Category: Friendships
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In this play there is no doubt who is the lead role: Sidney Malin, star of the show, the name in big lights, as I raise my glass of toast to him – today he walks across the heath of life.  

But in putting together my notes I am aware that the roll call of supporting actors and actresses to Sidney’s work over the years, is long and prestigious: Margaret Little, Air Marshal the Lord Tim Garden, Ann Finer, Gill Wagner, Richard Waddington, Vera Miles, Sally Twite and Philip Vince to name but a few significant Camden Liberals whom Sidney joins in the pantheon of election contributions.

Just after 11.45pm, on Thursday 7th May 1998, after a brief huddle between the counting agents – Diana Self was able to confirm to Sidney Malin and Margaret Little had been elected to represent Hampstead Town ward for the Liberal Democrats.  The vote looked strong and when it was announced Sidney had 912 votes and his nearest Conservative just 368 votes.  

It was a resounding victory and Sidney joined the Liberal Democrat Group of 6 on Camden Council: along with Margaret Little, Keith Moffitt and Heather Thompson (also newly elected that night) and Flick Rea and Jane Schopflin.  

When he was elected in 1998, Sidney arrived at Camden Town Hall in Judd Street where he met Cllr Roger Robinson, then and now a long serving Labour councillor.  

Roger introduced himself “You must be the new opposition councillor for Hampstead Town.  "No no" said Sidney, "I was elected to represent the people of Hampstead Town - you, the Labour Council, are opposing what the people of Hampstead want!"

Sidney was to me a friend, a confidant and a wise owl - he always had a quip, an insight, had read something in the Telegraph, heard a good line in a new play that gave him an air of being wise – largely because he was wise.  His deliberate considered manner in no way reflected his mischievous and occasionally wicked humour.  

Most people had not appreciated that in fact, it was the charm and success of Tony Blair that saw Sidney elected.  A slightly dastardly character in the history of liberal democracy called John Dickie was the Liberal Democrat Councillor for Hampstead Town. Ambitious, in his early 30’s and keen to end the Tory Government, John was seduced by the charms of Blair.  He defected to Labour in 1995, but did not resign his seat, and so Sidney was selected to stand (successfully) with Margaret Little in the all-out round of Camden wide elections in 1998.  

Once I was slightly contemptuous of Master Dickie the Defector and Sidney chided me - John he pointed out had, somewhat decently, seen out his term of office to 1998 and then moved ward to become a Labour Councillor in the Haverstock Ward.  It was John’s later 2003 resignation as a Councillor in this ward (due to work at the BBC) that led to the by-election that saw the triumphant election of the formidable Liberal Democrat Councillor Jill Fraser.  

Sidney would chuckle “I was simply John’s successor - but his second resignation in 2002 led to Jill success.”  Sidney even suggested years later that if it hasn’t been for John Dickie history might have been very different and Jill Fraser would not have been the first Liberal Democrat Mayor of Camden in 2006

A few years later Councillor Simpson defected from the Liberal Democrats to Labour. Flick and Keith were very upset by the defection so it was to Louise and Sidney's I retreated one evening as the fresh faced parliamentary candidate to get some advice.  

Sidney was clear: "I tend to put rubbish in a bag outside my door and think no more about it."  

It’s worth recalling that of course, when Sidney was elected in 1998 he was already 74 years of age.  In 2002, having served the full four years he decided to stand down and Louise stood (alas unsuccessfully) to succeed him on the council.

Whilst we are in the vein of by-elections, I clearly remember the resignation in 2008 of Hampstead Town councillor Mike Greene, this time a Conservative.  The local branch gathered two days after the news in Mary and Nigel's house just up the road.  Sidney sat quietly at the back for most of the meeting.  We got on to discussing the themes of the campaign - what, Janet Grauberg asked, did we think would be the key issues that would trouble the electorate?  For the back of the room Sidney boomed “Georgia” – “people would want to know the Liberal Democrat stance on the Russian suppression and interference in Georgia.”  I, and others, hid our snigger.  

The following week I was in Wedderburn Road going door to door espousing the merits of Liberal Democrat candidate Linda Chung and her campaign to save Post Offices, Libraries, the Police Station and Community Centres and the first question I got? What is your party's stance with regard to Georgia.  I reported this immediately to Sidney who chuckled with a certain pride.  

He rather perceptively asked what the next resident had asked about and I confessed that that too was international - they wanted to know about Israel Palestine.  “What did you tell them?” Sidney enquired, “did you stick to the line?”  And yes I had.

Let me explain, many years before Sidney gave me a crash course in handling the over educated voters of Hampstead.
1.    know where each country was and know the difference, for example, between Dr Congo and Congo Brazzaville
2.    understand the impotence of the UN over most issues
3.    support Europe and NATO and
4.    have a convincing answer on the Israel Palestine conflict

It was good advice and got me through 10 years as a candidate.

In 2009 and 2010 I did a research trip to Israel and Palestine and as I came back I was virtually stripped searched at the airport.  Sidney asked “What had I got in my luggage that caused such concern?”  
Well the security had found the jars of honey that I was bringing back for Louise.  “Was that it?” laughed Sidney.  

Well, I said, as it was the land of milk and honey the honey was for Louise and I couldn’t bring milk so I brought for Sidney some of the land Ahava Dead Sea Mineral Mud.  I still have some left over to this day.

23 Wentworth Mansions was a frequent place for me the energetic candidate with Sidney's advice and Louise's catering and organisation.  I was frequently bounding up the steps and one day Sidney was also walking up, but a little slower. I caught him on the bend of the stairs – “Have the workmen finished? What do the new American southern style kitchen shutters look like?” “The answer is simple” said Sidney, "they look great, first because they do look great, but also and crucially because Louise likes them and is delighted.”  

“So,” he declared to me in hushed tones, “we are all delighted.”

And this revealed to me the strength of the partnership that was and is and in my mind always will be Louise and Sidney.  

It was a high class Hampstead political version of buy one get one free - but this was a superb offer as in fact with Louise's catering (triple decker sandwiches, her organisation of telling rotas and leaflet deliveries, and the constantly cheery and positive outlook,

this combined with the steadfastness of Sidney, his principles over free Libraries and no charging for The Ponds, combined with his cultural depth, his gravitas and his immovable loveliness and wicked glint in his eye - I always felt that far from getting one of this impressive double act for free I always felt you were getting the contribution of five or six 'ordinary folks'.

Mentioning the Ponds, I must report that at the 2005 public meeting at Hampstead Old Town Hall Sidney spoke from his seat in the middle of the raked seating "l’m sorry Madam Chairman,” declaimed Sidney, “until you change your mind to OUR view that the Ponds should be free, you are wrong.”  This lead to an immediate response from the Superintendent of Hampstead Heath, Simon Lee, that regardless of the views the elocution of the points from the public are very clear. To which someone shouted out “He's not a member of the public. He's former-councillor Malin.”

Some years later I found myself on the Management Committee of the Heath itself and there was a significant consultation taking place about arts and culture on the Heath - the Table and Chair being perhaps the most successful and memorable.  In the back of the proposed documentation was the list of consultees and it said Councillors and former councillors of Hampstead Town Ward.  One of the City Aldermen asked if it was really necessary to consult the former councillors as well as the current ones to which Simon replied, “I don't think you have met Sidney Malin.”

One final point: Despite his advanced years, despite all he had seen, travelled, experienced, Sidney was no hangover, figure from a past era.  Today we may say they don't make his like any more and he was one-off - but Sidney was a liberal and a progressive, and a modern thinking man.  I recall his congratulatory phone call when Russell and I got engaged to be married after the law was changed - never before has Mazeltov been so sonorously and warmly boomed down a phone line.  

And when I asked him about his own family I remember well his comment “If my grandfather could change his name from Malinsky to Malin to fit in all those years ago - then I don't see the problem with Adam becoming Vajrin to reflect his Buddhist faith.”

I have simply been the happy narrator for this little Act, scene, this small snapshot appearance of Sidney on the Camden political stage - I feel like the dog in Shakespeare in Love - trying to get attention.  But Sidney is unmistakably the Star of the Show - I am very happy and indeed honoured to look fondly up in awe and appreciation.

But before I close this scene allow me to thank my co-conspirators on and off stage as it were in drawing these notes together:

•    Linda Chung, Keith Moffitt and Russell Eagling who are here
•    Janet Grauberg, Baroness Sue Garden, Nick Russell, Tom Simon, Lord Monroe and Lady Palmer, Peter Mair, Patrica Hutton, Ann Ward, Hyam and Vivienne Joffe, Elizabeth Stanton-Jones, Anton Obholzer, Philip Moser and many many more.  

Louise, David, and Vajrin may I, on behalf of the Liberal Democrats across London and Camden, and on behalf of the voters of Hampstead Town – may I say to you with heartfelt passion and considerable fondness – “may his memory be a blessing to you all.”

Ed Fordham.