A Celebration of Ruth Shaw

22 Feb 2024
ruth shaw

It is with great sadness that we learnt of the passing of Ruth Shaw on 31st January at the age of 97.

Ruth was crucial to the history of Liberalism in our borough, keeping the flag flying in the '50s and '60s. She will be sadly missed and fondly remembered by many.

Ruth was one of a small group of people who kept the Liberal Party alive in Sutton & Cheam through the lean years of the 1950s. She:

  • was a founder member of Sutton & Cheam Young Liberals in 1950; 
  • was the first ever Liberal councillor on Sutton & Cheam Borough Council in 1961 (finally winning a seat on her seventh attempt);
  • was elected to the GLC in 1973 to represent Sutton and Cheam, one of only two Liberals on the council. She put her victory down to "community politics" and the party's opposition to the Ringway 3 project. She was given a place on the GLC's transport committee;
  • was the first (and last!) Liberal Greater London Councillor for Sutton & Cheam 1973-77; 
  • was Sutton councillor for Worcester Park North 1986 to 1990 and North Cheam 1990 to 2002; 
  • was named an Honorary Alderman by Sutton Council in 2011;
  • held most Local Party offices, including Chair and President.

Ruth had a strong political instinct based on much experience.

During her time on Sutton Council she was responsible for the implementation of the S bus service to make harder-to-reach areas of the Borough more accessible.

She took on the chair of the Planning Committee and got its name changed to Development Control, as she felt residents needed to see that we were controlling development, not planning for it.


As if that wasn't enough of a contribution, she established and organised the constituency wide delivery network set up in early 1973 to deliver Focus to every household every six weeks or so.

That was the basis for “converting” a freak Liberal by-election victory into a (two constituency) Liberal Democrat run Council for 40 years (so far!).

When, in 2013, she was honoured with an OBE for her services to politics, she was as humble as ever and said: "I didn't see this coming at all.

"I was absolutely astonished and obviously very pleased. To get this recognition is wonderful although I don't even feel like I've done all that much - although I must have been doing something right." (Sutton Guardian 30th December 2013).

She added: "I just believed liberalism was the right way to go. In the '50s people on the doorstep told me it had no future but I couldn't see it that way. Now the Liberal Democrats have been in power here for more than 25 years."


Ruth lived in North Cheam with her husband Arnold, who provided much support to her during her political career and was himself a councillor, and had three children (Caroline, Richard and Hilary).

Her family have asked that anyone who wishes to may make a donation to the Alzheimer’s Society in Ruth’s memory.