Sunday, 23 August 2015

Remembering old Friends

Roy Jenkins – A Very Social Democrat

A few days ago I was alerted to post on Facebook by one of my long lost - but now found again! friends - Mark Soady. -
His dedication, support and friendship in the 1980's is something I have never forgotten. Mark’s contribution to the SDP and the Alliance both in Wales and further afield was immense. He was a loyal assistant and colleague for years but then when my long standing friend and political ally the late Roy Jenkins won the Glasgow Hillhead by-election he was taken away from me and also Wales!
From 1992 until some months ago politics played no part at all in my life – completely different to the 25 years previous!  The consequence was that I lost contact with a wide range of friends, political allies and even adversaries. It has always been one of my failings – keeping in touch with people and some others would add ‘listening’ has been another failing!
For a few years family and acquaintances were trying to persuade me to join the social media world but I was not keen at all to do this. Anyway during a visit to Chennai end of last year where my youngest son works he took matters into his own hands and set me up on Twitter, created a Facebook account and the YouTube channel as well as the Blog site. Although I was pleased I continued not do very much at all with any of it. But by the time of the General Election in May something kicked in and all of a sudden I got interested, overcame my apprehensions and ‘went for it’. Indeed I managed to connect myself with Linkedin as well.
What I then happened slowly but surely over the last four months not only was I re-connecting with dozens of old friends and acquaintances but also how good it is to make new ones.
But as with everything else in life there was also a downside. When in the process of contacting several people from the SDP/Liberal Alliance days of the 80’s I discovered that one of my closest colleagues from those years had passed away. He was Ieuan Evans from Bangor a trusted friend who not only was a close ally but acted as my agent when I stood for the Presidency of the Liberal Democrats. Like Mark and several others I could mention such as Jan Dickens, Peter Sain Ley Berry and Clive Lindley he also made a notable contribution to Welsh politics in those years. But as so often is the case people like him never make the headlines and their tireless work and influence very often go unrecorded.   
It is only now I am realising how much I have missed it all for over 20 years.  So there is no time to waste! I am free to renew my political passions which mainly revolve around a fairer society, voting reform, a federal UK, our future in Europe and the governance of Wales.
There is another reason I am so grateful to Mark for his link because on the YouTube timeline among a number of other historical political videos was one on ‘Roy Jenkins – A Very Social Democrat’. Prior to writing this blog I listened to it for the first time, indeed I never knew the recording existed. It is an account of Roy’s life and a very accurate one, where he is very honest about himself.  
 Much of the story I knew about because from 1972 until 1992 we were very close friends indeed and I had been one of his Parliamentary supporters and for a period his PPS. The references to his upbringing, what happened when his father Arthur Jenkins the MP for Pontypool was jailed during the general strike of 1926, his meticulousness, shyness and his difficulties in mixing with people are all true. Also his attention to detail was at times frustrating especially when it came to time-keeping – a minute if not seconds mattered to Roy! What surprised me was that he was also quite relaxed about his relationships in high society and with some internationally known ladies being aired.
I am not going to write much more other than that he should have been Prime Minister is in no doubt. The power of his intellect, the strength of his character and political convictions – particularly over Europe, his introduction of a more liberal and open society which made him unpopular with many in the 1960's as well as being a reformer attracted me to him from my early days in Parliament.  The programme also shows how much of a fighter he was, never afraid to enter the ‘lions’ den’. I suppose that was his father coming out in him – the airs and graces came from his mother!

He was also engaging company and often witty and we enjoyed many pleasant social times together. The country home near Oxford I went to some two or three times and I well recall a Boxing Day visit towards the end of the 70's. Mind I paid a heavy price for my loyalty to him because the 70's was a time when the left of the Labour Party and the unions were in the ascendancy particularly in Wales.