RIP Colin George

The second election I ever voted in took place in March 1980. This was a by-election when Labour came within 430 votes of making political history in Southend-on-Sea. This was the by-election that saw Teddy Taylor and his Conservative Party just about keep Labour at bay in Southend East, in large measure aided by the Liberal Party and the 25% vote share it attracted.

For this reason alone Colin George has a special place in Southend Labour folklore.

Last night I heard of his passing. I knew he had been unwell, but it is still a bit of a shock. The local media will report the passing of a specially adept fundraiser for a number of good causes, but in Labour we will mourn someone who stands out as a campaigning titan.

Of course, Colin did rather spoil his copybook by defecting to the SDP, but this has not soured memories of someone who was known for his work-rate and organisational skills.

Cllr David Norman, when conveying this sad news at Place Scrutiny last night, reminded me and my Westborough colleague that it was Colin that first won Westborough for Labour. I can recall stories about his Westborough campaigning, and it was his attitude to pavement politics that I have adopted in many ways.

I first met Colin through his son, former Southend Labour councillor Stephen George. I have helped Stephen on many occasions around the Kursaal ward he represented, and he has been a real asset to my campaigns over the years. His father flattered me by always remembering who I was, and we would often steal a few moments to discuss local campaigning and campaigning issues.

My abiding memory will be of a gentle giant (he was some way above my 5 foot eight inches) who came within a whisker of a truly transformational result thirty-five years ago. We have battled and battled to come anywhere near that mark ever since.

My thoughts are with Stephen, Colin’s widow, and the rest of the George family.

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