'Don't travel unless you have to,' was the advice. I had to. Today was David Taylor's funeral in deepest Leicestershire.
Other advice beforehand discouraged attendance. The church is very small. We were told that most mourners would have to stand in the back of the church or outside. Standing outside in today's arctic conditions was not an enticing invitation. At 7.30 am I questioned whether I was doing the sensible thing to drive for more than two hours into a rural destination. Probably not, but David was a close friend.
The motorway journey was fine. But it was no fun driving through a heavy snow storm for the final ten miles. Starting early meant I had a seat in the church. An extraordinary turnout of MPs saw at least 50 standing in the church or in the deep snow in the churchyard. The streets around St John's Church in the village of Heather (pronounced hee-ther) were lined with David's constituents who applauded his coffin as it passed.
The choice of the photograph of David on the Order of Service was artless and endearing. Nothing was airbrushed in the current fashion on Cameron's poster. This is David, as he was. Generally indifferent to the way he looked. Having bracers on show was of no importance when a penetrating question had to be crafted. He had no side.
The eulogies by two bishops were well-informed and touching. They knew him well. His former fellow Labour councillor Cannon Jennings was a close friend. He said that another childhood friend David Wragg had a deal in school with David Taylor. Wragg would put him in the cricket team if David Taylor would allow him to copy his home work. In politics, Cannon Jennings said, David was the left by instinct not for partizan reasons. His vision was of a just and more equal society.
The congregation standing in the driving snow in the churchyard and in the streets beyond applauded Canon Jennings' tribute. Finally he recalled the comment from a Whoopee Goldberg film. 'You are never dead until you are forgotten.' David was laid to rest in the churchyard in a private family ceremony.
Over two hundred people from the villages of Heather and Westminster attended the reception afterwards. The attendance of so many, who had driven hundreds of miles in atrocious conditions, was proof of the high esteem in which David was held. I had a chat with Speaker John Bercow about his innovation in paying a Commons Chamber tribute to David, mentioned in yesterday's blog. He said he thought the tradition of a bald announcement was very 'cold.' In future parliament will join all other workplaces in freely paying respects when a well-respected colleague dies.
A former worker in David's office told me he is keen to contribute some words about David's skills as a parliamentary inquisitor. I hope to pursue the idea of a biography. David was a parliamentary aristocrat to his fellow MPs. But almost unknown elsewhere. A biography would put that right. The hundreds of new MPs who will be elected in May 2010 need a model to emulate. David is the best.
The Leicester Mercury report Canon David Jennings:
"David was an important, respected member of the community and would still wind the church clock regularly to keep it running.
"How many MPs do you know who would do that - it's indicative of the kind of man he was."
Staff at the North West Leicestershire constituency office, in Coalville, where Mr Taylor worked, have left messages on his website.
Communications manager Phil Ellis said: "David's staff are all devastated – he was so much more than just an employer. A lot of tears have been shed since we got the sad news.
"We know just what an enormous workload he undertook and the anti-social hours he put in. "Although he was standing down, he certainly wasn't winding down and didn't want to say no to anyone – there was always another problem to solve, a campaign to fight or an event to attend. North West Leicestershire is a poorer place for his passing.