Obituary: Lord Winstanley

Cyril Smith
Sunday 18 September 2011 11:00

Michael Platt Winstanley, politician, broadcaster, physician and writer: born Nantwich, Cheshire 27 August 1918; Resident Surgical Officer, Wigan Infirmary 1945; Surgical Specialist, RAMC 1946; general practitioner, Umston, Manchester 1948-66; Medical Officer, Royal Ordnance Factory, Patricroft 1950-66; Treasury Medical Officer and Admiralty Surgeon and Agent 1953-66; television and radio broadcaster 1957-93; cricket columnist, Manchester Evening News 1964-65, weekly column 1970-76; MP (Liberal) for Cheadle 1966-70, for Hazel Grove 1974; created 1975 Baron Winstanley; Chairman, Countryside Commission 1978-80; married 1945 Nancy Penney (one son, marriage dissolved 1952), 1955 Joyce Woodhouse (one son, one daughter); died 18 July 1993.

MICHAEL WINSTANLEY not only had his eye on the ball as a politician but also had an eye for the ball in sport.

I first met him some 40 years ago when I told him he would never win a seat in parliament as a Liberal, and he often boasted that while I tried in those days to convert him to Labour it was he that won the conversion tussle. He was determined to be a member of parliament and he was. He was determined to be a Liberal member of parliament and he was.

In the House of Commons, in the late Sixties, he was the Liberal party's 'nightwatchman', for Mike Winstanley was one of those people who could manage with but two or three hours sleep, so whilst the rest of our small band of MPs were at home in bed Winstanley would be on the Commons benches, keeping the flag of Liberalism flying. Indeed he kept that flag flying for most of his life.

He was probably the only MP that had a bill passed to allow him to serve as one. For it was discovered after his 1974 election that he held some remote office of profit under the crown which legally disqualified him from being elected. Parliament retrospectively legislated to remove the obstacle. He was a medical practitioner and so quite naturally spoke on health matters in both houses, but his interests and knowledge were far wider than that. He had a brain and an intelligence well above average and he used them both.

I shared an office with him at the House of Commons, and I witnessed at first hand his very hard work, his diligence and his total devotion to his constituency of Cheadle as it then was, Hazel Grove as it now is. He polled an absolutely massive vote, winning with it at one time (in 1966 and February 1974), losing with it at another (September 1974). He lost with three times the vote that most MPs win with.

Winstanley was a very talented man. He was a very good cricketer and indeed he captained a local team in Rochdale (Castleton Moor) and often turned out with a celebrity XI for charity matches. He was a very able table tennis and tennis player, and a good golfer.

He also had musical talent, I even heard him play the bagpipes, though not appreciating it at the time. He was a writer as well as a reader and in his day he was a considerable influence in the Liberal party not least on the issue of who should be the leader.

A very capable speaker and broadcaster for many years, he was extremely proud of his This is your Right programme with Granada Television. He had, in that role, probably the finest consumer television programme ever made. From 1986 he was a Deptuy Pro-Chancellor of Lancaster University. By any measurement he was extremely talented and a real 'all- rounder'. He was always loyal to his party and a great campaigner, extremely polite, but intolerant of incompetence. He had a great sense of humour and was a man who could and did easily identify with people. He had a capacity for hard work and a determination to succeed. His conversion of people to the habit of voting Liberal is still evident in Hazel Grove to this day. His service, both as an MP and as a peer, made a great contribution to the political life of Britain, and his death is a loss in real terms. Yet he would not have wanted people to mourn and grieve. He would have been pleased that they noticed, but he was so very down to earth that he would then want them to get on with living.

He was a family man, proud of his children and dear wife, Joy. It was a privilege and an honour to know Michael Winstanley and to serve alongside him, and the world is most certainly a better place for his having been here.

(Photograph omitted)

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