Thursday, 3 January 2008
Sad passing of Councillor Jane Schopflin
Today I attended the cremation service for councillor Jane Schopflin - it was beautifully done by her three daughters. I was able to visit Jane just before she passed away and today was a lovely send off for her. A fuller tribute service will be organised later in the spring. This obituary is drawn from the illuminating and eloquent tribute given by Jane's eldest daughter Julia:
Jane Schopflin (1936-2007)
Liberal Democrat Councillor for Fortune Green WardJane Schopflin sadly passed away in the Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead, on the morning on Sunday 30th December after a long battle with illness.
An only child, Jane came from humble origins in Glasgow: her father, a committed Communist, had worked in the Clyde shipyards and her mother was a seamstress. She won a scholarship to the prestigious Hutchesons Girls Grammar school. At a time when most girls left school at 15, her teachers encouraged her to stay on and take her higher exams. Her parents agreed, she always said that if she’d had brothers, she’d never have had this opportunity.She went on to win a place at the University of Glasgow - again on a scholarship.
She was involved in the debating society, which was - and still is - taken very seriously at Glasgow University. She was also active in the Labour students’ society, where she was a contemporary of the late John Smith and Donald Dewar.After graduation, she trained as a journalist at the Glasgow Herald, before moving to London working as a researcher at the Labour Party HQ, Transport House, and then joining the BBC as a radio news producer.
Jane developed an interest in housing, from her time at Transport House. In many ways, it became her life’s work, writing and consulting about housing for - amongst others - New Society magazine, Local Government News, the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust, the housing charity Shelter, the Personal Social Services Council and the GLC.
After a brief time in Surbiton, she moved to a flat in Strathray Gardens in Swiss Cottage before moving to Chester Road, Highgate in 1967.
Always politically active Jane canvassed for Labour in the two elections of 1974 (with her eldest daughter in tow). She campaigned for a yes vote to EEC membership in 1975 and although no fan of Conservative politics, raised a glass to Margaret Thatcher as the first woman prime minister. However, she became increasingly disenchanted with the politics of the Labour Party and became a founder member of the Social Democratic Party in 1982. As she became more involved with the SDP and then the merged Liberal Democrats she took the step of putting herself forward for election to Camden Council.
In 1990 she joined Flick Rea as the second Liberal Democrat councillor in Camden, both representing Fortune Green ward. Jane used to say that Flick was Group Leader and she was Deputy Leader and Chief Whip. A Labour councillor suggested that she and Flick should hold Group meetings in a phone box, She had the last laugh: she saw the Liberal Democrat numbers grow , culminating with the party’s becoming the largest group on the Council in 2006 and taking the Leadership of the Borough.
Jane had an unfaltering belief in the old fashioned concepts of public service and the welfare state. She loved being a councillor for the opportunities it gave her to help those less fortunate than herself. She took great pleasure if she helped re-house a constituent and was devastated if she was unable to stop someone being evicted. With the Liberal Democrats in power she hoped to play a greater role in the Council’s housing decisions when her health improved.
Jane is survived by her 3 daughters, Julia, Sophie and Katherine and 2 grandchildren Max and Zoe.