My Life, the autobiography of the late Croydon North MP, Malcolm Wicks, is published today. Exclusively here, ALISON BUTLER, who managed his constituency office for more than 20 years, writes of how his memory still brings a fond smile
Although more than a year has passed, the loss of Malcolm Wicks is something that still causes me huge sadness.
It is a loss I feel greatly but increasingly, when I think of Malcolm, I smile, because he was a funny man, a man that made you laugh, who celebrated life, who loved his family and cared deeply about his constituency, Croydon North.
Today will see Alan Johnson MP launch Malcolm’s book My Life at the House of Commons. The book is a story that those who have lost confidence in politicians or who think they are all the same should read.
I worked with Malcolm, running his constituency office, for more than 20 years and my memories as his friend go back to his first attempt to win what was then Croydon North West in 1987. The time since has been filled with highs and lows, deep laughter and also times of sorrow, but Malcolm’s deep conviction to do what was right and speak for those with no voice never wavered.
The night of Malcolm’s election as the MP for Croydon North in 1992 is one I will never forget. In later elections Malcolm would say he was “confident but not complacent”; in this election, we were neither confident nor complacent.
We had worked hard for every vote but knew just how tough the battle was against the sitting MP, Humfrey Malins. The count showed just how close it was and we watched with great trepidation as corresponding bundles were placed in piles for Malins and for Wicks.
It had been an extremely long day and night and it reached a point where Humfrey’s votes were more or less counted. The teller placed Malcolm’s latest batch of votes in his box and it was clear he had the lead. Against the usual protocol of waiting for an announcement, I gave a huge whoop of joy and looked at Malcolm, he knew the years of work he had put in had paid off and he smiled. It was the smile of a self-depreciating man who knew that he now had the opportunity to make a difference.
I worked with Malcolm on many elections after that, and he supported me at mine, but I guess the first victory is always the sweetest. All have been celebrated with the whoop, though. Although his support grew, Malcolm worked equally as hard for every election. One of the reasons he became such a popular MP was he never took that vote for granted and never forgot why he was elected.
Malcolm had always been determined to open an office in the heart of his constituency, even when this was not generally the practice for MPs. He wanted to be accessible, he wanted people to know they could speak to him and he wanted to keep his feet firmly on the ground. I have sat with Malcolm through hundreds and hundreds of surgeries and meetings, visited hundreds of homes and know that his ability to empathise and listen was valued by his constituents. Local groups and communities felt they really had an MP that was “one of them”.
Every single problem came to his door, from dogs’ mess to murder. His first Member’s Bill, which resulted in the Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995, came from his deep admiration for all the carers in his constituency and the battles they faced. And in 2011, on hearing of the tragic riots that so badly affected Croydon North, Malcolm returned immediately from his holiday and went straight to London Road to be with those affected.
Malcolm fought for the victims of the riots right up until his death and I know he was deeply concerned by both the riots and by the causes. It was an issue he pursued with Labour Party colleagues and in Parliament.
Malcolm never took the most popular option: if he thought something was wrong he challenged it, he stood up and he said so. He also told really bad jokes. Often, Louise, who worked with Malcolm and knew him for as long as I did, and I would cringe, dreading what awful punch line would come out from the latest joke he had heard. But despite our warnings, he continued and you had to laugh if only for the fact that he thought it was funny.
Malcolm had a sense of fun. He always had a twinkle in his eye and a sense of mischief. We always worked as a team and he encouraged us all to improve and take on new challenges. Sometimes he despaired of us – Malcolm, I am truly sorry I never got that hot water fixed and I am still not completely sure today, [sic] where that comma goes! And I still try to live up to my title of “Woman with Attitude”.
But as time passes I value ever more the time I spent with you and what you taught me. I am still overwhelmed by the bravery you showed and your commitment to serve your constituents right up to the end. I am a better person for having known you.
Malcolm Wicks My Life is published by Troubador, £9.99
- Alison Butler is Croydon councillor for Bensham Manor ward
- From The Guardian: I saved child benefit 38 years ago, says Malcolm Wicks in autobiography
- Croydon North’s MP Malcolm Wicks dies after cancer battle
- My memories of Malcolm: a personal tribute
Coming to Croydon
- Holocaust Memorial concert, Jan 25
- STDLCC Screening: Winter Nomads, Jan 27
- Renaming ceremony for Lake Conan Doyle, Feb 1
- Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society, Feb 3
- Babylon at the Spread Eagle Theatre, Feb 4-6
- Steve Knightly at Stanley Halls: Feb 5
- Purley Swimathon: Feb 8 and 13
- Mark Steel at Ashcroft Theatre, Feb 12
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Feb 20
- Mr Pooter comes to Croydon, Feb 20-22
- Stop the Incinerator fund-raiser, Feb 24
- Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society, Mar 3
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 20
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