I have just learnt the politician I most admired, Sir Teddy Taylor, largely because he was a man of outstanding principle, has died.
I feel incredibly sad, but aged 80 he has had a good innings and now it is over. I met with Sir Teddy several times over the years and corresponded with him many more, for he was the MP of the constituency I lived in for many years, and he represented it with great distinction. He really was his own man and if I wrote to him on any subject (and I did) I could guarantee a reply that properly addressed my concerns and not one that merely toed the party line.
There were a number of exchanges, one being the bureaucratic hurdles I faced getting my wife (who came from India) and her family to the UK for our marriage. I remember his kindness when I lamented a Conservative victory at one General Election. But the one that still brings a smile to my face was my reply to John Major, who had written to me along with everyone else who had brought BT shares arguing that the fact I could do this was one good reason for voting for a return of a Conservative government. I responded with several of my own reasons for NOT voting Conservative. One was because he had temporarily expelled Sir Teddy, like me a lifelong euro-skeptic, from the party, for not going along with official party policy on Europe. I concluded, notwithstanding my disagreement with and antipathy toward his Party, I would still vote Conservative, albeit reluctantly, for the party’s candidate in my own constituency was Teddy Taylor. When it came to leadership elections, Teddy along with Ann Widdecombe would have been my dream team.
I have met many over the years who are not natural Conservative supporters but would still vote for Teddy Taylor irrespective, because, in short, he was a jolly good bloke. Despite right leaning views, he was a man of integrity, an independent thinker, who could be relied on to stick up for the town and its inhabitants. Going back to the letter, I decided I would send a copy to Teddy Taylor. A few days later I received a reply that in line with all his other letters addressed my points. I smile because he agreed with me!
As far as many Southenders are concerned, Teddy Taylor is a legend. The fact he was a bit of an eccentric, a maverick and a loose cannon (all in the nicest sense), and often didn’t go along with those in power, were for many all points in his favour, as was his courtesy and good humour. He was a Christian gentleman. He seemed to have an opinion on most subjects, which he could vigorously and intelligently defend, and more often than not these did not go along with the status quo, and yet I rarely detected any hint of acrimony with them who disagreed, and indeed a number of detractors looked on him with affection. I am not alone in mourning his passing and my thoughts and prayers are for his wife Sheila and his other family.
Over the years, I bumped into Teddy in some unlikely places. I can remember meeting him at Roots Hall, when Southend United FC, who Teddy supported, was playing. He became a patron of Southend Community-in-Harmony and attended events I helped organize. I recall when he came to my church for a social and he gave a riveting insider commentary on life at the top. On another occasion I met him at the local mosque for its official opening and recall some amusing exchanges. But the last time I met him was the best. Last year I won an award and was presented with it by none other than Sir Teddy himself – I suppose it was my proudest moment.
I have no doubt there will be many who will be paying tributes to Teddy and many like me will have stories to tell. It is sad to think he is no more with us and I wonder if we will see his like again. For along with all sorts of other achievements he has served my town well, with understated aplomb. He was an inspirational role model for any wannabe community activist and for those who aspire to a career in politics. He will be much missed by many, including me.