Tributes have been paid to former Holland with Boston MP Sir Richard Body who has died at the age of 90.
Sir Richard was elected in March 1966 and was the constituency MP until May 1997, when he switched to the newly created Boston and Skegness seat, holding that until he stepped down aged 74 in 2001.
Famously Eurosceptic and anti-hanging, Sir Richard was also a prominent campaigner against use of chemicals in farming, appearing on TV farming programmes and writing books on the issue long before the environmental movement and organic farming became popular.
He was at the forefront of a successful campaign to bring rogue gangmasters to heel – and stop exploitation of workers – by introducing a licensing system.
A farmer and pig breeder himself, Sir Richard was a great friend to South Holland’s smallholders and a fierce defender of constituents who sought help in troubled times.
Former South Holland District Council chairman Francis Biggadike said: “Sir Richard was a very sincere and genuine person who did a lot of good work for his constituents. He could talk to the ordinary person, there was no hesitation with him, he could speak to anybody and he would listen to what you had to say. He did a lot of good things in a quiet sort of way and didn’t always get recognised at the time.”
Coun Biggadike lost a young relative in a tragic road accident at Fosdyke Bridge, a notorious spot for fatal accidents, and says it was Sir Richard who put a bill through Parliament to have the bridge widened to save lives.
MP John Hayes said: “Sir Richard gave great service to Lincolnshire and his country. He would always fight for people who were less well off. He was a figure from another age in his style while his principles and values were timeless.
“He was a prophet in respect of the European Union and he realised what could happen, and realised long before others that at some point we would need to escape. Thankfully he lived to see the referendum and I am only sorry he didn’t live to see our final departure.”
Lord Taylor of Holbeach, now Government Chief Whip in the House of Lords, was Sir Richard’s aide when he was first elected for the area in 1966.
He said: “Sir Richard was a Whip’s nightmare but in the finest tradition of parliamentary government. He believed that it was the duty of an MP to represent all those who lived in the constituency without favour to their background or status. He was a great man, with strong Christian principles who with his wife Marion, who shared his commitment here, provided a great example to all in public life.”
Sir Richard was born in Buckinghamshire and educated at Reading School. He was offered a place at Cambridge University, which he didn’t take up, and did National Service with the RAF, serving in India.
He became a barrister in 1949, was Conservative MP for Billericay from 1955-59 and married Marion Graham in 1959 – Marion had worked with the Bletchley Park codebreakers and one of the first people to know the Second World War was over.
Sir Richard leaves family including Lady (Marion) Body, son Richard, daughter Jane and grandchildren Edmund and Rowland. There will be private funeral service and a thanksgiving service will follow.
Donations via www.abwalker.co.uk or 0118 9573650 can be made in Sir Richard’s memory and will go to The Royal Institute for the Blind, Talking Books and Compassion in World Farming.
Lincolnshire Free Press and Spalding Guardian reporter Lynne Harrison knew Sir Richard well and writes:
Sir Richard Body knew who he was and what he believed in.
He was an absolutely fearless conviction politician and that was one of many reasons why I respected him so much.
Sir Richard would sometimes say he wouldn’t climb “the greasy pole”, as he called it, because a ministerial or shadow post meant he would always have to vote with his own Party Whip – unless it was a free vote – or resign.
Sir Richard voted according to his beliefs, sometimes going against his own party when the path of least resistance would have been the easy option or the one best suited to a career MP.
I first met Sir Richard in 1979, interviewed him many times over the years and regarded him as a friend.
Once, when we were seated opposite at dinner, a joy-filled Richard spent what seemed to be hours studying a puddings menu.
Eventually he spotted I was giggling, lowered the menu from his eyes and said: “This is the only time I’m indecisive.”
In the 80s, Sir Richard was set upon by muggers as he walked to his flat in London.
He was kicked in the face, losing the sight in one eye and his other eye was damaged. The effects of that attack grew worse as Sir Richard aged and his sight gradually failed. He forgave his attackers straight away ... and bravely carried on with life as though nothing had happened.