Tributes paid to former councillor John Macdonald

Rebel councillor remembered

Monday, 14th March — By Richard Osley

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Rebel councillor remembered

THE Town Hall stood for a minute’s silence to remember a former councillor who was at the centre of a mischievous election rebellion in the 1990s.

Former building society manager John Macdonald, who died at the end of last month, reacted to being deselected by the Labour Party by standing against his old colleagues at the 1998 local polls.

His cheeky candidature, registered as “Labour councillor seeking reelection”, led to the party’s votes being split in Swiss Cottage ward.

The Tories benefited by winning a seat for the first time there.

After his departure from the chamber, he remained a close follower of goings-on at the Town Hall and was a prolific letter writer, to the New Journal and others.

In recent weeks, he drew a parallel to similar deselections at a local level in the Labour Party.

At Monday’s full council meeting, there were only a handful of councillors left of Mr Macdonald’s vintage in the chamber, but Labour’s long-serving deputy leader Councillor Pat Callaghan told the room of his rebellious spirit – he would comically yawn through one leader of the opposition’s speech, she said.

“Council meetings were never boring with John,” she said.

“He was a wit, well-read and confident – and you never knew what he was going to come out with, which could provoke acerbic discussion with the opposition.”

She added: “He wouldn’t hold back: with a wicked gleam in his eye, he would hold forth on a subject he knew would provoke raised eyebrows. John, who grew up in relative affluence, was always true to his Labour values.”

Tory deputy leader Councillor Gio Spinella said he would always think of Mr Macdonald’s rebellion against Labour as a warning that even the “smallest of actions” can have unexpected consequences.”

Mr Macdonald won exactly 600 votes when he stood as an independent – a large figure for anybody standing without the backing of a political party.

Cllr Spinella said he would see Mr Macdonald – known for being a keen chess player – at campaign street stalls and that he was willing to appreciate the work of councillors from other parties too.

“He was a man who showed affection, showed interest,” said Cllr Spinella. “Occasionally I would see him at Starbucks in England’s Lane and we exchanged pleasantries. He served. In most cases, councillors get very little for that service – it’s fitting that we remember him as a public servant of Camden Council.”

Lib Dem councillor Tom Simon said: “He was one of the ever present faces in the local community – always ready to stop for a chat about local issues and to share his knowledge of Camden’s political history.

“He maintained a very keen interest in local affairs up until very recently.”

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