Tributes to Marian Border, Liberal Democrat councillor and campaigner, who has died

December 18, 2016 4:57 PM

Marian was a wonderful campaigner, winning her council seat in central Gosforth in 1980 from the Tories and holding it for many years until Lembit Opik (later MP) took over. She continued working hard for the party thereafter till her illness prevented her from taking an active role. Back in the late 1970s she was a member of the Liberal Party's home affairs panel working closely with Simon Hughes who came north to campaign to help win her seat. Her win in 1980 was very important for us putting us in a strong position to make further gains in 1982 when the boundaries changed - John, Lord Shipley

Marian Border spent her years on Newcastle City Council keeping her seat Liberal in some of the most difficult years in the movement's history. When I first met her, in 1990, I sensed a formal, steady, almost matriarchal, character - and I was afraid! Despite my big, fancy marketing job and energy for liberalism, I'd tend to feel like a schoolboy listening to a lesson on how to do politics properly like a grown-up. A conversation with Councillor Border was never about the trivial, always accurate in content and grammar - and a master class in local politics. Though she never sought to preach or judge, her intimate knowledge of the streets of her South Gosforth ward and its people - the helpful, the grateful and the troublemakers - has served as a case study for my entire political career.

Her surprise decision to not re-stand in 1992 led directly to my candidature - but initially it had to be kept a secret. The Parliamentary elections in April of that year would be closely followed by local elections in May. Somehow, we managed to slip my nomination in at the height of the General Election, and the Tories didn't notice. Had they done so, we'd probably have lost. Instead, the element of surprise wrong-footed them and improved our chances.

Marian worked stoically throughout the campaign. Her endorsement was priceless in a ward accustomed to her record of action, and unfamiliar with a pushy young marketing executive from Procter & Gamble with a funny name nobody could spell. We won by 50 votes, fractionally ahead of the Conservatives. Without Marian's backing, it would have been a different story. Thereafter, we eventually gained the other two seats and made the ward fully Liberal Democrat until it was reorganised into the seats in Gosforth which the Liberal Democrats still hold.

Marian had defended her seat in the darkest years for liberalism. She served for over a decade and did so purely for the sake of the public. The financial rewards were miniscule and the workload great. Her example taught me how to approach the responsibilities of public service. In my political career, I've made more noise than Marian, and I've made more mistakes - and sometimes made a difference too. I wouldn't have had the chance to do any of that as and when I did, without Marian's sage intervention and selfless ability to hand on the reigns to her ward. I was lucky to get elected and honoured to follow a Councillor who defined what it means to be a local champion in a city ward. Marian's was a life well lived, even more for others than for herself. - Lembit Öpik - South Gosforth Liberal Democrat Ward Councillor, 1992-1997.

Marian was a kind and gentle lady - always treating officers with understanding and respect, as I well knew when I was Women's Issues Officer and she was one of the Councillors on the Committee. But she also had a good measure of solid stainless steel in her character and fought hard against any form of injustice. She brought a very highly intelligent and well-argued case to any debate.

I last saw her when I would give her a lift home after working for Ron Beadle's election at the Rugby Club. Despite the onset of her illness, she was kindness and charm itself. I shall remember her with great fondness for all her many skills, talents and attributes - Liz Langfield

Marian chaired one of my early interview panels at her home in Gosforth about twenty years ago, the interview consisted of tea, cakes and a general discussion of family and social conscience within politics. She helped some of my constituents in her capacity as a J.P. signing affidavits etc

An example of liberalism in its true contexts. She will be missed - Cllr Ian Graham, Lord Mayor of Newcastle 2015-16, Castle

Marian chaired my interview panel when I was thinking of standing for Council the first time.

I met her on the streets of Gosforth many times and she was always interested and happy to advise. Lovely lady.

She is still mentioned by people in the part of my ward which she represented - Cllr Nick Cott, West Gosforth

Marian similarly was very kind and encouraging when I first joined the local party in 1997-8 and was a source of good advice and wisdom when I became a councillor. I agree with Liz that behind a kindly demeanour was a formidable intellect and a commitment to liberalism and public duty. We owe a particular debt to people like Marian who sustained the party through its leanest post war years - Cllr Greg Stone, North Heaton

I didn't know Marian as well as some, but did meet her at her home once and at various party events. She struck me as a feisty woman of principle, with a keen intellect as others have said. Sad news - Steve Psallidas


So sad to hear about Marian. Her last few years were not good ones.
She was a fantastic Councillor who was so good and helpful to me when I was first elected and I learned so much from her - Cllr Jackie Slesenger, West Gosforth

I had the privilege of being Marian's election agent - everything that has been so generously said by colleagues was true. She lost her husband at too young an age but gently encouraged her daughter Sally and especially son-in-law Tony (Tyne and Wear county councillor) into Liberalism. She was completely committed to the area and the people she represented, but also to principles of equality and diversity- she supported the Tyne and Wear Racial Equality Council and helped our late mutual friend Osa re-establish his multicultural arts agency Shakers and Movers. We did lots of candidate selection interviews in her house in those days - not that we had too many target seats to recruit to.

She was also indirectly responsible for one of my cornier election leaflet slogans - "Cross the Border X" on a representation of a ballot paper. Happy memories - Cllr David Faulkner, Fawdon

I met Marian nearly 38 years ago when I joined the Liberal Party in Gosforth. I remember going to meetings in her home, she was always welcoming and friendly, but you also realised that she was intelligent and caring. Her advice to me was to always write press releases out in full as journalists didn't usually have time to do the research needed to make a story complete.

When I was co-opted onto a City Council Committee on behalf of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in the early 1980s Marian was very helpful as I'd never been on such a committee before. I remember not knowing where to sit and nearly sitting in the vice chairs' seat and Marian gently guided me to another seat before I upset a Labour Councillor. During my first meeting she explained how the committee worked and I was really grateful for her help - Cllr Pauline Allen, Parklands

Matrian Border 11th July 1929 - 12th December 2016 "I've got Alzheimer's but it hasn't got me"

Marian Border 2016