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Tribute to Lord Cotter

Lord Cotter: 24 August 1936 – 14 November 2023 | Image courtesy of UK Parliament

3 min read

A man of integrity and compassion, former Liberal Democrat MP Brian Cotter was a champion of small business. A dedicated public servant, he was hard-working and approachable to the end

As a close constituency neighbour to Weston-super-Mare, I am deeply saddened by the death of my friend Brian Cotter.

Born in London to a doctor from Weston-super-Mare and educated in London and Somerset, Brian was a relative latecomer to politics, only joining the Liberal Party in his 40s. He became active in Woking and was elected to Woking Borough Council in 1986. He returned to the West Country when he was selected as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Weston in 1992. Demonstrating his personal approach to politics, Brian set about knocking on as many doors as possible in the constituency, connecting with the voters and recruiting many new members.

When I was elected as the Liberal Democrat MP for Bath in 1992, Brian secured a strong second place in Weston-super-Mare. He was reselected to fight the seat again in the 1997 general election. He took enormous pride in winning the seat this time, with a majority of 1,274 – the seat had last been in Liberal hands in 1923. In his typical style, Brian’s winning campaign was centred around local issues such as saving hospitals, post offices and schools. He successfully defended the seat in 2001, but narrowly lost in 2005. He was honoured to be nominated to the House of Lords the following year by Charles Kennedy.

During the Covid pandemic, Brian pressed the government to go further to support small businesses across the country

Brian’s main focus in both the Commons and the Lords was to champion the cause of small businesses. He brought considerable expertise to this area, having set up and run a garden wholesale business in Guildford, and subsequently being the sales manager and then managing director of a small manufacturing company in Hampshire. Displaying forward-thinking and liberal principles, he passed the company into employee ownership in 2003. During the Covid pandemic, Brian pressed the government to go further to support small businesses across the country, speaking with passion about the role of shops and other small traders at the heart of our towns and villages. Connected to this was his consistent support and promotion for tourism, another important industry in Weston-super-Mare.

Brian genuinely cared about his local area and remained dedicated to his former constituency, supporting many local charities. He approached his roles in the Commons and the Lords with integrity and compassion, virtues that are not seen as often as they should be in politics today. In Somerset and in Parliament he will be remembered as an exceptionally kind man and dedicated public servant who was hard-working and approachable to the end.

My thoughts and condolences are with his beloved wife Eyleen and his children, Dominic, Nicholas and Isabel.

Lord Foster of Bath is a Liberal Democrat peer

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