Obituary: Lord Winstanley

Click to follow
The Independent Online
MICHAEL WINSTANLEY's political abilities led him into a relationship with Granada with the start of the social action programme This is Your Right, writes David Plowright (further to the obituary by Sir Cyril Smith, 19 July). He and I were strong believers in broadcasting as a tool of democracy, and when he lost his seat in Cheadle in 1970 he seemed the perfect choice for the programme.

It was a programme explaining the benefits of the Welfare State to those who found the system confusing. His concern was that the needy got the help they were entitled to, and his dedication was such that 90 per cent of the work we did never actually got on to the screen - we insisted on answering every inquiry sent to the programme. I used to say he was a very good constituency MP, and his answer was you had to be if you were a Liberal. It was the same energy he gave to his work as a constituency MP that was carried through into broadcasting.

Winstanley was a stout defender of regionalism in broadcasting, believing that the BBC should be a national as well as a metropolitan service. He served on regional councils of the BBC in the old days, and objected quite strongly to going to London for discussions on regional broadcasting policy. He believed that programme makers who committed themselves to living in a region would automatically absorb that region's interest and make programmes that reflected its heritage, its political mood and its social change. They would not necessarily be better than London-made programmes, but they would be different.

Winstanley was a spokesman for the Liberal Party on broadcasting affairs, and was a champion of the development of independent production in the regions. Once he saw the changes of the 1990 Broadcasting Act and its effect on ITV, he lent his weight to the call for development of independent production in the

regions. Above all he was a man impatient with pretension and bureaucratic humbug. He had a great sense of humour and huge versatility, whether it was playing the bagpipes, writing articles, broadcasting or playing a variety of sports - all with an emphasis on championing the aspirations of north-western teams be it rugby or football. He himself was a very able cricketer and, as he got older, golfer. He and I spent much time sailing together, putting to rights many broadcasting affairs as we did so. He was a great friend, and a true advocate of north-western broadcasting.