Lord Fearn obituary | Politics

Ronnie Fearn, Lord Fearn, who died aged 90, was the former MP for Southport, Merseyside, and a most unusual politician. He managed to win elections despite the confusion of nearly all the expectations of modern politics, and while not a conventional intellectual liberal, he was the ultimate party loyalist and committed activist.

Before joining the Liberal Party in Southport in early 1961, he had written to the local newspaper complaining about the Conservative Council’s cuts in grants to youth organizations – a cause he had been committed to all his life – and he had then declared that he had only a “slight political interest”. inclinations”. These nevertheless became enough to drag him into 60 years of Liberal campaigning. He won his local ward, Norwood, for Southport Council in 1963 and he held that seat in every renaming and reorganization of local government for 52 years.

Fearn was born in Southport, the son of Martha (née Hodge) and James Fearn, a painter and decorator. He attended King George V High School, which he left aged 16 to work for Williams Deacon’s Bank (later merged to become Williams and Glyn’s Bank, and later still Royal Bank of Scotland) , a career he continued until his election to parliament in 1987. He married Joyce Dugan in 1955 and they had a daughter, Susan, and a son, Martin.

He became a member of Southport council at a time when the Liberals controlled the council in coalition with Labour. In the 1970 general election, the potential Liberal candidate in Southport withdrew at the last minute and Fearn was persuaded, without too much difficulty, to stand. In a disastrous election for his party nationwide, he managed to increase the Liberal vote by 10%. It was the first of four contests until in 1983, in a contested selection, the Southport Liberals chose a more politically focused candidate who, despite the party’s rising poll, failed to win headquarters. Fearn got up unsuccessfully three more times.

In 1985 Fearn was appointed OBE for Southport Community Services. When he returned once again for the 1987 election, he became the party’s only gainer in England. In the 1992 election he lost, arguing that the city’s traditional Conservative voters were determined to ensure that Labor’s Neil Kinnock did not become Prime Minister.

Fearn with Charles Kennedy and a 100,000 signature petition protesting government NHS reforms, 1989. Photograph: Malcolm Croft/PA

Despite anguished representations from his successor, the Tory MP, his local telephone directory continued to list Fearn as MP for Southport, and voters continued to voice their concerns to him. In 1997 Fearn returned to the House of Commons. In an election where the Liberal Democrat poll slipped slightly, he achieved an 8% swing in Southport.

He retired from the House of Commons in 2001, bequeathing enough of his personal vote to ensure victory for his Liberal Democrat successor, John Pugh. The latter observed: “He was by no means a typical politician and if there is a book written on how to become an MP or a Lord, Ronnie has never read it.” Created a life peer on leaving the Commons, he retired from the Lords in 2018.

Fearn maintained a lifelong involvement in amateur theater. He appeared in the annual pantomimes of the All Souls Church group throughout his tenure in Parliament, although, with typical self-deprecation, he went from lady to villain while serving as MP for the town. The productions were presented to packed audiences in the Arts Center theatre. He was a natural entertainer and it seemed like the usual politician’s need to be taken seriously just didn’t apply to him. Unsurprisingly, his appearances at the Liberal Democrats’ late-conference Glee Club entertainment were highly anticipated.

He never left Norwood, the neighborhood in which his parents had lived and where he attended elementary school. He was the archetypal local MP, who understood what made the city tick and maintained a real affinity with its inhabitants.

He is survived by Joyce, Susan and Martin, and five grandchildren.

Ronald Cyril Fearn, Lord Fearn, politician, born February 6, 1931; died on January 24, 2022

Comments are closed.