Richard Holme

Last week was insanely busy for me, and I’ve only just caught up with the news of the death of Richard Holme eight days ago, aged 71. I first knew of him in my early activist days as a student immediately after the SDP/Liberal merger, when diehard Liberals excoriated him as the demon prince of selling out to ex-Labour and later New Labour; his acceptance of a peerage rather than fight the winnable seat of Cheltenham threw activists there into a mild spin as well (if I remember rightly, the two candidates to replace him were the future MP Nigel Jones and his ex-wife, or something like that).

But when I actually got to know him, through my involvement in the Lib Dems Northern Ireland policy working group after I had moved back to Belfast, I found myself really impressed by his gravitas and also his humour. As the party’s Northern Ireland spokesman, and in the House of Lords to boot, he was a bit invisible to the public eye (I shouldn’t think many people reading this had ever heard of him), but was very active behind the scenes. He sent me a congratulatory note after I captained the QUB team on University Challenge, but mocked my election literature – “Couldn’t you have found a photograph to use which was taken after your fourteenth birthday?”

Once I moved to the Balkans we lost touch – I was sorry to see the circumstances of his parting company with the Broadcasting Standards Council, but glad to get back in touch with him briefly a couple of years ago. Nice tribute to him by Paddy Ashdown in the Independent and by Trevor Smith and others in the Guardian.

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