RIP Susan Taylor, Liberal and Liberal Democrat stalwart

October 23, 2014 10:53 PM
By Rebecca Taylor in Liberal Democrat Voice

In the early hours of Thursday 2nd October 2014, long term Liberal activist Susan Annemarie Taylor (née Annemarie Susanne Goldschmidt) quietly passed away at the grand old age of 95 in Newcastle.
Susan was known in South London as one half of a fearsome Liberal duo with husband Brian who passed away in August 2013. Along with Brian she joined the Liberal Party in 1955 (having previously voted Conservative if rumours are true).
They set about persuading the good voters of Bromley that Liberal was the way to go, played a role in several famous London by-elections including Orpington in 1962 and Bermondsey in 1983, and toured the country in their trusty caravan helping Liberals all over the place include son Michael in Yorkshire and daughter Wendy in Newcastle.
Susan ran a fearsome committee room on election day. Woe betide any activist who thought they could have more than a quick sit down and a cup of tea; Susan would soon send them out again with leaflets to deliver or doors to knock until the polls shut.
Despite the years advancing, Susan remained dedicated to the party. Up until her 80s until her eyesight failed, she volunteered once a week in LibDem HQ membership department. One year I received my membership card with a post-it note on it saying "fancy seeing your card, lots of love Grandma". Even into her 90s she still helped out at election time, stuffing envelopes, attending Liberal Democrat events including party conference, and motivating other activists and giving them advice (whether they asked for it or not!).
Although not as socially Liberal as her husband (she wanted gay couples to have the legal rights marriage confers, but not call it marriage; Brian disagreed), she was a firm believer in equality and not afraid to speak out against those who offended her sense of equality. She did not hesitate to tell people off loudly on London buses in the 1950s and 60s when they refused to pay their fares to Black bus conductors.
Given her personal history, her vehement and unapologetic anti-racism was perhaps not surprising. Susan arrived in the UK aged 14 in 1934 as a Jewish schoolgirl from Aachen, Germany whose parents wanted her out of harm's way. She attended the Quaker school in Saffron Walden and learnt English so well that few people realised it was not originally her native tongue.
Susan's parents Otto and Greta Goldschmidt had moved to Belgium before the Second World War broke out although ended up they ended up separated during the war after fleeing Brussels in the wake of the Nazi advance. Her parents both survived although narrowly as lorries were lined up in Brussels near the end of the war to take the remaining Jews as the Allies approached, but were then used instead by the Nazis to escape. Most of her family were able to flee Germany before the Nazi killing machine caught up with them, primarily by emigrating to the UK or USA, except an aunt who died in Treblinka and a cousin in Izbecka.
Susan trained as a nurse during the war and it was during her medical training that she met Brian, then a student dentist, in the gas extraction room at Guy's Hospital. They got engaged during the war and married afterwards in 1946. The newlyweds settled in Hayes in Kent where they opened a dental surgery and had three children. When Brian died in 2013, they had been married for 67 years and she missed him terribly during the last year of her life.
Susan (and Brian) lived long enough to see their granddaughter(me) become an MEP in 2012, although they were by then too frail to travel to Brussels to see me in Parliament. However in the pecking order of the party, even as an MEP, I still got a less prominent seat than my grandparents at party conference; they had special reserved seats at the front of the hall as well as life passes to conference after many years as conference stewards.
Susan did however manage to take advantage of one perk of my role as an MEP by coming with me to one of the Queen's garden parties at Buckingham Palace last year (Susan was a big fan of Her Majesty, while Brian was a Republican).
Susan remained alert to politics even over the last year when her health was failing, telling me in the summer that she didn't want Scotland to leave the UK, her adopted country whose nationality she held with pride and perhaps meant more to her than many native born Brits.
Susan is survived by three children, five grandchildren and one great grandchild.

This obituary was written by her grandaughter Rebecca Taylor, a member of Islington LibDems and the former MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber.