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Tribute to Bob Blizzard by Lawrie Quinn

Tribute to Bob Blizzard by Lawrie Quinn
4 min read

Jazz fan, staunch campaigner for the Lowestoft and Iraq war rebel, Bob Blizzard is sorely missed by his 1997 colleagues and Parliament at large.

On 9 May, Westminster’s Institution of Civil Engineers hosted an event to celebrate 25 years since the New Labour general election landslide.

Despite the lingering effects of the pandemic, an impressive headcount of more than 70 promised a lively occasion to mark those life-changing effects of 1997.

We planned to toast “absent friends” and read out messages from those unable to join us.

The greetings of old friends added to a celebratory mood amongst the self-named “PLP Exiles,” with current parliamentarians joining the festivities.

Remarks from Margaret Beckett, Hilary Benn, Yvette Cooper and Ed Balls added to the convivial mood.

Sadly, our mood was short lived with the news that fellow 1997 veteran Bob Blizzard, MP for Waveney, had died aged 71, two days before our celebrations.

Typically Bob had sent apologies, as his fight against cancer had made travel impossible from his home in Lowestoft.

Across Parliament Bob was hailed as a staunch advocate for his local communities - he had served as leader of Waveney District Council for six years from 1987.

Sadly, our mood was short lived with the news that fellow 1997 veteran Bob Blizzard had died aged 71

Our sadness in our celebrations turned to personal reflections that Bob was a fine role model as an MP – never losing the common touch and taking a genuine interest in people and championing their concerns.

Bob remains the first, and only, non-Conservative MP to hold the Waveney seat since its creation.

His 13 years from 1997 at Westminster included notable achievements to alleviate major traffic bottlenecks in Lowestoft, and campaigning for seaside communities across the UK.

He chaired several all-party parliamentary groups, including those for British offshore oil and gas, renewable transport fuels, Brazil, Chile and Latin America.

A personal milestone for Bob came when he voted against the Iraq war and resigned from his position as parliamentary private secretary: the only time he voted against his government. 

Gordon Brown made Bob an assistant treasury whip in 2007, before being promoting him to Lord Commissioner to the Treasury.

He held onto his seat in 2001 and in 2005, winning by a majority of almost 6,000 ahead of Conservative challenger Peter Aldous, who would go on to win the seat from Bob in turn in 2010.

Bob stood for Waveney unsuccessfully five years later, after which he retired from parliamentary politics.

His voluntary positions over the years included being a member of the board of governors of Lowestoft College and the Sentinel Leisure Trust, and honorary president of Lowestoft and District Mencap Society. 

Bob remained a passionate active campaigner for animal rights and for the law against hunting with hounds to be enforced.

His love of jazz saw him involved with the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group and founder of the Parliamentary Jazz Awards, as well as becoming chairman of the national organisation Jazz Services, and founding the Lowestoft Jazz Weekend. 

Speaking to local journalists, he said: “I have been in love with jazz since I was a student, and my personal music collection is nearly all jazz.” 

Former deputy leader of the Labour Party Tom Watson sums up our affection for Bob thus: “Bob and I had been exchanging text messages in recent months, and it was all about music - jazz music. I’ve compiled a Spotify playlist of his recommendations. Maybe it will provide a little comfort in your moments of reflection.”

Bob’s memorial service was held in Waveney on 27 May, with the thoughts of the PLP Exiles going to all his loved ones and Jane who loved and cared for him in his final days.

So 9 May 2022 was truly a milestone moment for those of us attending that evening, remembering 1997, and Bob Blizzard, RIP .

NOTE : If you’d like to hear more about the “PLP Exiles” please contact Lawrie Quinn via email: [email protected]

Lawrie Quinn was Labour MP for Scarborough and Whitby 1997 to 2005.

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