Tributes to former Bexhill councillor and ex-journalist

Margaret Jones pictured in 2013 SUS-190819-163904001
Margaret Jones pictured in 2013 SUS-190819-163904001

Tributes have been paid to an ex-councillor and former journalist, who died on Saturday (August 17).

Margaret Jones was elected as a LibDem councillor for Rother District Council (RDC) in 1995 and prior to that worked for many years for the press.

She surely ranks as one of the most talented, committed and imaginative councillors to have served Bexhill at Rother District Council and her wisdom and the kindness with which she treated all will be sorely missed

Conor Hill

Cllr Susan Prochak, LibDem district councillor for Robertsbridge, said: “I imagine few knew Margaret Jones’ background when she moved to Little Common in 1987. Fewer would have known her record of successful national campaigns.

“She decided at a very young age to become a journalist and was apprenticed for three years with Home Counties Newspapers.

“As one of the very few women in this field she rose to be one of the most successful journalists covering major political stories, royal overseas tours and then travelling all over the world as a foreign correspondent. She twice won commendations in the Journalist of the Year Awards and as Best Woman Journalist of the Year in the mid-1970s.

“Campaigning was in Margaret’s DNA and when she moved to the Daily Mirror first as a feature writer she subsequently became consumer editor.

“She wrote ‘Wasted Sex’ which was a campaign against the laws that held women back and a publication called ‘Cut your bills’, copies of which went to every Citizens Advice Bureau in the country.

“Margaret continued to work as a freelance journalist after leaving The Mirror, writing regular columns for Woman’s Own, the Evening Standard and the Sunday Telegraph, as well as investigations for the National Consumer Council. After moving to Little Common, Margaret’s work didn’t stop. She served on the BBC’s regional advisory committee, the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Panel for Hastings and Rother Citizens Advice Bureau, chairing it for five years. She was Governor at Bexhill High and Little Common Primary School and served as a member of Bexhill Young People’s Services and the South East Regional Committee of Postwatch.

“The residents of St Stephen’s ward must have recognised what a remarkable woman she was by electing her as a Liberal Democrat on Rother District Council. In 1995 she was voted in as chairman of the council and her chosen charity was the Hastings and Rother Citizens Advice Bureau.

“We were so pleased Margaret recently managed to attend the first Full Council meeting where the newly formed Alliance won the vote to begin the process of establishing a town council for Bexhill.

“Margaret served for eight years as a councillor and her campaigning energy and experience was evident.

“She was the main driving force in setting up the Bexhill Town Forum and the Bexhill Youth Council. As a councillor, there were so many successful projects she was involved in, from the mosaic created by school children for the then very rundown station, to highlighting the dreadful state of Bexhill’s pavements, which led to serious falls and resulted in quite horrific injuries. Another notable achievement was her campaign to save Little Common Library, a project close to her heart as her own grandfather opened a library in Manchester, which is named after him.”

Conor Hill, of behalf of Bexhill and Battle Labour Party, said Bexhill had lost ‘one of its most gifted residents’.

He said: “My own experience of Margaret dates back to my time on the Bexhill Youth Council. Margaret ran this organisation to give young people a voice in our town, and she taught us that rather than just complain about the things we didn’t like, we should roll up our sleeves and positively campaign for change.

“Margaret taught us skills many of us still use today. How to run a campaign successfully, how to lobby officials, how to present a case, and many other skills, including sharing her prowess as a journalist to teach us how to write stories the press would be interested in. Most importantly, Margaret taught us how to debate and disagree with dignity and respect.

“When we were tempted to campaign solely on the things we wanted, Margaret reminded us that we had a duty to represent every young person in the town, and taught us the joy of service, as well as how to serve. She created an inclusive environment by including representatives from all Bexhill secondary schools regardless of background and made sure that we all had an equal voice.

“I was delighted, as I’m sure that many were, that at the last Full Council meeting she attended, Rother district councillors voted to create a town council – a process she, ever the visionary, started back in the 1990s.

“She surely ranks as one of the most talented, committed and imaginative councillors to have served Bexhill at Rother District Council and her wisdom and the kindness with which she treated all will be sorely missed.”

Councillor Richard Thomas, Rother district councillor for St Stephens ward, said: “Margaret was a pioneer who has been proved right repeatedly.

“She showed she could excel in what was then the male-dominated profession of journalism, sticking up for equality for all women in the process. In Bexhill, she was an outstanding Liberal Democrat councillor and chair of Rother Council.

“She advocated a town council for Bexhill long before the current campaign brought her aim closer to fruition. The campaign, that she co-led, to save the De La Warr from the clutches of Wetherspoons has been described as ‘the most successful public campaign since the Second World War’.

“It is good that she was present to see the present council vote to have her dream of a Bexhill Town Council become Rother policy.”

Wendy Dash said: “I met Margaret through the Liberal Democrats. She was kind, supportive, empathetic and generous in all ways as well as having had an amazing life.

“I would bump into her, whilst we were both shopping in Little Common and we would chat away, regardless of time. She was someone who made your day better just by being with her.

“If we were both at a LibDem function I would try and sit next to Margaret because I could never get enough of the stories of her life, yet she never once was indiscreet.

“I loved the stories of her early days on her local Bristol paper with her colleague the now famous playwright Tom Stoppard.

“It seems they all use to meet up at the Kardomah coffee shop with Peter O’Toole who was in Rep at the Bristol Old Vic theatre. The tales of the post play parties were very amusing and when Peter O’Toole had had enough, he would stand on a table and tell them all to go.

“She was a wonderful raconteur but always telling the nicest things about the famous people she knew, well apart from Robert Maxwell, and she was one of the very few who stood up to him and by her stance she helped her fellow workers. “She was liked and respected by all and had a way about her to connect with all ages and even when she was getting on in years, she never was an old fuddy-duddy and youngsters were drawn to her, maybe because she was so genuine and wanted the best for them.

“I feel that I have been very lucky and privileged to have known Margaret Jones, she was inspirational.”