long term collaborator Burne Jones. Whilst her I have already visited St Philip's which has some of the most amazing stain glass windows by Burne Jones

This morning Clegg addressed the conference. I thought it was a tad risky for him to refer to Richard Kemp's farewell dinner as a 'banquet' The potential for the right wing press to spin that into something other than it was obvious.

It should be recorded than underlying all the tributes, farewells and present giving there is genuine affection for Richard. His time as Leaders of the Lib Dem Group on the LGA has not always been easy but he has always robustly defended and promoted the Lib Dem role in Local Government, Too often in a mad world his has been the voice of sanity. As one delegate remark he always felt better if he woke up to hear Richards tones drifting across the airwaves. There are too many examples to quote them all but his steadfast opposition to  notion of police commissioners has earned him  real respect.
It was therefore fitting that when Lib Dem delegates to the LGA shared an evening meal last night they took the opportunity to express their thanks to 'Dickie'-as his would be successor calls him. In attendance was a Government minister and his old friend and long time colleague from Liverpool City Council Mike Storey-now a member of the House of Lords
I first met Richard back in 1970/1 when as a Leyland  YL he was involved in a very dubious organisation called Action Liberal. They seemed to have been formed to  undermine the YL leadership and conspired along with Thorpe to do so. It was all a bit cack handed and counter productive. The truth is that the YLs had rumbled Thorpe well before the party at large. But all that is a another story. Richard then left Leyland and fetched up in Liverpool as David Alton's agent. He now represents (and held this May) the ward that Cyril Carr first won in the early 1960

One of the other speakers last night was Paul Tilsley from Birmingham. He recalled those early days when the party was begining to rebuild its base in the major cities of Britain. Cyril Carr and  Wallace Lawler were the two examples he choose. He was also one of the first elected back in his early 20's. A baptism of fire awaited him as the City Council  passed a motion calling for no more immigration into Birmingham. The one opponent was the young Tilsley.
Richard Kemp on the platform for the opening of the LGA conference

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