Eric Lubbock 50

I want to mark briefly the death of a man for whom I had enormous respect, Eric Lubbock, Lord Avebury. I knew him on and off since 1976 and he was an inspirational man. He devoted fairly well his every waking moment to attempting to fight injustice all over the world, with his focus often falling on deeply unfashionable human rights causes, including the Uzbeks, the Uighurs and the majority population of Bahrain. He was an unstinting opponent of specifically British injustices, and a dedicated campaigner for the Chagos islanders.

He never fell for the neo-imperialism of Blair and the astonishing claim that to improve other countries we should invade them. He opposed all Blair’s interventions, most notably in Sierra Leone where he saw through the propaganda of “victory”, and as I recount in The Catholic Orangemen he was the catalyst for revealing the Arms to Africa scandal and the Blairite involvement with mercenaries.

In the days when the UK had a political culture of respect for opposition parliamentarians and of public service, FCO ministers feared Avebury’s extraordinary persistent and acute questioning, to which they gave evasive answers at their peril. Sadly nowadays this culture of accountability has been abolished by the armies of taxpayer paid party PR men.

Eric Lubbock’s involvement in public life was motivated purely by a desire to make the world a better place for other people. I believe the concept of personal gain was alien to him and he certainly gave a great deal more than he ever got back, in terms either of finance or of public appreciation. The world may not esteem him a great man in terms of achievement; but the world was a much better place for his being in it.

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50 thoughts on “Eric Lubbock

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  • John Goss

    Yes, undoubtedly one of the better parliamentarians. Most of the causes he espoused I would support too. Not all. I am sure he believed in what he supported sincerely and it is sad when somebody with honest principles dies. And he clearly had principles, unlike many of those like Blair, who of course, he did not support.

    This is a dissenting view of his political aims before 1996 and it strikes me he had something of the old imperialist desire to redraw boundaries.

    The re-drawing of the boundaries to give the Kurds a homeland is fine on paper and a lot of people would like to see them have their own homeland. Not modern-day Turkey though. The Kurdistan region of Iraq following the Iraq wars has enabled western companies to start exploiting the assumed vast oilfields in Kurdistan. The practicalities redrawing the maps are often fraught with unforeseen (or sometimes predicted) circumstances. For example Israel was allowed to help itself to a lump of Palestine. And look now.

    As to the oil reserves see here.

  • Clark

    28th March 2011:

    Lord Eric Avebury who last year won the inaugural Ahmadiyya Peace Prize for his continued efforts to promote human rights across the world said that the root cause of all the recent conflict in the world was intolerance.

    Commenting upon recent developments and unrest in North Africa and the Middle East, His Holiness [Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad] said that the fundamental basis for peace was truth and justice and failure to heed this would lead to dissent.

    Here’s to tolerance. Here’s to peace, truth, and justice.

  • Leonard Young

    I was just a child when witnessing Eric Lubbock’s sensational victory outside Orpington’s town hall in 1962. From subsequent teenage to my early twenties I came to admire him for his stance on nearly every human rights issue, from an early amnesty supporter, through his work in Africa and the middle east to forge peace and ignore the vested interests of US foreign policy, and as a prominent secularist and supporter of justice for groups as diverse as travelers, wrongly convicted prisoners and promoting global human rights when that subject was very low on everyone else’s agenda.

    It is a pity he lost the Liberal leadership election to Jeremy Thorpe after Joe Grimond resigned. He had none of Thorpe’s narcissism or blind ambition and was possessed of a cheerful humour and great fluency as a speaker. He managed to be modest and assertive at the same time. A great loss to the better side of British Politics and the finest Liberal MP, and peer, of the 20th Century. Thanks Craig for expressing your appreciation of him, which is well deserved.

  • Iain Orr

    Craig refers to Lord Avebury’s support for the Chagossians, where he was instrumental in setting up the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group and became a hard-working vice-chairman of it. I can think of no parliamentarian who put in so much more work than just signing Early Day Motions. He wrote letters, organised meetings, badgered ministers, met delegations and spoke eloquently in Parliament on behalf of many unfashionable causes, as is evidenced by his entry in the Lords Register of Members Interests, non-financial:
    President, Kurdish Human Rights Project
    President, TAPOL (Indonesian Human Rights)
    President, Advisory Council for the Education of Romanies and Travellers (ACERT)
    Chairman, Cameroon Campaign Group
    Co-chair, Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission

    Eric Avebury’s death reminds us that politics can be an honourable calling; and that one can lead by embodying the best values of a political tradition, without being the head of a political party.

  • Old Mark

    ‘I was just a child when witnessing Eric Lubbock’s sensational victory outside Orpington’s town hall in 1962.’

    Lubbock obtain this sensational result against a Tory candidate parachuted in by the party HQ as a ‘high flyer’- Peter Goldman. He was thus the ‘outsider’ candidate (Lubbock was born locally, and was a local Liberal councillor) whereas Goldman was neither of these things- and Jewish to boot, which naturally lost him the vote of the Golf Club anti semites.

    Goldman also had a very unsympathetic ‘bedside manner’ for an aspiring MP, which lost him additional votes- a former teacher of mine was a voter in the constituency at the time (and an inveterate gossip), and told our class about his experience of Goldman in Orpington back in 1962. Rather than pound the suburban streets on foot, Goldman cruised around in his top of the range car, got his minions to stuff his election addresses in the letterboxes, and (when eliciting a reply from the doorbell) invited the bemused housewifes to ‘speak to the candidate in his car outside’ if they had any questions.

    The fact that Lubbock/Avebury was able to make such a largely beneficial intervention into the political history of late C20 Britain is thus a consequence of the flukiest of beginnings.

  • Herbie

    “Lord Eric Avebury who last year won the inaugural Ahmadiyya Peace Prize for his continued efforts to promote human rights across the world said that the root cause of all the recent conflict in the world was intolerance.”


    “the root cause of all the recent conflict in the world was intolerance.”

    That’s not right, is it.

    Surely it’s driven by elite interests.

    Was Iraq or Libya about intolerance, for example.

    It’s quite possible to be a campaigner for human rights and in concord with elite interests, if one is selective about where one focusses.

    That’s the whole game today.

    But, a concern for the majority in Bahrain does seem to be at odds with elite interests.

    As we know, the British are very directly involved in ensuring the majority in Bahrain don’t take power.

  • Chris Rogers

    Its nice to be reminded that once our elected officials took public service seriously and acted in an honourable manner, thus up holding good Parliamentary standards. I’m sure those impacted by his death will miss him greatly.

    And despite my egalitarian leftwing leanings, I’m still a fervent believer in Parliamentary democracy and have never had any hesitation in working with those of a different political hue on causes and concerns we deeply believe in.

    But, and lets be bold, the decline in our Parliament has been something to behold, epitomised by Labour’s Jack Straw, who like many a new Labour Blairite seems more concerned with filling his pockets than the national interest, or the interests of his constituents. Suffice to say my tribalism would not prevent me from voting for a more worthy candidate if I were one of Straw’s electorate – thank God for the Greens is all I can say.

  • Iain Orr

    Chris Rogers – You could not have nmade a better, more Shakespearean contrast than that between Lord Avebury and Jack Straw:

    “So excellent a king; that was, to this,
    Hyperion to a satyr…”

  • Ba'al Zevul

    He certainly worked long and hard on this one:

    Eric’s own religious beliefs were essentially Buddhist and he provoked a degree of derision in the tabloid Press when he suggested he should leave his body to be recycled as animal food.

    I hope (without any sarcastic intention) they respect his wishes, but I guess they won’t.

    ware shinaba
    yakuna uzumu na
    no ni sutete
    yasetaru inu no
    hara o koyase yo

    (Tachibana no Kachiko, wife of Emperor Saga and Empress
    at her death at age 65 in 850.)

    when i die
    do not burn or bury me
    leave me in the wilds
    where the scrawny dogs
    can fatten their bellies

  • Clark

    Herbie, 9:04 am; intolerance seems to serve elite interests. To take your example of Libya, it seems to me that an intolerant group developed in Benghazi, and Libyan authorities responded with intolerance. Just how intolerant the Benghazi group were did not become clear for another eighteen months.

    I think the interaction is cyclic and convoluted; when considering such loops the choice of a starting point is arbitrary. Intolerance causes debate to polarise into argument, the strands of which diverge from truth and become unjust. The resulting conflict breeds intolerance, and round it goes.

    Intolerance is exploited by elite interests, of course; that’s the foundation of divide and conquer. But tolerance is the personal quality we can develop to countract the vicious circle.

  • craig Post author


    I had forgotten he had a blog. If you scan through it you will quickly see he had nothing to do with elite interests.

    I was struck by the tribute from the Travellers Times: “In a country where very few politicians are willing to stand up for Gypsy and Traveller rights, Lord Avebury has continued to champion their access to education and a place to live. …. “

  • Old Mark

    I was struck by the tribute from the Travellers Times

    Craig- Eric Lubbock’s concerns for the gypsy/traveller community almost certainly date from his years as the Orpington MP- a significant percentage of the population of North Kent have such origins, and St Mary Cray in his old constituency is famous/notorious for having one of the largest concentrations of travellers in England

  • Herbie

    “tolerance is the personal quality we can develop to countract the vicious circle.”

    I see.

    Good point.

    Undermine elite agendas by becoming better in ourselves.

    Though I fear we may need almost full human take up on that to make much dent in our masters’ plans.

  • Herbie

    I’m sure you’re right, Craig.

    Bahrain is a clue.

    I just thought intolerance in itself wasn’t much of an explanation for the bloody wars we’re living through.

    But, as Clark explained, perhaps at a deeper level it is.

  • nevermind, it might be interesting

    Thanks for that introduction and reminder to a principled politicians, Craig, sadly no more. I did not know much about him bar the travellers bit as I knew that he was involved behind the scenes in the Dale farm, dispute.

  • Clark

    Herbie, amplification. In our environment, the biggest amplifiers of opinion are the mass media, and the biggest amplifiers of power are politics and wealth. In other environments, brutalisation and indoctrination are amplified by religious structures falsely claiming divine authority.

    Very sad to see how lonely it was on Eric Avebury’s blog. So far, I haven’t found a single comment.

  • ------------·´`·.¸¸.¸¸.··.¸¸Node

    “when i die
    do not burn or bury me
    leave me in the wilds
    where the scrawny dogs
    can fatten their bellies”

    Burial at sea without a coffin would do me. I’d be recycled within days. Cheap, efficient, environmentally friendly.

    — Designate suitable ‘graveyard’ areas not too far offshore, sea currents considered.

    — Mourners say their goodbyes at an appropriate service – the deceased is laid out on a slab / reusable casket / paper bag.

    — Undertakers deliver body to the funeral boat.

    — Boat crew put the corpse on a rack and attach a weight to its ankle – a boulder from your garden / a fancy engraved marble slab / breeze block

    — Once a week, the boat does a funeral run – the marine life would learn to anticipate it – and to the strains of Hendrix’s “1983, a merman I should turn to be” the captain pulls the rack-tipping lever.

  • John Spencer-Davis

    I rather fancy being left on a tower of silence, as the Zoroastrians do.

    Kind regards,


  • Chris Rogers

    @Ian Orr,

    As allegedly one of the ‘Corbynista’ I needed to remind myself and others why it was important Labour drew a line under the New Labour years, and Straw popped into my mind, maybe because CM stood against him for Parliament, which either JSD of John Goss instructed me of. But these buggers are lizards, worse than the Tories, and given I’m a bit of a Nye bevin fan, that really is stating something.

    Again, when we lose champions who fight on all our behalf the loss is really palpable, particularly given many seem more interest in being paid to lobby, rather than do their job, namely protect our interests and liberties, what few remain that is!

  • giyane. I may well be a person of interest

    Eric Lubbock was no longer MP for Orpington when we moved there in 1974, but both my parents had enourmous admiration for him. That was a time when politicians were honoured and respected for the good causes they fought for. Talked with excitement about his campaigns and speeches.

    Mrs Thatcher swept all that away sadly. Who would go out of their way to meet a modern MP?

  • bevin

    “The fact that Lubbock/Avebury was able to make such a largely beneficial intervention into the political history of late C20 Britain is thus a consequence of the flukiest of beginnings.”

    Nothing fluky about the hubris afflicting the Tories in Supermac’s last years. Orpington came not long after Mark Bonham Carter had won the Torrington by-election. Losing Torrington was a shock but Jeremy Thorpe’s North Devon constituency was next door so that- and west country provincialism- damped it down a bit. Orpington, prosperous and metropolitan was a real shock, at a time when society was rapidly changing, TWTW was on TV, Private Eye and satire were poking fun at all the old semi-Victorian hypocrisies. And suddenly it looked as if Liberals might be returning from the dead.
    Then came Douglas Home and, eventually, Harold Wilson.
    Lubbock came from an old legal and banking family I believe.
    A reminder of better days and that days will get better again. Soon, I hope.

  • giyane. I may well be a person of interest

    Well, to answer my own question, I stopped the car outside my MP’s surgery one election night to tell him I didn’t like his party’s foreign policy, or its domestic policy or him particularly.

  • Paul Barbara

    Lord Avebury was Honorary President of Tapol, the Indonesian Human Rights group, with which I campaigned for many years regarding mainly East Timor.
    Just on the score of his unstinting support for that campaign, he had my greatest respect. May he rest in peace.

  • Chris Rogers

    It would seem too many of our Lords and MP’s are far too busy filling their own pockets to campaign like Lord Avebury did – old Jack Straw thought he was for the Lord’s, but Corbyn has put a stop to that – no doubt shares in Jack Straw plc took a dive at this news.

    But the above does indicate clearly how degraded our democracy has become when New Labour politicians, even retired ones are more interested in filling their pockets with gold than fighting on behalf of leftwing/progressive causes, so much for their socialism and belief in a more just and equal society – they don’t half like pontificating and slagging off Corbyn though, who by any stretch of the imagination is a more honourable felowl than these greedy buggers. Wonder what his royal highness Blair thinks?

  • Ben-Sweden is the Saudi Arabia of Feminism

    An exceptional life is often unsung. Many folks have similar qualities but have anomic lives and affect only those people met face-to-face and not through some Media controlled remotely. If only we had a political system which appreciated such persons and encouraged same to seek public office. Perhaps they might become an effective majority, rather than the acolytes of St Jude.

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