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.


Meral Hussein Ece said...

I am extremely saddened to learn of Jane's death. I served with her for a year on the Camden & Islington mental Health & Social Care trust, as a fellow non-executive director. I found her as you describe, despite her failing health, forthright, and clearly committed to ensuring people with mental health were given the best possible services. A really lovely caring woman.

Anonymous said...

Very sad news but a lovely tribute to a remarkable woman.
I campaigned alongside Jane in the late 1990s when PPC for the then Hampstead & Highgate seat. She combined a great knowledge and love of her local area with a deep commitment to social justice, particularly housing issues. Her health was never great, but she was always quietly determined with a wry sense of humour. I'm glad she lived to see so many Lib Dems elected in Camden.

Anonymous said...

Although I only knew Jane for a couple of years, my very warmest memory is of being with Jane and Flick Rea on the Mayor Jill Fraser's "Beating the Bounds" walk on a beautiful sunny day (14th April, 2007).

Jane was in remission and succeeded in walking all the way from the Tricycle in Kilburn, through Golders Hill Park and on past Kenwood to The Flask in Highgate, raising an astonishing amount for charity - and beaming with joy all the way.

I hope to organise, with my Councillor colleagues a Memorial Walk for Jane this Spring to cover the same 6 mile route and would hope that many friends, family, constituents, Councillors and Camden staff would wish to participate.