Earlier this evening, I learned that Malcolm Wicks, the Member of Parliament for Croydon North, has passed away. He had been ill for some time, fighting a brave battle with cancer, but I suspect the news will come as a real shock to some because he didn't want many people to know how ill he was (he was wryly amused by people telling him how well he looked as a result of losing weight).
Malcolm was Labour to his core (his father was a Labour member of the GLC) but he was highly respected across the political divide both as a constituency MP and as a Minister in a number of Departments under Tony Blair and then Gordon Brown (in particular Pensions Minister and then Energy Minister). He was an intelligent and thoughtful man with a background as a research fellow in the field of social policy.
I didn't know Malcolm very well before I was elected but since then we have often found ourselves at the same civic or community functions and I'd like to think we became good friends. We lived quite close to each other and I would often give him a lift home from Westminster. I will really miss the conversations we had in the cab (as he referred to my car; the fare was very reasonable - one bottle of wine each Christmas). Sometimes they would be about what had happened in Parliament that day - how our leaders had done at PMQs for example; sometimes they would be about a particular policy issue, which might mean a heated argument or unexpected agreement (there was even the odd issue where he was to the right of me, though Phil Thomas will tell you that's not difficult); sometimes they would be nothing to do with politics; and occasionally he would tease the sometimes naive and over-enthusiastic new member for Croydon Central with his dry but very effective sense of humour. The journey home from work will be a lonelier one without him.
My thoughts are with his wife Maggie and their three children. I hope it is some consolation to know that Malcolm will be sadly missed - by me, by many others on both sides of the political divide and by thousands of constituents who he served with such distinction. Rest in peace my friend.