It was with great sadness that I learned over the last two days of the deaths of Lord Paul Dean and Anne Bretherick. Both played a very important part in our life in North Somerset in the 1970s.
Paul was the MP for North Somerset and Anne was the Conservative agent in the constituency. As an officer of North Somerset Conservative Association from 1974 to 1980, I worked with both of them very closely.
In these days of expenses scandals I have thought of Paul often. He and his wife Ellen (the obituaries refer to her as Doris, I never heard anyone in her home or the constituency do so!) worked their socks off week in week out to help make a marginal seat (majority in 1966 just over 2000) into the safe 21,000 it became by 1979. It often fell to Daphne and myself to go on a Saturday evening to their home in East Harptree to pick up Paul or Ellen and chauffeur them to three or four social events dotted about the 600 square mile constituency. Often he would go to the west and she to the east of the constituency but they ensured that they got around the whole patch and no village went without seeing one of them on a regular basis. Paul remained important to me even after we left North Somerset for London in 1980. He was my sponsor for the Parliamentary candidates list and I visited him at the House quite a few times over the next few years for ‘fatherly’ advice and , occasionally, lunch or tea – on the Terrace, of course. We need some of the newer MPs to follow his example of honest hard work.
Anne was his and NSCA’s Agent. I have known and respected quite a lot of Conservative agents in my time and Anne was simply the best. From 1974 onwards we worked together very closely, helping to build up the North Somerset Association and the Conservative groups on Woodspring and Wansdyke District Councils and the then Avon County Council. North Somerset contained 12 County Council seats and, in 1977, for the first time ever, we took all 12 of them. It was Anne who used to give me my Saturday itinerary of Branch functions and evening committee meetings to get to with Paul or Ellen. Many times we would meet after a round of Branch AGMs or a meeting of the Political and Local Government Committee to talk over the strengths and weaknesses of the Association. Anne was a ‘hands -on’ agent. I remember we had an ambition to start up a branch in Paulton (notorious Labour stronghold) and we got the PLGC members to agree to go and canvass for members there. Anne was out there with us knocking on doors. She had a nack for getting people to do things like few other people I’ve known. She once got Gordon Wood and myself to drive all the way to Newcastle (upon Tyne!) and back towing a trailer behind his Maxi to collect an offset litho printing machine from Area Office there! She had another endearing characteristic. She was a Lancastrian! Until last autumn, when we last spoke, she remained one of my closest friends and confidantes in politics.
Paul and Anne died within a couple of weeks of each other. It was a privilege to have known them both. May they rest in peace.