I have very fond memories of Rodney Bickerstaffe’s stalwart support for the Labour Campaign for Travellers’ Rights (LCTR) which I started in about 1986 – to seek to persuade Labour politicians – particularly those in Parliament and those in control in local authorities – not to support discrimination against Travellers – those wishing to live a nomadic lifestyle – and to provide legal sites where they could stop without harassment or victimisation which was – and regrettably still is – widespread.
Despite the existence in law at that time of the Caravan Sites Act 1968 – requiring local councils to provide sites when there is a need for them, many – including many under Labour control – did not do so. That Act – and statutory site provision – was repealed in 1994.
In about 1986, I gathered a group of Labour Party members together, and a launch meeting was arranged in the House of Commons, with the support of Joan Maynard, then MP for Sheffield Brightside. Rodney, then GS of NUPE, turned up at the meeting, stood at the back, but actively supported us throughout the life of the Campaign which, I think since about 1995, has become moribund. I left the Party when Blair got Clause IV removed in 1995.
I remember, whilst I was Secretary of LCTR, Rodney used to ring me up – usually before 7 am, but from his office – to ask if there was anything he could do to support the work of the Campaign. He chaired the fringe meetings we organised regularly at annual Party Conferences. I shall always have fond memories of his support for our campaign. It is so sad that, despite his support, very little progress has been made in the intervening 30 years.