‘An instinctive Conservative and patriot’: Sir Bill Cash pays tribute to Sir Richard Shepherd
Sir Bill Cash with Sir Richard Shepherd (right)
Richard Shepherd was one of my closest political and personal friends – and I shall always miss him profoundly
Richard Shepherd was one of my closest political and personal friends. I missed him greatly when he decided to stand down at the 2015 general election, but I had the pleasure of keeping in continuous contact with him afterwards.
We would frequently speak on the telephone, and I would often go over to his home in Kensington for a chat to update him with the goings on in the House. He always maintained his deep friendships with other patriotic Eurosceptics, such as Teddy Taylor, many of whom have sadly died.
Shortly after Richard himself died a few days ago, a taxi driver said to me: “Did you know Richard Shepherd?” He told me how he admired his work in the House of Commons.
I was so glad that he had really good obituaries in The Telegraph, The Times (he was not, as the latter wryly referred to him as, a “greengrocer,” though he jokingly once referred to himself as one) and the Guardian. He would have taken issue however with the Guardian’s reference to some of his friends as “Europhobes” – he held no such views and was as committed as any of us to the cause of democracy and sovereignty during the Maastricht Rebellion and beyond. We worked together, voting together as one.
Richard was greatly loved in his constituency, Aldridge Brownhills, which he faithfully represented for 36 years
So close was our relationship, that whenever I was proposing an amendment or an Early Day Motion on the European issue, he gave me a permanent authority to put down his name on any issue. We were inseparable.
A matter which did not attract enough attention at the time was his 1992 Private Members’ Bill debate, requiring a referendum on the European issue, which we concocted together with the assistance of Godfrey Carter, previously one of the government’s Parliamentary Counsel. It received its second reading on Friday 21 February 1992, with the support of 46 MPs from across the House, including Margaret Thatcher. Only three voted against. The division bells did ring, but only in some parts of the House, and the Deputy Speaker allowed an extra two minutes. However, as I pointed out, if the Members could not hear the division bells, they could not do anything about it! But for this, there would have been considerably more.
I strongly recommend any reader of The House magazine to read the debate if they want to hear Richard’s voice in Parliament as a proponent of our great democratic principles. He ended his speech with the words: “I say as a last note to the House that our people should ‘not go gentle into that good night’, but should rather ‘rage, rage, against the dying of the light’ that requires us to live under laws that we cannot change or control.”
Richard was also, as his obituaries properly recite, engaged in many other personal campaigns, such as his Protection of Official Information Bill, leading ultimately to the Public Interest Disclosure Act. In 1996, he voted against the government on its handling of the Scott Report. He was voted backbencher of the year in 1985 and parliamentarian of the year in 1995. In 2000, he obtained 136 votes to be Speaker when Michael Martin won the contest. He was knighted in 2013.
Richard was greatly loved in his constituency, Aldridge Brownhills, which he faithfully represented for 36 years, in which he was a perpetual presence, achieving an eight per cent swing to obtain the seat in 1979, and increasing his majority from 5,668 in 1979 to 15,256 by 2010. All the while, he helped in the running of the famous food store, Partridges in Duke of York Square, which achieved a Royal Warrant. His brother, John, became managing director; his sister, Davida, was Richard’s senior parliamentary assistant.
He was ever an instinctive Conservative and a patriot from his youth, and I shall always miss him profoundly.
I have proposed an adjournment debate in tribute to Richard, in which I trust as many of his parliamentary friends as possible will attend and speak.
Sir Bill Cash is Conservative MP for Stone
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