JOHN HATCH had many remarkable attributes, not least among them the all-too-rare ability to speak without notes in grammatically correct sentences and paragraphs.
What he said from his place at the back of the back benches in the House of Lords was often the more irritating to those on the government benches and sometimes even to those on his own front bench because of the challenge his firm delivery presented to any proposition he believed to be lacking in logic or merit. And that was a very large proportion of the nostrums which came up for consideration within the area of his wide expertise and knowledge.
What is more he was undeterred by the relatively mild dissent which is all the Lords permit themselves and sat down when he had finished what he wanted to say and not before.
The last speech in the House by Lord Hatch was a seven-minute onslaught on 16 July. The Government made no serious attempt to answer the series of questions he addressed to them on their policy on the invasion of East Timor by Indonesia.
Hatch was born in Stockport in 1917. A Lancastrian brought up in Yorkshire, he went to Keighley Boys' Grammar School. He was a keen sportsman and played and followed cricket and rugby all his life. He graduated from Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and, rejecting military service, became a tutor with the National Council of Labour Colleges and later National Organiser of the Independent Labour Party and a lecturer at Glasgow University.
In 1954 he was appointed head of the Commonwealth Department of the Labour Party and in 1961 he became Director of the Extra-Mural Department of the University of Sierra Leone. From 1964 to 1970 he was the Founder- Director of the African Studies Programme at Houston, Texasand from 1980 until 1982 Director of the Department of Human Relations at Zambia University. He knew most of the present African leaders before they were leaders and he became policy adviser to men he had taught as students. including Julius Nyerere and Kenneth Kaunda, with whom John and his wife Eva stayed on a recent visit to Africa. He was, of course, banned from South Africa for many years.
John Hatch was Commonwealth Correspondent of the New Statesman from 1950 to 1970 and wrote numerous books on Africa, from The Dilemma of South Africa (1953) to Two African Statesmen (1976).
For the last four years Hatch was honorary lecturer in the School of Development Studies at the University of East Anglia. In this latter time he found happiness with his devoted wife Eva. Not that the constant endeavour came to an end, for that was his life and he valued the Lords the more because the shape of his career had kept him out of the Commons and from ministerial office, which he would have filled with distinction.
John Hatch will be missed and remembered as a man of total integrity and of proud devotion to his socialist beliefs. He leaves two sons and four grandchildren from his first marriage.