Erlend Watson, stalwart of Lib Dem by-election campaigns, dies

Erlend Watson with Sarah Green - who together ran a committee room in the Brecon and Radnor by-election
Erlend Watson with Sarah Green, who together ran a committee room in the Brecon and Radnor by-election.

Born in 1963, and first taken canvassing by Laura Grimond, Erlend Watson gave a large part of his life to helping others in the Liberal and then Liberal Democrats get elected. As Alistair Carmichael recently said of him:

I have known Erlend Watson since he was chronologically a Young Liberal in Orkney in the late 1980s in Orkney. His commitment to the cause of liberalism and to the Liberal Democrats since then has been unwavering. Look up the word “stalwart” in the dictionary and you will find a picture of Erlend Watson.

Several months back a poignant posting from Erlend warned his many friends in the party that, after a prolonged period of serious health issues, he only had a few months left. He died earlier this week.

The message did at least give many people the chance to have one more conversation with him. When I spoke with him on Sunday, he was still a person with a sharp mind. We got into discussing details of by-elections firsts, scrabbling around in our respective memories to see who was right.

Erlend’s contributions to the party were massive and, because they were mostly behind the scenes, not as widely known as those of some colleagues. But his essential role in so many election campaigns in particular meant he was a friend for thousands of members across the country. It was fitting that he had recently been given life membership of both the Young Liberals and ALDC.

Erlend was a key figure in many of the party’s Parliamentary by-elections, often slaving over a RISO at all hours to keep the leaflets going. For me, one of the favourite memories of party campaigning will always be the Brent East by-election of 2003 and the shouts across the office of “I can’t hear the RISO, Erlend” as he briefly paused in keeping the leaflets that got Sarah Teather elected coming.

It was often joked that it wasn’t a proper by-election campaign until Erlend had arrived. Which makes it fitting that his penultimate tweet was about a by-election:

The affection and respect for Erlend is reflected in the many responses from others:

As Erlend said in that message about his health:

You are not wholly gone from Earth until the last soul you touched comes up to heaven to greet you.

It will be a very long time before that happens. Thank you for such much, Erlend, and much love to his family and many friends.

UPDATE: A memorial service for Erlend will be held after the May elections.

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