John Tilley -2005

Member of Parliament for Lambeth Central 1978 – 1983. John died just before Christmas 2005 aged 63.

John Vincent Tilley was born and brought up in a working-class area of Derby. He went to the local Bemrose School and then to Trinity Hall, Cambridge to read history. Not only the first in his family to go to university but also the first pupil from his school. He married Tracey, the ‘girl next door’ and she went with him to Cambridge.

He trained as a journalist on the Newcastle Journal, then moved to London as industrial correspondent for The Scotsman.

Once in London, John and Tracey quickly became part of the Battersea political scene and in 1971 John was elected to Wandsworth Council where he went on to become Chief Whip and then Leader. In 1974 John fought the Parliamentary seat of Kensington and Chelsea – twice – unsurprisingly he lost on both occasions.

He had a wicked sense of humour and absolute loathing of municipal pomposity, he was famous for answering questions in the Council Chamber with a YES, NO or MAYBE.

In 1978, quite remarkably, despite the Callaghan majority being minus one, he was elected as Member of Parliament for Lambeth Central at a by-election.

John served on the front bench. He will be best remembered for his work with Roy Hattersley as part of the Opposition Home Affairs team, dealing with the inner city riots, defining citizenship and the allegation that Labour was an ant-police party.

He struck up an unlikely partnership with Lord Scarman the author of the report following the inquiry into the Brixton Riots, making time to take him round the area to show him what life was really like for local people.

In 1982 his front bench career cameto an abrupt end with his failure to support the Party’s position on the Falklands war.

His political career went downhill from there, his constituency disappeared in the boundary review and despite his legendary ‘Mr Fix-it’ skills he was not selected for a winnable seat. He contested Southwark and Bermondsey but Simon Hughes was already well entrenched after Labour’s spectacular defeat in the by-election in 1982 with Peter Tatchell as the candidate and John lost.

He went on to work for the Co-operative Party.

He is survived by his first wife Tracey and their daughter Cleo and his second wife Kathy and their daughter Jo.