Political Tributes

Statements released by political leaders, April 21st 2012:

Labour Leader Ed Miliband
“I am very sad to hear of the death of Jack Ashley. He was an outstanding servant of the Labour party and an extraordinary campaigner for equal rights for people with disabilities.

Jack Ashley turned his own tragic experience of losing his hearing into a mission of courage and determination for deaf and disabled people. He was a pioneer as the first deaf MP to sit in Parliament, but he did much more than that.

There are many millions of men and women with disabilities who will have better lives thanks to Jack Ashley. He succeeded in changing the law and in changing attitudes. Anti-discrimination legislation for people with disabilities would not have happened when it did without his tenacity, his campaigning and his support.

Jack Ashley will be missed by his family, his friends and his colleagues in the House of Lords. He led an amazing life and will be remembered with deep affection, profound respect and great admiration.”

Prime Minister David Cameron
“I was saddened to hear about the death of Lord Ashley, who made such a significant contribution to public life.

He was a tireless campaigner for disabled people and had a huge impact, not just through his charity work and pushing for legislation in Parliament, but also in changing attitudes.

It takes characters like Jack, with his extraordinary tenacity, to push for that kind of positive change. He will be sorely missed and my thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown
“Jack Ashley was the greatest champion Britain’s disabled have had.

He was compassionate, direct, forceful and radical. The man who, speaking with the authority of personal experience, took the cause of disabled men and women into the chambers of Parliament and to the heart of government.

He leaves behind a contribution in legislation and policy progress for the causeof tackling disability that will not easily be surpassed.”

David Miliband, Former Foreign Secretary
“I first met Jack Ashley through his family, so the first side of him I saw was warmth and humour. He had a magnificent presence – but one that was warm, welcoming and encouraging rather than intimidating. He had great achievements to his name – but wanted to know your name, your interests, your views. With his remarkable wife Pauline, he provided perspective and inspiration. As time progressed, I came to understand what he had achieved for others as a campaigner. My discussions with him focussed on politics in general not disability policy in particular. He knew that every day that Labour was in opposition was a waste, and every day in government a privilege that should not be wasted. His common sense was born of never forgetting where he came from and what could be achieved. He saw through fraudsters and poseurs, and always asked – will it work and will it make a difference. He made a difference to many people, and that is the best tribute to any life. I know he will be hugely missed, but his achievements and example live on.”

Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock
“No-one who knew Jack Ashley and understood his political pedigree,his genius, his extraordinary sense of purpose doubts that, without his affliction,he would have been – at very least – among the leaders of Labour and deservedly distinguished in such roles. Instead, and with an affliction that could have devastated him, Jack was incomparable and uniquely inspiring:His record as a fighter – and a victor – for justice as a backbench MP was unequalled,his ferocious loyalty to the Labour cause was never bettered,his physical and moral courage – strongly buttressed by his beloved Pauline – was monumental.His life was so productive that it is no exaggeration to say that his work shattered ancient and universal conventions about disability,won rights, and enriched civilisation in ways that emancipated millions and will go on liberating millions more.Anyone who fails to understand the necessity of Parliament and the potency of an MP must remember the name Jack Ashley and realise that he was a builder of democracy as well as freedom.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg
“Lord Ashley’s life is an inspiration to all. His tenacity and courage made this country a better and fairer place for people with disabilities.

He was a great man who has left a great legacy that should never be forgotten.”

Former Home Secretary David Blunkett 
“Jack Ashley was a pioneer who set aside his disability and by doing so forged a path which others, including me, have been able to follow.

By sheer tenacity and latterly the use of technology, he was able to demonstrate that not only could he work on equal terms but achieve a great deal more than most of us in politics are able to boast about.”

Lord Morris of Manchester
“Jack and I lived in close fellowship for over five decades. We campaigned and legislated together on improving the well-being of disabled people and others in special need,” Lord Morris said.

His passing will be mourned by everyone who had the privilege of knowing him. He was a very fine parliamentarian.”

Tribute from Lord Morris of Manchester in House Magazine (pdf)