Becky Harvey passes away

Yesterday I got the tragic message from Jon Ball that, “Many of you know that Becky Harvey has been very ill for a number of years now. Sadly, Becky passed away this morning at home in Devon. I’m fondly remembering the time we shared and the amazing energy and sense of fun she had”.

Becky Harvey was one of the online pioneers in the Liberal Democrats, playing a key role in the creation of a role at party headquarters dealing with the internet – which I ended up filling – and being one of the key volunteers helping me to run the 2001 online general election campaign. Her energy and sense of fun was also reflected in her role in organising the purchase of large numbers of garden gnomes during the campaign (don’t ask), some of which still lingered on in corners of party HQ for many years since. Three still sit in my garden.

Jon has penned this appreciation of Becky:

I first met Becky online in the late 1990′s on CIX, which in those pre-Facebook, pre-Lib Dem Voice days was where Lib Dems congregated in cyberspace. Becky was one of the team of volunteer moderators and used a mixture of her charm and toughness to carry out the difficult task of keeping the discussions civilised when controversial issues of the day such as Paddy Ashdown’s Joint Statement were discussed.

Becky always enjoyed conferences and was already organising Devon & Cornwall regional conferences. She was elected onto the Federal Conference Committee but shortly afterwards stepped down from that elected role to fill a vacancy in the conference office in Cowley Street, where she became a colourful and popular member of Party Staff. With her slim 5’11″ figure always on the move, and her long blonde hair trailing behind her, Becky was an unmistakable figure around the exhibition and bars of Conference, always holding court with a story or a bizarre idea to make people join in with her infectious laughter.

Around this time, a small group of Lib Dems on CIX started thinking about how the online world could be used for campaigning rather than purely for internal communications and set up Lib Dems Online to drive this forward. Despite only having started to use computers recently, Becky had the zeal of a recent convert and could see the importance of the online world before most. As Vice-Chair of LDO, Becky was the very able right-hand woman to Chair Martin Tod and then subsequently went on to take the helm herself. She did much to convince the party hierarchy of the importance of e-campaigning.

Becky also served on the Federal Finance and Administration Committee. Many initially underestimated Becky in that role, thinking of her as a dizzy blonde, but she soon proved them wrong. Despite having no financial background, she soon trained herself to delve through the Party’s accounts and find where the bodies were buried!

Becky was a mass of contradictions – practical enough to hammer together a display stand and wire the lights in but in her element in a posh frock with a glass of champagne in her hand. And whatever she was doing, whatever she was wearing – especially her Star Trek uniform – she was always happy, positive and a force for good.

While working at Cowley Street, later in Parliament for Richard Younger-Ross and while subsequently organising commercial conferences for a high-powered corporate events company in the City, Becky travelled thousands of miles commuting weekly from Cornwall and later Devon by car, train (on which she invariably travelled first class despite her standard class ticket by schmoozing the guard) or occasionally by air via Jersey picking up some duty free gin! This was so she could spend every weekend with the four children she loved so much.

Becky was an action woman, learning to ride a motorbike and to scuba dive. There seemed to be nothing she couldn’t do. Becky always gave herself 110% to everything she did, whether it was supporting Plymouth Argyll, Paganism or figuring out her new iPad.

In 2002, Becky stood for Ealing Council and threw herself into local campaigning. She nearly got elected but fell just 35 votes short. That was to be her only attempt at public office as poor health prevented her from trying again.

Sadly, her final trips to London were for regular treatment at the Royal Brompton Hospital for the brittle asthma which was the principle one of a series of severe medical problems that tragically plagued her over much of her last decade. Despite having to use an electric wheelchair – which she characteristically christened ‘Old Sparky’ – Becky continued to fight against almost impossible odds to try to attend Conference, turning her old organisational skills to marshalling the huge quantities of oxygen cylinders and mobility equipment she needed.

Friends I’ve broken the news to have all come up with different but equally bizarre memories of Becky, involving tribbles, Teletubbies and garden gnomes. The common factor is that when Becky was around, something quirky would happen and life would be more fun for everyone. She will be sorely missed.

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