I recently learned the sad news that my friend and political mentor Rodney Willett had died. He'd been ill for quite some time but, of course, that doesn't make it any better.
It's no exaggeration to say that, without Rodney, I wouldn't have become so politically interested and motivated. We encountered each other online several years ago and teamed up on a political website along with several other contributors. The difficulty was making it more than a few people shouting in the wind and Rodney's ill-health, along with several other factors, prevented our dreams becoming a reality. However, I'm deeply indebted to Rodney for helping shape my ideas and allowing me a platform to speak long before I had anything useful to say.
In April, having seen his bad news, I emailed to say that I'd passed my viva and to thank him for his influence as I prepared to stand for Yorkshire First in the local elections. When he responded I was deeply, deeply touched by his words. In fact, as I recall, that email made me cry.
He did offer to exchange emails and ideas with me but, whether it was right or not, I didn't want to take him up on that. I felt he had far more important things to do with his remaining time so I left him alone, and I do hope he interpreted that the right way. His friendship and his advice meant a lot to me over the years and I never felt the age gap between us or the physical distance. It's very rare you find people who are truly on your wavelength and I feel privileged that I got to witter on about politics with him quite as often as I did.
In his email he told me that he was devoting time to creating an online companion to his wife's novels (Marcia Willett) and I'd take it as a personal kindness if some of you glanced over that blog. You do get a flavour of Rodney's personality from his prose and he was a very engaging and generous man. I owe him a lot.