Sir Trevor Jones
Sir Trevor Jones: A Tribute.
Owen Trevor Jones was born in Bootle on December 17th 1926. Aged 89, Sir Trevor died peacefully on September 9th 2016 – holding the hand of his beloved Doreen, his wife of 65 years – and with Glyn and Louise and his grandchildren, Thomas, George and Ayesha, and his brother Clifford, close by and lovingly supportive of him throughout his last campaign, battling a recently diagnosed cancer.
The Rector, Fr. Crispin, prayed with and anointed Trevor the day before he died and Glyn says that his father, from memory, had earlier recited Psalm 23 – “the Lord is my shepherd”. His gentle passing away was what an earlier generation would have called a good death; and it was certainly a good life.
Trevor’s wish was that his funeral should take place in the Liverpool’s parish church, with maritime associations since the 13th century and a stone’s throw from where so much of his business and civic life was lived; and from where he will cross the bar to the boundless deep. How fitting that his ashes are to be scattered on the bar of the River Mersey.
It was another psalm, Psalm 107, which comes to mind today:
Some went out on the sea in ships;
they were merchants on the mighty waters.
They saw the works of the Lord,
his wonderful deeds in the deep.
They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven…
Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people
and praise him in the council of the elders.
1926, the year of his birth, was the year of the General Strike and martial law had been declared in Britain. His childhood, spent in Bootle – a “Bootle Buck” who played the drum in the Church Lads Brigade. These were the years of Great Depression, characterised by endemic poverty and destitution – with more than 3 million people unemployed. Although Liverpool didn’t escape the hardship the Port continued to trade and the happily named Gladstone Dock was opened in the year after Trevor’s birth. It would service the ships that berthed there throughout his working life.
Trevor‘s childhood was shaped by the bustling frenzy of the cranes; the towers; the trans-Atlantic liners; the stevedores; shipyards, locks and docks; the Liverpool Overhead railway – the Dockers’ umbrella, as it was known which ran from Seaforth to Dingle – the commotion of emigrants – millions of who sailed from Liverpool – and bellowing ships steaming into the great Port of Liverpool the Empire’s second city and Gateway to America.
The mighty docks- which was or had been home to White Star, the Cunard Line, the Baltic, Derbyshire, Lusitania and the Titanic, filled Trevor’s mind with wonder and delight, firing his imagination, and providing the backdrop against which he would live his life.
But, in childhood, Trevor also experienced and saw a great deal of grinding poverty.
He once told me that he had been schooled in the University of Adversity; that he saw the big difference between the well off and those scraping to make ends meet when, as a boy, he began collecting potato peelings for pig swill.
The comparative size of the peelings from the less and more prosperous areas of Bootle and Crosby was his first lesson in economics – adding, with sharp and characteristic humour, that in Bootle and Liverpool “they lived above the shop and in Crosby they lived above their means.”
Other courses provided by the University of Adversity would follow – and it’s where he learnt his favourite poem, Rudyard Kipling’s “If”.
After leaving school, and aged just 14, Trevor joined the Home Guard and he told me he concealed his age so that he could enter the Merchant Navy and join the Atlantic Convoys.
Throughout that conflict the Red Duster of the brave men and women of the Merchant Navy kept Great Britain supplied with raw materials, munitions, fuel and food – enabling the country to defend itself, sustaining a greater casualty rate than almost every branch of the armed forces. 36,749 seamen and women were lost in enemy action, over 5,000 taken prisoner. In the first lethal six months of 1942 U Boats sank more than 3 million tons of Atlantic shipping.
Every year Trevor was one of those who honoured the memory of his compatriots at St. George’s Hall –which as Leader of the Council, Trevor re-opened. He never understood why, at the national cenotaph in London, for 55 years, merchant seamen had been excluded from the memorial service and it gave him great pleasure when this was finally rectified in the millennium year.
Those teenage experiences remained vivid and shaped so many of his beliefs and values.
But the University of Adversity was a dangerous and deadly place to be.
Earlier this year, after breaking his hip, Trevor told me how his ship at been fired on at Aden. He recounted how, in 1945, at Singapore, his captain told him to put on his smartest uniform. As British servicemen were liberated from Changi, the notorious Japanese prisoner of war camp, Trevor was taken to stand with men from each of the services alongside Admiral Louis Mountbatten, the Supreme Allied Commander of South East Asia Command, who was taking the salute. Trevor told me that he had “seen bones protruding from places in the body where I didn’t even know there were bones.”
En route back to the UK there was a stop-over in South Africa – which left him with an abiding loathing of apartheid – although it also left him and one or two compatriots with sore heads as revelries, and the desire to ease harrowing memories, saw them detained in a South African cell.
When the war was over and, back in England, Trevor became a £12 a week rigger in the Liverpool docks. One day upstairs on the bus home he spotted a beautiful young woman, and decided he would marry her. Happily, she agreed and they tied the knot at Sefton Church.
As well as a marriage, and two young children, they built a business together. Doreen opened a sports shop and Trevor borrowed £200 to acquire Robert A Dean. He built it into the biggest fender-makers in the country, diversifying into ship’s chandlery and car upholstery. The acquisition of J.P.Lamb would follow and he added flag making to his repertoire, employing many local people.
Those flag makers would produce the wonderful skull and crossbones in the iconic photograph of Trevor and Doreen on the Mersey – and which flew again in his Times obituary.
Trevor might have happily continued in business on the Dock Road if the City Council hadn’t decided to build an inner city ring road that would lead to the demolition of Trevor’s business.
In the angry war that followed The Liverpool Echo branded a “malcontent and dissident” – something he was rather proud of.
But the public – angry at seeing the heart ripped out of their city – overwhelming agreed with Trevor that we needed an eleventh commandment, “Thou shalt not bulldoze unless you know what you’re going to put in its place”. His passionate loathing of unaccountable decision making was symbolised in his prized sculpture of The Town Planner, sculpted for him by Liverpool’s Arthur Dooley.
It was during this battle of the inner ring road that he discovered his gift for organising opposition, running town polls, crafting and disseminating protest leaflets.
Encouraged to take his campaign off the street and into the council chamber, Trevor contested Childwall and then, in 1968, won the Church ward by-election.
One year after that by election, a young student trundled up the path of 221 Queens Drive, where the Jones’ lived.
With countless others – like Mike Storey and Chris Graham who were student friends too – over the years, I would receive a warm welcome from Trevor and Doreen – and from Glyn and Louise – and it was the beginning of a life-long friendship.
Unfailingly, Trevor encouraged and supported young people and led by example.
Within a couple of days of my first encounter I was delivering Focus leaflets in St.Oswalds Gardens, Old Swan, with Doreen, David Mawdsley and Robert Evans – and Doreen was duly elected, paving the way for her own significant contribution to the city’s civic life, not least as Lord Mayor on two occasions.
Three years later, having told Jeremy Thorpe that he expected to take control of the City Council, Thorpe thought he was on safe ground by promising to ride naked on an elephant through the streets of Liverpool if Trevor achieved his boast. Happily, the absence of local elephants spared the leader his blushes.
But, successful community politics – so often despised as pavement politics – had come of age.
In the years that followed, and during the endless all-night shifts in the dingy print room at his office in Lydia Ann Street, we took it in turn to master a cantankerous off-set litho printing press – and churned out hundreds of thousands of Focus newsletters – and, as we tramped terraced streets, organised public meetings and campaigns, plotted by elections, and drove endless miles in 30TJ Trevor would become national Liberal Party President, committed to revitalising the Liberal Party from the grass roots.
In 1972 I introduced him to Graham Tope, whose by-election victory at Sutton consolidated Trevor’s moniker of “Jones the Vote”. David Steel – always a good friend – told Trevor that he wasn’t sure that the Party was quite ready for Trevor’s methods. “But they’re ready for my results” came the quick witted Scouse reply.
Well before his time, as incoming Party President, in his first oration he denounced usurious irresponsible bankers – “the board room bandits of Lombard Street” – and scoffed at the spin-doctors of Saatchi and Saatchi – “snitchy and snatchy” he called them.
Each year, the incoming President was traditionally handed a copy of the Areopagitica– which Trevor joked first required him to learn how to pronounce Areopagitica.
Taking its name from a speech written by the Athenian orator, Isocrates, in the 5th century BC, the Areopagitica was written in 1644, during the Civil War, by John Milton. It called on Parliament to grant the liberty to publish without a licence.
Milton said he had no intention of giving his speech orally. Instead he distributed it as a pamphlet, defying the very prohibition on publication to which he was so adamantly opposed.
Milton asserted in the Areopagitica: “Let Truth and Falsehood grapple; whoever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?” Trevor was at one with Milton.
In his own inimitable swashbuckling way, Trevor also passionately believed that truth and falsehood had to be free to grapple in the open – telling us to “put it on a piece of paper, and put it through a letter box”; adding “Give them a fight and give them a show”.
Who can ever forget his acronym: AIDA – get people’s Attention, Interest, Desire and Action? To re-enforce his point he’d say Aida was a girl he once knew, and whom he’d charmed with the words “a, dere, you with the stars in your eyes.”
Or, then there was, Psycho cybernetics – “if you miss one target, keep going to the next”? And his admonitions that “there’s no such word as can’t”?; that “the man who never made a mistake never made anything”; and that “there are only two kinds of people who go into politics – those who want to be things and those who want to do things.”
That was a phase I reminded myself of when on March 29th 1979 , from the count in St.George’s Hall, I was able to give Trevor the promised thumbs up which signalled victory at Liverpool Edge Hill – with 64% of the vote and a record swing of 34%. Trevor lit his customary cigar. In the years that followed he would regularly and teasingly remind me “I’ve taught you everything you know, David, but not everything I know.”
Two years later, in 1981 I was able to welcome Trevor and Doreen to the House of Commons, when on the recommendation of David Steel, Her Majesty the Queen conferred a knighthood on Trevor for services to political and civic life. The 1980s were a tough time – including physical violence – but who can doubt that the foundations for Liverpool’s stunning renaissance were laid during that period?
Today’s politicians, could learn so much from Trevor. The reason we see the odious politics of the far right making headway is that traditional political parties have become too disengaged from the communities they are supposed to serve. Trevor always cited that other son of Liverpool Mr. Gladstone, who said “trust in the people”. Trevor believed you should trust the people, serve the people and stay close to the people.
I was able to sit with Trevor just a few days before he died, when Frank Doran and I visited him. The young nurse came to give him a blood transfusion. Even at the end he could still joke and told her that he didn’t want it unless she could guarantee that it was good Welsh blood.
He was always proud of his family’s Porthmadog, Welsh antecedents, his radical Liberal politics, his maritime roots and his beloved Liverpool. But, above all was his love of Doreen and his family. As we grieve with them and with Doreen today we know that they have lost a much loved husband, father and grandfather, and that Liverpool has lost a formidable champion and that those of us who were privileged to know him have lost a good and fine friend.
May he rest in peace.
The death has been announced this morning of the former leader of Liverpool City Council and national President of the Liberal Party, Sir Trevor Jones. Born in 1926, he was 89 and died after a recent diagnosis of cancer.
Sir Trevor was brought up in Bootle and, as a teenager, joined the Merchant Navy seeing war time action in the Atlantic Convoys, at Aden, Singapore and elsewhere. After the Second World War he returned to Liverpool and, with Doreen, his wife of 65 years, he became a successful businessman, running a busy ship’s chandlers company.
In 1966, the decision of Liverpool City Council to build an inner ring road, which would result in the demolition of his warehouse, drew him into local politics. In 1968 he became one of only two Liberal councillors but by 1973 his “community politics” gave his Party control of Liverpool City Council.
He took his distinctive campaigning style onto the national stage, organising, in 1972 the successful Sutton and Cheam by-election and being elected as President of his Party. Justifying the moniker “Jones the Vote”, and working with his deputy, David Alton, in 1979 they won the Liverpool Edge Hill parliamentary by-election with the country’s then biggest ever political swing of 36% and gaining 64% of the vote.
Throughout his time on the Liverpool stage he was strongly supported by his wife Lady Jones, who served as City Councillor for Old Swan and as Lord Mayor.
Sir Trevor was enormously proud of his family, his children Glyn and Louise, and his three grandchildren, his family’s Porthmadog, Welsh antecedents, his radical Liberal politics, his maritime roots and his beloved Liverpool. For his services to politics and civic life he was knighted by Her Majesty the Queen.
Lord Steel, who as David Steel was the last leader of the Liberal Party, said on hearing the news of Sir Trevor’s death: “Trevor gave outstanding service to his city and his party. His role as President and his electoral skills will always be remembered by Liberals.”
Lord Alton of Liverpool said ” During the dark days of the 1970s and 1980s Trevor’s leadership and his partnership with Michael Heseltine paved the way for Liverpool’s renaissance. He led by example, always staying close to the people, fearless in opposing Militant, consistently arguing for the city and its needs. Liverpool has lost a formidable champion and those of us who knew him well have lost a good friend.”
Sir Trevor’s funeral will take place on Friday September 23rd at 11.00 am at the Liverpool Parish Church of Our Lady and St.Nicholas which has been closely associated with Liverpool maritime life since the thirteenth century.
Trevor and Doreen Jones in 1973 when community politics came of age – and the party of Gladstone took control of Liverpool for the first time in nearly a century.
….1968 message to electors:
1987 Offering an Alternative to the Militant Tendency
Sir Trevor Jones, Liverpool politician nicknamed ‘Jones the vote’ for his campaigning flair – obituary: The Daily Telegraph
Sir Trevor Jones
11 SEPTEMBER 2016 • 6:19PM
Sir Trevor Jones, who has died aged 89, was a Liverpool ship’s chandler who pioneered an ebullient campaigning style that brought the Liberals by-election victories in the early 1970s, and control of Liverpool council, which he led for several years.
Party president in 1972/73, his annus mirabilis, “Jones the Vote” perfected the art of getting councillors elected through community (to his critics “pavement”) politics based on close attention to local issues. These techniques won the Liberals control of Liverpool in 1973, retaining it for a decade. Jones led the council for five years from 1978 – and again for two months in 1987, after 47 Labour councillors were disqualified for setting an illegal rate.
Nationally, his greatest achievements were by-election victories at Sutton and Cheam in December 1972, when Graham Tope captured the seat on a 32 per cent swing from the Conservatives, and at Ripon by David Austick the following July.
Neither seat was held at the next election, though Sutton later returned to the Liberal Democrats. But Jones’ creation of a bandwagon effect by insisting the Liberals were going to win would be used with success a generation later by his lieutenant Chris Rennard. Another of Jones’ proteges, David Alton, won a by-election at Liverpool Edge Hill in 1979, and held the seat.
David Steel once told Jones: “I don’t think the party is quite ready for your methods.” “No,” he replied. “But they’re ready for my results.” In a party ambivalent about success, he was a breath of fresh air. He once ended a row in the Liberal Party Council by pulling a referee’s whistle from his pocket and blowing it.
Months before Sutton, Jones promised Jeremy Thorpe that he would deliver a majority larger than those of all the Liberal MPs combined, save for Jo Grimond who had a safe seat. He did it with 1,000 votes to spare.
Jones himself never came close to winning a parliamentary seat. He was tipped to take Toxteth from Labour in February 1974, but finished third, lamenting that he had spent too much time campaigning elsewhere.
An attempt to win the nomination at Orpington that October was seen off by Lady Avebury, wife of the former Liberal member Eric Lubbock. And though Jones was selected for Gillingham, he trailed in third.
His politics were Left of centre, but light years from the Trotskyism visited on Liverpool by Derek Hatton and his acolytes when they gained a majority.
Sir Trevor Jones, second from right, with Michael Heseltine, whom he grew to admire, in 1981 CREDIT: PA
Owen Trevor Jones was born in Bootle on December 17 1926 and was brought up in Bootle. Having joined the Merchant Navy as a teenager, he took part in the Atlantic Convoys, and served in Singapore and Aden. After the war he became a £12-a-week rigger in Liverpool docks, then in 1961 borrowed £200 to acquire Robert A Dean, a small firm making dock fenders. He built it into the biggest fender-makers in the country, diversifying into ship’s chandlery and car upholstery.
He came into local politics when in 1966 his warehouse was threatened with demolition to make way for a ring road and he found that he had a gift for organising opposition and crafting protest leaflets. He was encouraged by Lord McAndrew, a former Conservative deputy speaker. As chairman of a conservation group fighting the replanning of Liverpool, Jones gave evidence to a House of Lords committee. Impressed, McAndrew urged him to work through the system.
Jones decided he was a Liberal, and in 1968 won a council seat. His campaigning style had such an impact that when the Liverpool Metropolitan district council was formed five years later, the Liberals took control on a pledge to hand over council housing to tenants’ co-operatives. Jones became its deputy leader and leader of the Liberal group on the parallel Merseyside County Council.
His style appealed to the radical Young Liberals, and in 1972 they secured his election as party president. That December he organised Tope’s election at Sutton & Cheam, one of the heaviest defeats the Conservatives had ever suffered.
Over the next year, apart from capturing Liverpool, his by-election campaigning ran Labour close at Chester-le-Street before capturing Ripon – having cancelled a Caribbean cruise to run the campaign.
At the 1973 Liberal Assembly Jones ruled out coalitions with other parties, a line he would take consistently until the Lib-Lab Pact with the Callaghan administration. He declared: “People will vote Liberal because they want a Liberal government, not because they want to see a political balancing act.”
At the start of 1974 Jones was involved in a misunderstanding with Thorpe. Cyril Smith had criticised his leadership; Jones rejected the criticism but Thorpe misunderstood and attacked the pair of them. When the Thorpe affair broke in 1976, Jones was one of the first senior Liberals to call for his removal.
The 1978 elections made Labour the largest party in Liverpool; the Liberals went into reluctant coalition with the Tories, with Jones leader of the council. The deadlock continued after the 1979 and 1980 elections, when Jones’s wife, now Lord Mayor, burst into tears after the council failed to settle political control.
Knighted in 1981, Jones was confronted by the Toxteth riots, which he blamed on “evil criminals and political agitators” from outside; locals blamed police harassment. Michael Heseltine’s subsequent stay in Toxteth won Jones over, saying: “Even his most severe critics have become admirers.” He urged the government to back Heseltine by subsidising employers to get local people into jobs – but reckoned crime, not unemployment, Toxteth’s greatest problem. That year, Jones backed Shirley Williams’ successful by-election campaign for the SDP in Crosby.
Continuing deadlock on the council had prevented reorganisation of Liverpool’s schools. Sir Keith Joseph secured agreement on an emergency plan involving closure of Croxteth comprehensive; parents occupied it, and pelted Jones and the education secretary with fruit.
Militant gained control of the Labour group in 1982, and a year later Labour took power, abolishing the office of Lord Mayor. Liverpool politics now turned nasty. Twenty-two Liberal councillors, Jones among them, were removed by the police after challenging Labour policy decisions taken at secret meetings.
Jones had to sell his Aston Martin because it kept being scratched. He bought an old van, and his wife urged him to quit. But when three teenagers chanting “Jones is a Fascist” beat him up, she said he would be wrong to give in.
Neil Kinnock initially defended Liverpool’s leaders against Jones’ charges that they were spending ratepayers’ money improperly. They refused to set a rate before the 1984 elections, and increased their majority. Labour raised further cash by selling mortgages on council houses to Banque Paribas for £30 million; Jones warned: “The cost to the city over the years is going to be enormous.”
In October 1985 Kinnock finally read the riot act to Militant, and 400 local businessmen met Jones and his Conservative counterpart to launch a fightback. He was now accusing Militant of a “reign of terror” toward council officials.
In March 1987 47 Labour councillors were barred from office, putting the Liberals back in power. Jones started turning the council’s finances round and his wife took the revived office of Lord Mayor, but fresh Labour candidates won that May’s elections.
Liberal fortunes waned in Liverpool despite Militant’s eventual eclipse; Jones remained group leader until 1991, retiring from the council after 23 years. In 2003, the Lib Dems having regained control, he made a comeback at 76, finally leaving in 2009.
Sir Trevor is survived by his wife, Doreen.
Sir Trevor Jones, born December 17 1926, died September 9th 2016
The Town Planner by Liverpool sculptor, Arthur Dooley: Owned by Trevor Jones, who spent much of his life fighting planners and politicians who paid scant attention to the effects of their proposals on those who would be affected.