Not long ago, what would have been Paddy Ashdown's 80th birthday brought home how much the country missed surely the best prime minister we never had in modern times. Even after so-called retirement, Paddy was still making a contribution to public life when he died before his time.
Now another sudden death has taken, it is not too much to say, a living symbol of Liberalism. There will be many better-informed people contributing obituaries of specialist book-seller, historian, liberal campaigner and latterly life peer Tony Greaves, so I shall not even try to write one here. He was not flawless. I am glad that Caron Lindsay has been as honest in her initial appreciation as Tony was in life. I have suffered from the rough end of the Greaves' keyboard on many occasions, almost always deserved, though our differences on anti-Semitism remained unresolved. I believe I may even have converted him to the work of Robin Ince and Brian Cox in popularising science. As Carol says, he was always ready to make up with people with whom he generally had common ground.
I do assert that the obituaries will not exaggerate the contribution that Tony made to modern Liberalism, to the political process in general and to local politics in his adopted Lancashire. We enter a period of campaigning for police and crime commissioners in England & Wales and important local elections in England. Tony was intensely critical of the party's official strategic campaigns over the years, with good reason, but I am sure he would not have been holding back in support of Liberal Democrat candidates between now and 6th May. His inspiration will be sorely missed at this critical time.