David Rendel at the 2003 London march against the Iraq war. David described voting against the Iraq invasion, in the House of Commons, as his proudest moment.
Last Monday, a memorial event was held for former Liberal Democrat MP, David Rendel. This was at the Corn Exchange theatre in Newbury. Family, friends, colleagues and former constituents of David filled the hall to overflowing.
The tributes started with a film of David’s life put together by Rachael Clarke, Deputy head of policy of the Liberal Democrats. This film included video footage and photos from David’s political and family life.
One piece of film, which I had not previously seen in full, was of the 1974 Oxford versus Cambridge Boat Race when David rowed at number three in the Oxford team, which beat Cambridge by 5.5 lengths and set the new time record for the race. It is an extraordinary piece of film, because it shows that Oxford were ahead of Cambridge from the very first stroke!
The event included tributes which reflected the different sides of David’s life – family, working in Newbury, at Westminster and as a friend.
During the tribute from David’s eldest brother, Robert, we heard that David was extremely competitive in rowing. He dramatically improved the rowing performance of his college, Magdalen. When new students arrived, he would be at their door within 30 minutes, asking if they wanted to join the college rowing club, lest they be snapped up by any of the other clubs.
And this competitive streak showed in David’s politics later. We heard how he was “very determined” in signing up new members, how he would always encourage members to canvass a “few more streets” as the sky drew dark.
We heard that the most frequent word used to describe David was “courteous”. Indeed, I think David was the politest person I have ever met. We heard about David’s gentleness, his caring nature and his huge capacity for hard work. The speakers told of David’s impeccable honesty and integrity, his immense commitment to helping others, his leadership of campaigns to build the Newbury by-pass, rescue and refurbish the building we were in, the Corn Exchange, re-open Greenham and Crookham Commons to the public and establish a new hospital for West Berkshire.
Don Foster, now Lord Foster, who worked alongside David in parliament, told how David championed a myriad of causes with huge tenacity. As Higher and Further Education spokesman for the party, for example, he endlessly asked questions and made speeches about visas for foreign students.
In his tribute, Portsmouth Liberal Democrat leader, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, who was David’s agent for numerous years, said:
I sometimes wonder if David really was right for our time in politics or whether he would have been happier in an earlier and nicer time, but his honesty and integrity shone through. Politics, Newbury and the Lib Dems have all lost a man of great kindness, great humanity and great presence.
The event included some magical choral singing including one of David’s three sons, John.
Former Newbury Liberal Democrat agent, Chris Day, was asked by David’s family to read out part of the Preamble to the Constitution of the Liberal Democrats. I think that brought moistness to the eyes of many present.
Afterwards there was time in the Corn Exchange function room for old friends of David to share memories of him, surrounded by memorabilia from past elections and his life.
This was a splendid and moving tribute to a wonderful man, who will be greatly missed.