THE resumed inquest into the death of David Regan ended yesterday with a verdict of suicide. The 55-year-old Professor of Local Government and head of the Department of Politics at Nottingham University died from carbon monoxide poisoning on 25 July 1994 in his garage on the university campus.
In six letters he left to friends and prominent public figures, Regan expressed his anger and despair about the way he felt the university was being run. He had voiced his dismay over a number of decisions made by the university's management group in the last year or two, including the notice to vacate his house on campus served on him by the university.
Regan was appointed Francis Hill Professor of Local Government at Nottingham in 1978 after working as a lecturer and senior lecturer at the London School of Economics. There he had studied, achieving a BSc (Economics) First Class and a PhD. For his PhD he had researched political parties and local government in New Zealand. Despite his glittering start his publications came more slowly though he was the author of a well-received book Local Government And Education (1978). At Nottingham he threw himself into teaching and administration including university committees and soon became a well-known figure. After becoming head of Politics in 1991 he fought hard for resources for his relatively small department but he felt he and his colleagues were undervalued. He was popular with his students whom he tried to get to know
Among his many interests on campus was the Defence Diners' Club, which brought town and gown together to discuss defence issues. Although the university was the main focus of Regan's professional interest, he made many outside contributions.
Regan was seen by some as a reactionary but by himself simply as an upholder of traditional values and institutions. Himself a product of grammar school education, he supported selective education with a good scholarship system to help those, like himself, from families of modest means. He was not against innovation, however, and played a leading role in the setting up of the City Technology College in Nottingham. He was a member of the Schools Examination and Assessment Council and the National Curriculum Council and an adviser to successive education ministers. A strong supporter of the police, who on one occasion intervened physically to help a policeman in Newark, he opposed the Sheehy Committee's proposals on police pay and conditions. He was a guest lecturer at the Police College. Although he was against the ordination of women clergy by the Church of England, as a father of three daughters he backed higher education for women.
While he was a member of the Bruges Group, rejecting a federal Europe, Regan emphasised that he was not against British membership of the European Community. He had publicly supported the restoration of German unity. He attracted most controversy by his strong advocacy of Nato and his passionate opposition to Soviet-style Communism. In Nottingham he was for some years chairman of ONE - Oppressed Nations of Europe - which brought together the local communities from the Baltic states, Poland, the Ukraine and elsewhere. He went beyond conventional views on the Soviet empire and defended the right of the peoples of the Soviet Union, as well as those of East Europe, to achieve independence from Moscow. For this he was attacked as a Cold War warrior. Some professional Slavists and Kremlin watchers attacked him as an amateur.
After his predictions came true, and the Soviet empire collapsed, some hated him even more. In the former Soviet bloc, especially the Baltic states and former Czechoslovakia, he was a welcome visitor and adviser. He helped to give East European academics the opportunity to spend time in Nottingham and elsewhere. His wife Dorothy supported him in his many activities.
Whatever his future at Nottingham University - and this was something which had preyed upon his mind - David Regan had a bright future ahead of him either in education or in other fields. Although not a member of the Conservative Party he could have expected to gain a seat in the Lords under Conservative auspices. His strange going is therefore seen by some colleagues as a deliberate act to draw attention to what he considered to be wrong in the running of Nottingham University.
Just as he will have an honourable place in the annals of the London School of Economics and Nottingham University, he will no doubt also have one on the lists of enemies held by the Communist secret police of the countries of the former Eastern Bloc.
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