Obituary: Dame Susan Walker

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Susan Armour Walker, political agent: born Greenock 15 April 1906; Conservative Central Office Agent, Yorkshire 1950-56; Deputy Chief Organisation Officer, Conservative Central Office, 1956-64; CBE 1963; Vice-Chairman, Conservative Party Organisation 1964-68; Vice-Chairman, Women's Royal Voluntary Service 1970-74, Deputy Chairman 1974-77; DBE 1972; died Kelso 11 July 1993.

SUSAN WALKER had already something of a reputation as Conservative Party area agent in Yorkshire when we first met in the Fifties. She had been remarkably successful at winning and holding difficult seats in the region. She began her political career working as an agent in Scotland. This was interrupted by war work but resumed after the war and her tough-minded approach won her the respect of her fellow Scottish agents. Scotland then as now was not the easiest of areas for Conservative agents or workers.

Walker was appointed the party's Deputy Chief Organisation Officer in 1956 and her arrival in Central Office had a salutary effect on the organisation; although not always the most tactful of people, she usually managed to get things going her way. She held this post until 1964 when, following Harold Wilson's defeat of the Conservatives, she was appointed Vice-Chairman of the party. In this position she followed several distinguished women, for example Dame Barbara Brooke, Lady Kilmuir, Lady Davidson and many others. In 1966 she was given special responsibility for the organisation of the party. She was succeeded by Katie Macmillan as vice-chairman in 1968. Susan Walker was the first professional agent to be vice-chairman of the party.

Walker was very efficient, very Scots, very direct, very professional. She never quite lost the distrust for the amateur volunteers who make up the vast bulk of the Conservative Party, but nevertheless was able to get the best out of them and make them work harder than ever.

Off duty she was a warm and friendly person. The flat which she shared in Marsham Court, Westminster, with Mervyn Pike, member for Melton Mowbray, was the scene of many a cheerful party where political gossip, anecdotes and scandal were happily exchanged. She did not much care for the European Idea. She had somewhat limited ideas outside her own political sphere and actively discouraged Tory women from becoming involved with plans for joining the European Community as she believed that this would distract them from the serious business of winning elections at home, a misconception still alas not uncommon in Conservative agents today.

On retiring from Central Office at the age of 62, she joined the Women's Royal Voluntary Service where her organisational abilities were quickly recognised and she became vice-chairman, a position she held for six busy and successful years from 1969 to 1975.

Susan Walker had a sharp and shrewd brain, a good Scottish grammar-school education, a forceful personality and a clear, concise way of expressing her opinions. Her help in drawing up the agenda for the Conservative Women's National Advisory Committee and conference was invaluable as I realised when I had the honour to be chairman of that committee and that conference in 1967.