There are some days we know we will never forget.
Yesterday was a rich feast of glorious music, tender memories of a beloved friend and satisfaction that his dying wish had been gloriously fulfilled.
The late Tony Lynes said he did not want a funeral but he liked the idea of a performance of Brahms Requiem in his memory. Tony was one of the very few saints that I have known. The debt I owe him as a friend, political adviser and inspiration is immense.
I confessed yesterday that I thought the only way to fulfil his wish would be by persuading a Salvation Army band and a church choir to perform in a village hall. Tony’s widow Sally created a miracle. In the heart of Westminster a full audience in St John’s Smith Square enjoyed the Requiem performed at its magnificent best. Huw Williams directed the splendid Stroud Choral Society and students and young professional musicians from three London college formed the Tony Lynes Memorial Orchestra. Soloists were Stuart Young and Kirsty Hopkins. This rich mix of talent combining in his honour would have astonished the ever-modest Tony.
The Lutheran text used rejoices in Christian optimism,
Der Gerechten Seeen sind in Gotes hand und keine Qual ruhret sie an.
The righteous souls are in God’s hand and no torment will stir them.
Ich will euch trosten, wie einen seine Mutte troset,
I will console as one is consoled by his mother.
Tony was not a Christian he was a Jew. I was told that the Yiddish word that I should have used to describe him in my brief tribute was ‘mensche’. His cousin Jack Lynes is working to strengthen ecumenism among nine faiths. Tony’s brother John has lived with Arab families in Hebron to protect them, working as a Jew for a Christian based charity.
Yesterday restored our faith in the goodness of the human spirit in its purest manifestation. The daily degradation of current politics was buried with the truth of Tony’s lifetime self-less service for the betterment of all humankind.
Alle menschen werden Brüder.
Tony Lynes 1929 -2014
A tribute in the House Magazine 2014
"Parliament is many things. To some outsiders it’s a snake pit for the ambitious or a playground for charlatans and crooks. Largely ignored is its role as a giant mechanism for doing good. That’s the parliament that Tony Lynes inhabited.
On a happy day in 1988, a guardian angel weaved his way between the desks in an office I shared with seven other MPs. He was a strange figure resembling an Old Testament prophet: thin, with a long black beard. ‘I’m Tony Lynes,’ he said, ‘I work for Margaret Beckett. I think I may be able to help you.’
Tony was the best stroke of luck I have ever had in 27 years of parliamentary life. I had just been jettisoned from Neil Kinnock’s Welsh frontbench team to the Social Security frontbench – from day one instant mastery of the impenetrable encyclopedic social security regulations was expected. Tony was a life support system for me as he had been for dozens of past Labour Governments, ministers and shadow minister. One of the country’s greatest experts on Social Security, he was ex-civil servant who then become first director Child Poverty Action Group. He could have effortlessly enjoyed a career as a top civil servant an academic or a journalist. But he never sought wealth or status. He single-mindedly devoted his prodigious intellect and energies to improving the efficiency and justice of social security.
He drafted more (and better) amendments to social security bills than anyone else, alive or dead. We know that to be true because he wrote it himself and he was modest man.
Tory was my hero and mentor. I rapidly grew to admire his awesome work on the committee stages of the bills that dominated our lives.
Opposition Social Security shadow teams are scourged with at least one bill every year. Tony Lynes kept me afloat with briefings that were authoritative, clear and infallible. As each clause was debated on bills, teams of different civil servants would troop in to advise the minister. Margaret Beckett, later Clare Short and I relied on Tony alone. He never let us down. It was the army of Civil Servants who were outclassed by Tony’s memory, skill and guile. In the fearful world of social security regulation, Tony was the brain: we were the glove puppets. So confident did I become in him that I happily stood my ground when ministers told me I was wrong. When Tony was nodding his head at me at the end of the committee room I was never caught out.
It’s impossible to catalogue Tony's lifetime achievement of 40 years as a Government and Parliamentary adviser. It is made up of the micro surgery of tens of thousands of reforms, from the small changes in Government terms such as restoring the disability facilities grant that had not been uprated for four years to exposing the mammoth error of the Tory Personal Pension calamities in the eighties that cheated and impoverished seven million pensioners.
Tony was especially proud of his successful destruction of a Tory Denial of Information stunt in the eighties. Confusingly, questions to next step agencies were printed in Hansard but the answers were not. Tony Lynes and I published a monthly selection of answers called Open Lines sent to all MPs. After two years the Government nationalised our private enterprise venture. Full Hansard service was restored. A significant victory by Tony had been scored for the Legislature over a secretive Executive. An achievement rewarded with the Freedom information award for 1991.
Tony set a fine example of how to grow old productively-how to stay angry and fighting. He adored the spirit of Barbara Castle, almost blind, feeling her way around the corridors of the Lords but exploding with inspired conviction in the Chamber. A grateful Labour Party should have elevated Tony to the Lords. They did not. He never complained. He was a man of depth and sincerity who was steadfast and strong even in grief and adversity.
He was a kind, gentle, creative, practical man who enriched all our lives and gifted Parliament with his honesty and integrity. We are all bereaved. All those who never knew his name but who struggle on minute incomes are bereaved.
Tony taught me the concept of excess earnings. He had been receiving at one time in his life more money than he needed to survive. He set up a trust to hold the ‘excess’ cash so he could later give it away to worthy causes, Gratefully I served as one of the trustees to redistributed our excess wealth.
Tony is one of the very few saints that I have ever known.
Rest in peace, beloved Comrade.