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Obituary: Ron Huzzard

  • @jeremycorbyn
RON HUZZARD was a pacifist who encapsulated all that is best in the British left and peace movement, adhering to principles of peace, justice and socialism over a lifetime.

In many ways he was unusual for the peace movement: he did not fit the stereotype of sandals and woolly jumpers. His approach was always practical and businesslike. He would clinically explain to numerous meetings the moral case against the use of nuclear weapons and of arms spending, but also the drain on health, education and housing they represent.

Whilst holding strong principles he was very keen on engagement - after the election of Tony Blair as leader of the Labour Party he organised delegations to meet the Shadow Foreign Affairs and Defence teams. Well aware that those who work in the Defence industry can feel that the peace movement is their enemy, he vigorously supported the concept of arms conversion and sought to engage them in debate. He was a proud recipient of the Frank Cousins Peace Award, while the Imperial War Museum recognised his role by recording his life and views as part of an oral history project.

He was born in Hull in 1920, the son of a foreman printer who was an active trade unionist. He too had a lifelong commitment to the trade union movement. He gained his membership of the Mechanical Engineers Institute after studying at night school, and then worked in engineering companies. He joined the Labour Pacifist fellowship during the Second World War; this later became the Labour Peace Fellowship and in 1980, at the resurgence of the peace movement, Labour Action for Peace (LAP).

Huzzard maintained a zeal for activity in his union, the Draughtsmans' Union (Data), later the Union for Manufacturing Science and Finance (MSF), where he argued for peace. A religious man and a Quaker, after his redundancy at the age of 59 he worked full time for five years for the Quaker Commission on Peace. As a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament he brought an incisive mind to branch and National Council meetings.

Meeting Ron Huzzard for the first time was slightly intimidating. He was a smallish man with a direct and clear countenance, well organised and efficient, who got straight to the point and asked pertinent questions that required direct and immediate answers. Various Defence establishment figures found this uncomfortable.

LAP had him as General Secretary from its inception, and the efficiency and single-mindedness of the group were a tribute to him. A keen supporter of the United Nations, Huzzard was in the tradition of his old friends Philip Noel-Baker, Fenner Brockway and Gordon Schaffer in believing in the importance of the a world body for peace. He was appalled by the Gulf War in 1990-91 and its consequences. Just before his death he was distressed that a Labour government should order the bombardment of Iraq and felt it was a betrayal of the principles of the Labour Movement.

Huzzard would write or edit a pamphlet every year for LAP on the UN, the arms race and many other topics. These, and the excellently written LAP Newsletter, sold well. While not well known to the public, LAP has influence within the Labour Party and holds large fringe meetings at the Party Conference.

Despite living in a Tory/Liberal battleground Huzzard helped to ensure Orpington had a strong Labour Party. Somehow he managed to get elected to Bromley Borough Council for the first time in 1968, the worst ever year for Labour electorally; he served until 1982 and then 1986-90.

Ron Huzzard was an efficient and open man of high moral principle. To him, as he once said, if something was morally wrong it could not be politically right.

Ronald William Huzzard, engineer and peace campaigner: born Hull 29 February 1920; married 1952 Rosalie Raymont (one son, one daughter); died Orpington, Kent 30 December 1998.