Tributes to former Conservative councillor John Whelan and to Labour Cllr Matt Parr and came from all sides at the latest meeting of Lambeth council.
Cllr Anna Birley (Lab, Thurlow Park) “What a daunting task to sum up such a significant person. “Knowing John Whelan and having filled his very large boots in 2014 and from speaking with residents, everyone emphasised his warmth, his humour and his ability to put party politics aside.” Cllr Birley also recalled how he helped individuals with their casework and housing situations – and his ability to crack a joke.
Cllr Becca Thackray (Green, Herne Hill) recalled the great double act of John and Clare Whelan who were both Thurlow Park ward councillors until 2014.
“I loved his respect for, and his gently spoken advice in, the chamber at all times.”
Cllr Jim Dickson (Lab, Herne Hill) said: “He was a really dedicated local councillor alongside Clare who I am pleased to say is here tonight.
“I’ve never forgotten the help he gave me as a local councillor when we were trying to create a new town centre in Herne Hill which stands as a monument to his work.
”Despite the very fierce politics of 1990s Lambeth, John won respect across the political spectrum for his love of the borough.”
John Whelan had been a councillor for 24 years, and deputy leader of the council for four years. A successful journalist , he had been writing a book on the history of politics in Zimbabwe at the time of his passing.
His funeral oration had come from John Wentworth, who until May was a Labour councillor in Croydon representing Upper Norwood ward, added Cllr Dickson.
Cllr Tim Briggs (Con, Clapham Common) said John Whelan’s time as councillor were an extremely productive and important part of his life. “He and Clare were very much a team. “I didn’t have the great fortune to know John as well as some people here. “He was also a great source of knowledge.“
And the Mayor of Lambeth, Cllr Christopher Wellbelove, recalled how, as a new councillor in 2006, he remembered him being welcoming to all the newly-elected councillors whatever their party. “A lovely man who really brightened up these meetings.”
TRIBUTES TO MATT PARR
Former Mayor Cllr Donatus Anyanwu (Lab, Coldharbour),leading the tributes to Cllr Matt Parr said he was a very hard-working councillor in Coldharbour ward where he addressed issues of the people most in need. “He was a very, very strong Liverpool fan who always believed you can never walk alone.”
Sending his condolences to his wife and twin five-year-old daughters, Cllr Anyanwu he hoped his memories “would live for a long time.”
Cllr Becca Thackray (Green, Herne Hill) revealed it was Matt Parr who had got her into local politics 21 years ago. Reading from some of her diary extracts she recalled how in 1997 she had met Matt (“a likeable soul”), how she had canvassed for New Labour in Morden , and how they were all on a ‘high’ in the Dog Star pub on a new promise under Tony Blair. (He also told her the Press can’t really be trusted.)
At a garden party to celebrate Labour’s victory she told Matt she was going on a conservation trip to the Phillipines.
“Matt encouraged me to take an interest in local politics. “He respected principles. “He’d understand why I’m standing here and not there (indicating the Labour benches) and I’m very sorry he’s gone.”
Cllr Tim Briggs (Con, Clapham Common) said he had served with Matt Parr on the council’s overview and scrutiny committee.
“He had genuine integrity. “He could be quite critical if he wanted to. “He would always try to be objective, not always party political. “Although he was quite serious with me we could always have a laugh in private.
“Sometimes he would let his guard down and agree with me.”
Cllr Jack Hopkins (Lab Oval) recalled Matt Parr as a “relentless and fair scrutineer. “No-one in cabinet wanted to ‘get Parr’. “His questions always had purpose – they always had a point. “He was absolutely committed to fairness. “He wanted the World to be a better place.
“The council have lost someone who made a real, real difference.”