Death of “Jones the Vote” whose influence on Sutton was far-reaching

The death has occurred in Liverpool of Sir Trevor Jones, the man who was responsible for introducing to Sutton the form of community campaigning which has led to continuing Liberal Democrat influence in the borough for the past forty years.

In 1972, Trevor Jones managed the successful Sutton and Cheam by-election in which Graham Tope won the previously-safe Tory seat for the then Liberal Party.  The key to Trevor Jones’s triumph was the concept of frequent communication with residents backed up by the principle that Liberals would campaign all year round, not just at election time.   

Graham Tope embraced the new principle for his campaign and subsequently in leading the then Liberal-SDP Alliance in taking control of Sutton Council in 1986.  

In a tribute to Sir Trevor Graham Tope said: “I used to explain Trevor Jones’s approach to nervous, older Liberals as ‘the practical application of Liberalism’. It was about people taking and using power themselves to effect change, rather than leaving it to established institutions and politicians to do it for them. 

“The happy chance of the 1972 by-election, and the much greater prominence that it gave to community politics, gave me a platform I could never have hoped for to try to move on from the theory to the practice of community politics.”

The vital element of the principal of community politics was Focus, the local newsletter which has become so identifiable with the party and its campaigning.  The style of the new Focus was based on the idea that people would not read traditional election addresses, but were likely to be much more interested in regular news about issues which immediately concerned them.

For Graham Tope’s campaign, Trevor Jones produced and printed copies of Focus in Liverpool, and drove them down to Sutton for delivery. Sutton residents welcomed its hard-hitting, breezy style and since thenFocus has became a highly-successful campaigning tool in the borough, and throughout the country, for more than 40 years.  In Sutton alone over 30 million copies have been distributed to 80,000 homes.

Sir Trevor Jones was born in 1926 and had been elected to the Liverpool City Council in 1968 as one of only two Liberal councillors. Over the next few years he built on the community or pavement politics concept, with the result that the party started to make spectacular gains in the city.  By 1973, the Liberals took control of the city’s council.

Justifying the nickname "Jones the Vote", and working with his deputy, David Alton, in 1979 they won the Liverpool Edge Hill parliamentary by-election with the country's  then biggest-ever political swing of 36% and gaining 64% of the vote. 

Throughout his time on the Liverpool stage he was strongly supported by his wife Lady Doreen Jones, who served as City Councillor for Old Swan and as Lord Mayor.

In his tribute, Graham Tope continued: “Trevor Jones, and his approach to politics, certainly changed my life.  I also believe that his principles have given Sutton Liberal Democrats the platform to introduce dynamic policies and ideas which have been strongly supported by the people of this borough over the past three decades.  Trevor Jones’s death is not only our Party’s significant loss, but Liverpool’s and Sutton’s too.  He will be greatly missed.”

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