I FIRST met Stephen Milligan at the Oxford Union in the late 1960s, writes Robert Jackson. Already peering owlishly from behind thick spectacles, he developed young the manner which stayed with him for the rest of his life: earnest, inquiring, a little tentative and ready to defer to the ideas of others, but firm in his attachment to facts, logic, and open-mindedness.
As a journalist, he enjoyed the opportunities which that profession gives able young people to enjoy the facilitations of the great. As the Economist man in Brussels in the mid-1970s he communicated to his friends the fun and excitement of being courted by Roy Jenkins, then President of the European Commission.
But as he grew older he wanted more and more to leave the ringside seat for the ring itself. He was one of the 'political virgins' who flirted with the SDP when it was launched, and he nearly stood as one of its candidates for the European Parliament. Here his tentativeness stood him in good stead, and in the end he did not take the plunge into politics until the late 1980s, and into the Conservative Party.
Perhaps surprisingly, Stephen blossomed as a constituency MP. He loved explaining things, and he was good at it. He also had the journalist's genuine interest in what people had to say. I spoke at a supper club in his consituency last November, and it was clear that he had made many friends at Eastleigh, and was both admired and genuinely liked by them.
Underneath the gregariousness he was, one sensed, a lonely man. Now he has met a lonely end. The circumstances should not be allowed to obscure his character, his achievements, and his promise.