A Man of Heart and Humility – Lord Corbett of Castle Vale (1933-2012)

UK Progressive – Denis G Campbell | February 22

“Non-violence, which is the quality of the heart, cannot come by an appeal to the brain.” -Gandhi

UPDATED: A headline mourning a politician would seem improbable in today’s bile-filled political discourse, but this past weekend the world lost a gentle, giant of a man. His official title was Lord Corbett of Castle Vale and he was 78 years old. The rest of us knew him as Robin and he passed away Sunday morning surrounded by his family after a long battle with lung cancer.

He fought passionately (whilst undergoing his health challenges) for those who could not fight for themselves.

Born in Fremantle, Australia, he attended Holly Lodge Grammar School in Smethwick. He was called up for two years of national service into the Royal Air Force in 1951. Upon completion he joined our tribe in the 4th Estate, first with the Birmingham Evening Mail and later The Daily Mirror.

1st elected to Parliament in 1974, he lost his seat in 1979 and returned to Parliament in 1983 representing Hemel Hempstead. Leaving Parliament in 2001, he was elevated to the peerage. I deliberately leave out reference to party because Robin was a principled humanitarian whose straightforwardness, humility and candour won the praise of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

It was though his work for two decades on behalf of oppressed peoples in Iran that won the most praise and where we ultimately became acquainted. He founded the all-party British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom and over the years received the support of a majority of members of the House of Commons and 200 of his peers. He built this committee into a powerful voice for the Iranian people and their resistance, most especially, the 3,400 men, women and children who are refugees living in Camp Ashraf under constant threat and attack.

Our discussions were frank and often held at late hours because he was a very thoughtful man. Lord Corbett was a key leader in the international campaign to protect the rights and security of Camp Ashraf. He was deeply troubled by an attack on April 8, 2011 that killed 34 of its residents and wounded hundreds of others. In an emotional speech before Parliament, Lord Corbett called the victims, “bravest of the brave, who are standing up against mullahs’ tyranny with bare hand as the voice of Iranian people.”

Unusual in government, Robin always moved with lightning speed. Within hours of an attack, his committee condemned the attackers and offered immediate resolutions. As an observer, I saw his lightning fast actions stall Iranian activities in their tracks because Robin focused unwanted global attention on their barbarous acts.

We often spoke about the multiple dangers of US troops withdrawing, Iraqi PM Maliki cozying up to Iran to assure peace on that volatile border, the impotence of the United Nations, the coyness of the US State Department and he was quick to move resolutions and protests through his committee and the British government to keep these people safe.

He was a steadying hand in difficult times and will be sorely missed.

Lord Corbett married Val Hudson in 1970, with whom he had one daughter, Polly Hudson, a columnist with the Daily Mirror. He also is survived by his daughter Susannah Corbett and son Adam Corbett from  previous marriage.

 
Denis G Campbell is author of the book Egypt [email protected]: Using social media to @#:) the System. He is also editor-in-chief of UK Progressive Magazine and contributes politics and business articles for several global newspapers and magazines. He also provides regular commentary for BBC, China Radio International and others.

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