Total number of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan = 244
It was a relief today to be asked to write an obituary of David Taylor.
Those who knew him well are disappointed by the wholly misleading inadequate accounts of his work and character that were published today. Inevitably there is a prurient interest in a possible by-election embarrassment. There was once a universally respected practise that speculation on an MP’s successor would be delayed until after the funeral. We now live in different times.
While all the tributes were well intentioned, few captured the unique essence of David’s pioneering work. Yes he was certainly ‘hard-working’. So are many MPs. But David’s work was splendidly unique. He added wit, bite and originality to his campaigns and speeches. He used language in daring ways that no other MP would dare to imitate. I look forward to trawling thorough hundreds of his questions to find examples of the audacious use of words that made me gasp when I heard them in the Chamber for the first time.
It was his fellow MPs who voted him the Backbencher of the Year in 2007. There is no higher accolade than that given by our fellow workers in the craft of political change. They recognised his purity of purpose. He was never what Tony Wright called a ‘When?’ politician, seeking when he was going to get a job, get promotion or a prized favour. David was a ‘Why?’ MP, asking why is that happening? Why can’t it be improved? Why are we repeating errors?
Ambition or ministerial office never captured his interest. He pursued the higher aims of reform. He earned the gratitude of animal welfare and anti-smoking groups for his parliamentary leadership of their campaigns. He never sought self-aggrandisement or empty publicity but drew satisfaction from worthwhile reforms.
He was hurt in the last twelve months by off-target grotesquely unfair criticism. To counter the debased image of MPs, there is no finer example than David Taylor as a model parliamentarian. A number of friends contacted me yesterday. It was good to share our shock, disbelief and grief at the loss of valued friend and comrade. I want to do David’s memory justice in the obituary. I would greatly appreciate comments on aspects of his life that I may otherwise overlook.