16 days to go – remembering Shirley Williams

What two things have Gerry and the Pacemakers, Michael Portillo and Baroness Shirley Williams in common? First, they have all visited North Norfolk to perform and, secondly, I was sad to see them doing it.

For younger readers Gerry Marsden of Gerry and the Pacemakers was a Liverpool contemporary of the Beatles. ‘How do you do it?’ was one of the first records that I bought and this 1963 hit is still in the ‘favourite pop’ section of my iPod. He appeared with his band several years ago at Cromer Pier; this has a theatre that is well known for its traditional ‘end of the pier’ variety show. I left Gerry Marsden’s concert depressed and wishing he had called it a day.

Another visitor to Cromer Pier was Michael Portillo. Once so nearly leader of the Conservative Party he remains an enormously talented individual. For £15 (or £13 concessions who must have comprised almost all of the audience) you could ‘Listen to his extraordinary story and feel free to question him about it’.   The session took place on Saturday 14th February and I can’t help feeling he could have found other things to do on St. Valentine’s Day.

Shirley Williams was also once thought of a party leader – I certainly wanted her become Labour Party Leader when I was at my height of activism in the mid-70s. She was an articulate spokesperson for greater equality and social justice. She left the Labour Party to join the breakaway SDP signing the Limehouse declaration, which, she should be reminded, called for the elimination of poverty and greater equality. Last week she came to North Norfolk in support of the LibDems. The Shirley Williams I admired would be campaigning for alternatives to austerity and demanding and end to policies which create youth unemployment throughout Europe. She would be ripping into the LibDems on their duplicity on student fees. She has let us all down and, more importantly, let herself down.

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