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In memory of Peter Ashenden

June 28, 2014 12:46 PM
By Barrie Taylor

Most of you will know that Peter was a long term and active supporter of the Liberal Democrats. He had an abiding interest in politics, though he wasn't most people's idea of a politician, and he was all the more effective for that. When the Social Democrat Party was started by the Gang of Four, Peter was one of the very first members, and proud of it, and that was how we first met.

The initial SDP bubble was soon pricked, but Peter succeeded in getting elected to High Peak Council to represent Blackbrook. He was re-elected several times, under various banners, the 'Social and Liberal Democrats' finally becoming the Liberal Democrats. There were ups and downs, but Peter kept winning. Locally everybody seemed to know Peter, and he knew about their concerns and worked hard to try and help.

But it wasn't just local issues that interested him. He took on the thankless task of standing for Parliament in the Stalybridge & Hyde constituency, where he had the support of one man and possibly a dog. As always he threw himself into the campaign, and famously he literally knocked himself out while delivering leaflets when he tried to save time by jumping over a wall between properties in the dark.

In 1998 Peter decided to resign from the Borough Council because he was then working in the north east, only coming back to Chinley at weekends, and felt he couldn't represent local people properly. But in the north east he discovered there was also a local council election, with no LibDem candidate, so once again he put his name forward. When asked about this compulsion, he replied that he loved the 'cut and thrust' of elections. This never quite seemed to fit with Peter's quiet modesty and very British gift for understatement.

But Peter had not quite finished with elections. By the time of the 2001 General Election he was back home and was selected to stand for the Liberal Democrats in the HighPeak constituency, which he did with his usual quiet distinction. And simultaneously he stood for the County Council, though the odds were stacked against him in both contests. Thereafter he was always willing to put his name forward for any council election where there was a gap to be filled, to give as many people as possible the chance to vote Liberal Democrat.

For much of this period we also had the benefit of his accounting skills as constituency Treasurer. He also did more than his share when it came to fundraising, and he could demonstrate another of his skills. On several occasions he and Veronica entertained a crowd of us to a buffet meal at their house, and Peter did most of the cooking, to a very high standard. He also provided a steady supply of his notorious homebrew! He could also bake very good cakes, which were much appreciated at Coffee Mornings.

I couldn't begin to calculate how many leaflets Peter must have delivered for the Liberal Democrats over the years. He continued to deliver his regular route along Western Lane when his illness was already well advanced, and it was only very reluctantly that he eventually, for the first time ever, had to say no.

It is hard to overstate the contribution that Peter made, not just to the Liberal Democrats, but to the whole community. In any discussion we could always rely upon his blend of quiet common sense and good humour. His presence is very much missed, as both a political kindred spirit and a friend.