Obituaries: David Gilroy Bevan

The first word that comes to mind when one thinks of David Gilroy Bevan is boisterous. That is in no way to suggest that he was a roisterer: he was, in fact, a teetotaller. But he was a man who campaigned in the General Election of 1979 in a red bus, followed by a fire engine which, he said, was to carry away bodies unburied by local authorities during Lord Callaghan's winter of discontent in 1978, and who went on to win the supposedly safe Labour seat of Birmingham, Yardley with a majority of over 2,000 in a general election year in which most opinion polls predicted a Conservative defeat.

Gilroy Bevan began his political career at a tender age: he was only 14 when he went canvassing his neighbours in the Conservative interest. Over the years, he acquired a quite exceptional knowledge of how local authorities worked (he served on Birmingham City Council and later the West Midlands County Council from 1959 to 1981); and it was this knowledge that he put to good use in winning Yardley. His achievement can be compared to that of Charles Morrison, who - totally against the then odds - won Devizes for the Tories in 1963 and Teddy (now Sir Teddy) Taylor who served as MP for the same party in the working-class constituency of Glasgow from 1964 to 1979, when the seat was so radically altered by the Boundaries Commission that even a heroically active candidate could not hold it.

One of the great things about Gilroy Bevan was how much he enjoyed the mundane, and often simply boring, business of local government. The combination of flamboyance and assiduity in his character appealed mightily to his constituents: in 1983 he even won applause from them by declaring that the only thing he had against Yardley was the fact that it lacked a yacht basin.

It was, alas for him, the exuberance of his nature which denied him governmental office. Whips - and ministers or shadow ministers - are invariably consulted on appointments. William Whitelaw considered Gilroy Bevan not reliable enough even to enjoy the pleasures and pains of being a Parliamentary Private Secretary - the lowest form of governmental life; he was just too difficult.

Whenever his party - quite understandably - wanted to fudge an issue, Gilroy Bevan opposed them. He supported capital punishment in 1981, opposed sanctions on the old South Africa throughout its existence, and managed to hold Yardley until his defeat in 1992.

But he had a life outside politics. Born 68 years ago, the son of an evangelical minister and his equally religiously uncompromising wife, David Gilroy Bevan (like Antony Crosland in the Labour Party) went on to defy the austere instincts of his parents. He made a fortune as an estate agent in Birmingham, and purchased a yacht and a house in Spain.

But all the while, he was known for his combination of indulgence, eccentricity and decency. The yacht was an indulgence; his support of a charity devoted to giving teddy bears to deprived children (including two bears given from his own substantial collection); and his essential - if somewhat derided - support of the "Keep Sunday Special" campaign all testified to the essential honour of the man's character.

David Gilroy Bevan sat, for a while, on the Select House of Commons Committee on Transport. But I will lay odds that he never took money for asking a question. To adapt a phrase, "By their words shall ye know them".

Andrew David Gilroy Bevan, estate agent and politician: born 10 April 1928; MP (Conservative) for Birmingham, Yardley 1979-92; married 1967 Cynthia Ann Villiers Boulstridge (one son, three daughters); died 12 October 1996.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor