David Candler worked directly for Harold Wilson as a press officer during his days as Prime Minister at No 10, representing the Labour Party’s interests as the government pushed policies which caused schisms among Party members.
There were times when Candler had to take a hard line with both sides as members of the government and the Party came to grips with the rapid changes taking place as new ideas were adopted and changes to legislation on wages and conditions were introduced, along with a new economic policy that was to cause deep divisions in some sections of the Party.
Along with others working for the Government and the Labour Party, Candler found his future shaped by the vagaries of local and national election results, something that was to continue throughout his working life. Candler, later a major player in local government, was to find that even that role would be affected by changes in administration. A lifelong member of the Labour Party, he balanced his political beliefs with a cool, professional approach to press relations. A forthright, unassuming man of great charm, aided by a dry wit, Candler kept life in politics in proportion; hating pomposity, he was never scared of asking difficult questions which helped to remind politicians who they were serving. Many a young journalist or press officer faced by a new theory or rebuttal from Candler, his eyebrow raised as he looked directly at you, withered. Fortunately this was often accompanied by laughter, though he had little time for fools or poseurs.
Describing himself as a democratic socialist, Candler came from a family grounded in socialist and trade unions traditions. His father was a full-time official with the Taylor and Garment Workers Union and his aunt Dame Anne Loughlin, a leader of the union, was the first woman to preside over the TUC’s Congress. Many of his family had worked in clothing factories.
Born in Horsforth, Leeds in 1940, he moved with his family to Harpenden aged one. He was educated at St Alban’s Grammar School for Boys; realising at an early age that he wanted to be a journalist he left to train at the Luton News. He joined the Labour Party at 17, and when a job came up in the press office at Transport House he seized the opportunity. His boss Percy Clarke had a laid-back, cynical attitude to politics, something David often shared.
There was tension between No 10 and the Party, and in 1968 Candler was moved to Downing Street to work for Wilson. For people like Candler, who hated poverty and believed in social equality, it was a time of great excitement as changes to race relations, education and equal rights were introduced. That ended in 1970 when Labour lost the Election and Candler, like many other bright young Labour people, was thrown out of work. He joined the press office of the National and Local Government Officers Association, moving on to work for groups like the British Tourist Authority and its newly created London Tourist Board.
He was recruited to work for the newly won Labour GLC under Ken Livingstone, joining the Docklands Development Team in 1975, remaining until it was closed down. He returned to work for other GLC departments running press relations and writing speeches, until the GLC was closed down by the Conservative government. He joined Hertsmere Council as head of press until again he was made redundant, and then worked as an adviser to Labour Shadow spokesman Minister Robin Corbett on the Tory Broadcasting Bill.
Baroness Dianne Hayter, former head of the Fabian Society and chair of the Labour Party worked closely with Candler: “Whether at the Labour Party, on Worcester Council, or at No 10 or in running his local Fabian society, David brought together commitment, organisational skills and a deep understanding of people,” she said.
After the 1997 Labour win, Candler moved to Worcester, where he was elected to the local council. A staunch pro-European, he was involved with the Local Government Group for Europe. He stood down from the council in 2011 to make way for younger people “to replace old stagers like me”. He died on his way to a Worcester Community Trust Meeting, retired but active, having lived, as his daughter Jean described, “a way of life consistent with his deeply held view of social equality for all”.
David Candler, journalist and press officer: born Leeds 23 August 1940; married Sarah Salaman 1968 (three children); died 13 December 2011.