Norfolk Labour Party Agent Steve Jones, who in October 2002 lost a long battle with cancer at the age of 53, lived for his family and the party for which he worked. His six grandchildren would laughingly repeat his smiling mantra “I’m a caring sharing socialist” even though his dedication to campaigning meant he saw them less than he wished. Steve always blamed himself and his workload for the separations from his partners, but he always cared deeply for them, his two children, two stepchildren and their families who survive him.
He was Labour’s Election Agent in Mid Norfolk since 1988, a period which saw his successive candidates Mick Castle and Daniel Zeichner raise fortunes from a distant third place to come within a whisker of Steve’s dream of victory via a dramatic recount in 1997. Later that year he also took over at South Norfolk where he was the Agent for Mark Wells, and Steve particularly enjoyed his leading part in the gain of Norfolk’s Euro seat by Clive Needle in 1994.
Steve considered himself a Mancunian, although as his father was in the Forces he was brought up in various places with lengthy spells in Germany and school in Middlesex. His flamboyant approach as a political campaigner reflected varied early careers as an apprentice farrier, bingo caller, bank messenger and school caretaker before he moved to Norfolk to become a Chemical Process Operator at May & Baker, later Rhone Poulenc, in Norwich. There he became active in the GMB Trade Union to which he still belongs, and took up the active political interest that led to his appointment to run Labour’s Dereham based operation, which was to become his spiritual home.
Steve was a colourful character whose bluff and hearty manner won him many friends across the country who will mourn his loss at such a young age. As he realised he was struggling to overcome the cancers diagnosed earlier this year, he set about completing his vast rounds of contacts. At Labour’s recent Conference in Blackpool, he heaved his increasingly frail frame through the crowds at one final reception. He had a mission, to shake the hand of someone for whom he had worked tirelessly and whose victories had delighted him, and from whom he had cadged countless signed souvenirs and visits. He started to introduce himself, but his target stopped him. “I know who you are, Steve, we all do!” smiled the Prime Minister as he took in Steve’s condition. “Well, I have one last favour to ask of you, Tony,” grimaced Steve, “Just win a third term.”
Typically, Steve spent his last evening at a meeting to plan Labour’s local election campaign next May, but became so ill he was unable to see his beloved Norwich City play the next day.
From the highest to the humblest, Steve’s direct style, courage, selflessness and humour will be fondly recalled for many elections to come.