Obituary: Sir Michael Shersby

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When Michael Shersby first won Uxbridge for the Conservative Party in a by-election in 1972 (after the death of the redoubtable journalist MP Charles Curran) it was thought to be surprising: for the seat was marginal. Over the years, however - such was his skill as a constituency member, such his charm and assiduity, that, without any significant help from the Boundary Commissioners, he had by 1989 converted a Labour marginal into a Conservative seat where he had a majority of 15,970. In the 1992 general election Shersby had a majority of more than 13,000. Last week however, in the great Labour landslide of 1 May, Uxbridge became marginal again, albeit Tory marginal: Shersby's majority was only 724.

Over the years, therefore, Shersby's achievement, viewed in constituency terms, was Herculean. Nevertheless he found time effectively to pursue a multitude of other interests. He enjoyed ministerial office only briefly. He was on the so-called payroll vote as unpaid Parliamentary Private Secretary to Michael Hesletine in January 1974; and that was all.

His friends thought in 1975 that he would receive some preferment from Margaret Thatcher; but he had declined to support her leadership bid against Edward Heath, and she saw no need to placate the minnows of politics when she felt obliged, for the moment at any rate, to placate the sharks - mainly those who had opposed her in the leadership election.

This did not at all bother Shersby. He was one of those politicians who enjoyed campaigning on specific issues, and supporting specific causes. He was born in 1933 in Middlesex, and educated at the John Lyon School in Harrow: the thought of going to university never entered either his head, nor the head of his father. He earned a living in the sugar trade with Tate and Lyle; and the sugar industry was a besetting concern of his to the end of his life.

He caught the political bug in early manhood. He was elected to Paddington Borough Council in 1959, and to Westminster City Council in 1964; he served as Deputy Mayor of Westminster from 1967 to 1968. Thus, as with many other Conservative MPs of his modest middle-class background, his roots were in local government.

Once in the House of Commons, Shersby spread his wings. He was on the right wing of his party; but his courtly and kindly manner ensured that he never attracted the bitter hostility which many of those who thought like him did. Even when he proposed the most stringent of immigration controls - except for "kith and kin" - there was no such uproar which, say, Enoch Powell attracted.

He was a superb committee man, and sat on many backbench committees, and was on the Speaker's panel. He became involved in the affairs of the Falkland Islands, and was a doughty champion of the cause of the islanders, becoming chairman of the all-party British-Falklands group in 1982, which post he held until his death.

Moreover, he had a passionate interest in the countryside, and formed a close alliance - which developed into a deep friendship - with that most devoted of Tory conservationists, Sir Patrick Cormack. He successfully put through Parliament a remarkable muster of Private Members' Bills on such diverse subjects as gaming (to increase prize money available at bingo), park regulations and copyright. There were many other committees which he served with devotion, but one that might be mentioned is his service on the all-party Esperanto group, between 1976 and 1977.

Michael Shersby was a man of insatiable curiosity, extravagant energy, and boundless dedication. He will be mourned across the political spectrum.

Julian Michael Shersby, politician: born Ickenham, Middlesex 17 February 1933; Secretary, Association of Specialised Film Producers 1958-62; member, Paddington Borough Council 1959-64, Westminster City Council 1964-71; director, Sugar Bureau (British Sugar Bureau) 1966- 67, director-general 1977-88, parliamentary adviser 1988-95; Deputy Lord Mayor of Westminster 1967-68; MP (Conservative) for Uxbridge 1972-97; PPS to Minister of Aerospace and Shipping, DTI 1974; Treasurer, World Sugar Research Organisation 1982-97; member, Speaker's Panel of Chairmen, House of Commons 1983-97, Public Accounts Committee 1983-97; parliamentary adviser, Police Federation 1989-97; Kt 1995; married 1958 Barbara Barrow (one son, one daughter); died London 8 May 1997.

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