I was very sorry to hear of the death of Jack Ashley the former MP for Stoke South. He was a doughty fighter for the rights of the disabled and a very good constituency MP. I knew him best during the 1970s and 80s when I was active in the Labour Party in Stoke, for a short period between 1985-6 I was Vice Chairman of Stoke South Constituency Labour Party. His campaign on behalf of people effected by the thalidomide drug in the 70s which would be a fine record in its own right but added to that was his work around domestic violence and the need for a refuge for victims of violence later in the decade.
I could add other things as well. Recently I wrote for the Sentinel in the local history section on the earth tremors caused by mining in the Flash lane area of Stoke in the 70s. Jack Ashley fought the interests of his constituency in a forceful way ensuring that compensation would be won for residents who were inconvenienced greatly by the “quakes”. One subject that I recall him taking a great interest in way before Joanna Lumley was the subject of Gurka pay and pensions. I recall asking him a question about this in 1986 shortly before I left to work in Wigan. He was very pleased that someone else should ask a question and added that he was sorry that I was moving out of the district. He did say that I should support Widnes Rugby league team who were superior to Wigan whilst I was living in the North West- it was advice I ignored. I know how much he valued the work of ordinary members of the Labour Party and was very pleased to see me some time later when I bumped into him outside Stoke Railway Station
I also went on a tour of the House of Commons with Jack in the summer of 1984. I can recall a few things about the day. Having to almost press myself flat against the corridor wall as the very large bulky presence of Ian Paisley was coming the other way and Jack’s impersonation of Roy Jenkins peering at his finger nails as an indicator of how aloof Jenkin’s was with other MPs. One thing was noticeable as we trudged around the Palace of Westminster and that was the looks of recognition from members of the public.
I should also add how much Pauline’s support was invaluable to Jack in coping with his deafness. His wife cut an elegant and kindly figure in the meeting places of Stoke South Labour Party.
Lord Jack’s family have now created a website in celebration of his life which can be viewed here http://www.lordjackashley.co.uk/