John Swarbrick’s lesser known cousin Dave is one of the few people who have had the dubious pleasure of reading their own obituary. But if ever a man deserved to hear good things said about him it is Simon Titley so, while there is still time, I want to write this living obituary to one of the great Liberals and one of my best mates.
Many of us have been devastated by the tragic news that our life-long chum and Liberal colleague Simon has a massive,inoperable brain tumour and probably doesn’t have long to live. Some of us have been worried about his health for some time but, like many stubborn men, he didn’t get it checked out and he was stuck down while enjoying Sunday lunch with his family. Now, Simon likes his food and you may think that if you have to go, there are worse ways than tucking into a Sunday roast. But, and for me and I’m sure for many of you it’s a big but, we hadn’t quite finished with him.
He’s a human being and so he is infuriating and severally flawed, but he is quite simply one of a very few people on the planet who just gets it – all of it. His sharp wit; his radical liberalism; his excellent taste in music; his hilarious sense of humour; his love of great food, good beer and fine wine; whatever it was Simon enjoyed it and for the most part he got it right – spot on right. For those who have enjoyed his company and his writing over the past four decades will know, although a stubborn bastard at times, Simon had one of the best brains in the party – his ability for clarity of thought and his skill at putting that succinctly in writing was a talent to be prised and revered. There is a manifesto’s worth of good ideas out there and I hope they can be collected together for future generations to appreciate and for the party to fully understand what it has missed.
Simon’s contribution to our sense of fun has been as great as his contribution to our beliefs and understanding. It was largely his idea in 1984 to start the Liberal Revue and for many years he wrote and directed shows that had hundreds in stiches with some of the sharpest satire anywhere in British politics. Senior journalists from Vincent Hanna, to Elinor Goodman, to Michael Crick would seek him out for comment because they knew he would not just have his figure exactly on the issue of the day, but he would say it in a pithy, witty and memorable way.
Of course like most great Liberals Simon’s mind was ahead of its time and often out of step with what some might call mainstream thinking. But for those who have followed his many contributions in Liberator over the years know he has been proved right time and again and the party would have done well to have listened to him more often.
Sadly he will write no more and we will have to learn to think for ourselves. Laughter will seem a little hollow for a while and even favourite songs may sound off key. Simon, before you go, I want you to know that I and many, many others hold you in great regard – a friend and a brother, greatly loved and respected – you will be sorely missed you old bugger.