24 February, 2021
When I was Director of Campaigns & Elections at the 1997 General Election, we employed 7 Campaign Officers (including Willie Rennie) and made 28 gains. Derek covered Scotland and I arranged for him to be based in Edinburgh West to help make sure that Donald Gorrie finally won that time. Overall, we won 10 seats in Scotland that time compared to 6 for the SNP and 0 for the Conservatives. Derek had earlier led the buildup of council seats in NEFife, becoming Leader of the Council. He then worked with Iain Smith (agent) and Paul Rainger (Deputy Agent) and a formidable team to help achieve Ming Campbell’s victory there in 1987. It was one of only 3 gains that we made across GB in that difficult election. Ming always acknowledged that he could never have won without Derek’s work.His skills in driving forward the building an organisation capable of delivering local leaflets on a regular basis, winning council seats and taking control of a council, and then gaining the parliamentary seat were why I wanted to employ him to help others follow that model. As we did very successfully in the years that followed. He helped numerous candidates, their agents and campaign teams and was always a friendly source of advice to many (including me). I used his organisational skills in some of the great by-elections of that era including Newbury in 1993.His wife Lesley was always a constant source of support for him and many of us will want to send our condolences. Derek was not, however, the most au fait with technology. When I arranged for him to get his first computer, he worked on how to use it. After some time, however, he said that he was struggling with it and it was causing him some stress. He couldn’t stop it beeping every 30 seconds or so. We engaged Dell computers in trying to diagnose the problem. Their helpline in Ireland was very supportive as he discussed the on going problem over a day or so when their technicians were mystified about the beeping. Then they thought to ask him if he had a smoke alarm? Yes he said, just above the computer. They advised that he needed to change the battery…The picture is of the Campaigns & Elections Department on our team outing after a meeting in 2001 when we went on the London Eye. Sadly George and Sandra Dunk are no longer with us either. Derek is just behind my shoulder (as he often was). Rest in peace Derek.