Remembering Mrs. Hudson.
It seemed serendipitous at lunchtime today to be at be in the heart of the constituency which I once represented in the House of Commons.
Just as I was taking my seat in Holy Trinity church in Liverpool’s Wavertree district, to say farewell to Mrs.Pat Hudson, nominations were closing at Liverpool’s Municipal Buildings for all those wishing to contest the General Election on December 12th.
Mrs.Hudson knew a thing or two about elections – living as she did, at the heart of Liverpool’s Church Ward and the Mossley Hill constituency – always proud to do the opposite of surrounding neighbourhoods.
Mrs.Hudson, as you will see from the photograph, had a love of sunflowers. And sunflowers were much in evidence today.
One of my favourite painters is Vincent Van Gogh who said that sunflowers represented “gratitude.”
Years ago, I had visited the wonderful Van Gogh museum, whose curator says “The sunflower is a very strong and sturdy plant. It’s not elegant and refined. Van Gogh called it the ‘rustic sunflower. It has the roughness and unpolishedness of the real countryside, and that’s what he felt strongly about.”
Mrs.Hudson did not live in the countryside but in the city – but she would have liked that description of the sunflower because she had no time for fripperies and polishedness. And she gave her family and all who knew her great reason for gratitude.
Pat’s life spanned the best part of the last 100 years – and she was born into a world experiencing the greatest of poverty. She was married on the steps of the sanctuary where today she was being carried to her place of rest. She was born in 1927 – the same year as Eartha Kitt, one of whose most famous songs was an “Old Fashioned Girl”.
I don’t think Pat would have minded if she had been descried as being a little old fashioned – in as much as she believed that respect, tolerance, conscience and courtesy all mattered – and she brought her boys up to believe the same.
Today, there is so much ego and vain gloriousness in politics – perhaps there has to be, especially in the world of Twitter and immediate, often intemperate, and ill considered, vituperative comment.
Thank goodness for the delay mechanism of old fashioned Focus newsletters, off-set litho printing machines that covered you in ink, and the encumbrances that made you think about what you should say. And Pat was always ready to deliver those by the thousand.
Candidates now strut their stuff, make wholly unbelievable promises, say it before they can reconsider, and pledge their undying loyalty to constituents they probably will avoid seeing until the next time they want their votes.
But once they disappear – like snow off a roof – it’s people like Mrs. Hudson who are the grit that keeps our democracy functioning.
Earlier this year we buried her husband, Bob.
They and their children, Martin and Adrian, were one of those families who kept me grounded and reminded me that the greatest honour – earned and not bestowed – is being elected to serve as a Member of Parliament.
In his remarks today, Martin recalled that his mother unfailingly baked a cake for me at every election – and Adrian followed in her footsteps with a cake which he specifically baked for her farewell today.
Martin recalled that, when I was first elected to Parliament, some superannuated bureaucrat had the temerity (and rank stupidity) to try and stop Mrs. Hudson from entering St. George’s Hall for the counting of the votes in my Parliamentary by-election.
She berated him, reminded him that she was a Liverpool ratepayer, and that he had no right to stop her entering Liverpool’s finest civic building.
By the end, and no doubt quaking, he wisely gave her admission.
Year after year, in countless elections, Mrs. Hudson willingly opened her home as a committee room, delivering leaflets, and encouraging her family to knock on endless doors.
Throughout his clever detective novels, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle provided a Mrs.Hudson to look after Sherlock Holmes.
In his characteristically supercilious way, Holmes said of his Mrs.Hudson: “Her cuisine is a little limited, but she has a good idea of breakfast.”
Speaking for myself, and maybe for other old-fashioned independent-minnded Liberal candidates, our Mrs.Hudson provided endless nourishment and encouragement – worthy of Egon Ronay and never tired of telling us to keep looking for the votes that won elections.
She was the perfect cake maker and the perfect grass roots supporter – who keep self-important candidates mindful of their limitations while always encouraging them to do better.
Democracy would not function, and it works, because of people like Mrs. Hudson – and today’s elitist out of touch political classes should never forget it.
As they deposit their papers to stand in next month’s elections let them remember, as I do, with respect and affection, the many Mrs.Hudsons who knock second rate politicians into the shade.
May she rest in peace.