A few years ago I gave a training session at Wyboston for target seat candidates on the role of the PPC.  I tried to make it interesting, thought provoking, even different. One of the roles I had on my slides was attending funerals of long standing activists.  The idea aroused some discussion with a couple of those present dismissing the idea, and one person present saying they were going to concentrate on the living only.  Well I would still believe that one of the roles of a PPC is to attend funerals of long standing activists.  Let me explain.

Here in Camden we have a strong and sociable local party – food and drink are a large part of our staple campaign diet – we try to make it fun, we have a scheme whereby if you can’t go, but can afford it, you pay to attend and those less able to afford are given free access.
With this sociability goes a sense of family – this is something I often hear Liberal Democrats talk about up and down the country – well so with family we pay our respects when they pass away.
In Auguest 2007 our Local Party President Lord Tim Garden passed away – his funeral service was being held at the church near where he and Sue had lived and after discussing with Sue, now Baroness Garden of Frognal, we local Lib dem provided a team of ‘ushers’ to help the mourners who were arriving.  So we knew who was who and to make us stand out, and pay our formal respects I decided to get some yellow roses as button holes for the 15 of us.  We were also aware we needed to look right – after all this was Air Marshall The Lord Garden – there were a few folks attending who knew a thing of two about looking right on an occasion.  Jonathan Fryer, one of my fellow ushers, commented “they look great and it gives us a sense of togetherness”.
Not long after a long standing LD activist Laurie Millward died and then-Camden-Cllr Keith Moffitt in conjunction with Laurie’s daughter arranged for mourners present (who were mainly LDs – Laurie had given a lifetime of service fighting not least the 1966 Hull North by-election) – to place a yellow rose on Laurie’s coffin as we each left.
The power of the emotion of those who symbolic use of flowers really struck me then and has stayed with me since.
In Nov 2009 my best friend Neil Trafford was killed in a car crash – we organised a memorial service in Manchester City Hall and working with John Bridges, Dr Jo Crotty and Warrington Liberal Democrats we arranged that all 400 mourners arriving got a yellow carnation button hole to wear during the service. You can see see us wearing them here.
It’s a small gesture – one flower – but it captures the emotion, it’s special, it includes you – such events are often hard to attend and you are not sure who else is going, nor indeed if the family know the extent of the Liberal Democrat commitment of their relative.  I often find them surprised that so many of us are there – they don’t know that being a Liberal Democrat means we know their houses, their tea and coffee drinking habits, we know the stories they tell about their families whilst stuffing envelopes and writing addresses, we know where they went on holiday.  In short they don’t realise that by becoming Liberal Democrats they have joined a family.
So recently, we lost Philip Vince after decades of service to liberalism back to Clement Davies and we wore our yellow roses with Pride.  And yesterday David Bellotti was laid to rest in Bath.  I was planing to attend and was speaking to David’s former ward colleague, the inspirational Katie Hall, and I mentioned our yellow roses thing… Katie took the idea and ran with it at the funeral.  Due to work I was unable to attend, but was really touched to be get a photo of those roses, and then receive a small but incredibly special stream of messages from others who had worn their Liberal Democrat rose with pride.
It started as a line for a training session – that PPCs should or might attend funeral services to show their appreciation of a members activism – but it has become our yellow rose tribute.  David Bellotti was the trigger to export our little meme – let it be the lasting tribute to members of our liberal family.
(One slightly pragmatic and commercial tip – ask a florist for a button holes in advance and they charge you an enhanced fee.  Simply buy nice yellow roses, with closed heads, some scissors and a set of safety pins and you are there and half the price).
So PPCs remember, pay your respects, those activists are your liberal family and make sure that your fellow Liberals know you are there…  We have just had nearly 20,000 new members of the family, let’s share those traditions that value people and say thank you.  A yellow flower – wear it with pride for that day – think if it perhaps as a rosette for the final count.
this article first appeared on Lib Dem Voice the website on 24th June 2015