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Tributes to Martin Morton, the last Conservative leader of Camden Council

‘He was a moderate and would have been an outstanding MP’

04 July, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

THE Town Hall will fall silent on Monday to remember Martin Morton – the last Conservative leader of Camden Council – who has died aged 87.

In a period of reflection to honour his service, councillors at a full council meeting will remember his dedication to voluntary work, charity and the borough’s politics.

Mr Morton, who served as a councillor on the former St Pancras Council and then the newly-formed Camden Council for three terms, chaired the housing committee and later became leader when Conservatives were in control.

He stood for Parliament twice in Hackney but failed both times, losses which friends said were Camden’s gain. Politicians from across the political spectrum this week paid tribute to a man whose lengthy list of public posts and charitable works reflected someone with a deeply in­grained sense of public duty.

Long-serving Labour councillor Roger Robinson said: “Martin was a great councillor. Despite our political differences, I got on so well with him. He was a very kind and helpful man.”

Cllr Robinson recalled how they competed together in the Holland Cup, a rowing race on the Thames between members of local authorities.

“We came second because our cox steered us into a buoy – but how we worked together I felt reflected how he worked with people across the chamber,” he said. “He was a good leader and a good man.”

Former Conservative group leader Andrew Marshall, who recently switched to the Lib Dems, said: “Martin epitomised that period of the 1950s and 1960s when the Conservatives were a broad party with a large membership. He was a moderate and would have been an outstanding MP.”

He added:”When he was the chair of Camden Civic Society, I was the chair of the planning committee, and he would lobby me on a non-political basis assiduously. He cared about the fabric of Camden deeply, and was fascinated by its history.”

Mr Morton grew up in Chelsea.  His father, Herbert, was a mining engineer, and his mother, Una, came from Ireland. He never forgot his roots, or the Catholic religion he was brought up in.

Educated at Ampleforth College in York, which is home to the UK’s largest Benedictine monastery, he studied history at New College, Oxford, sparking a lifelong interest in the subject.

Before university, Mr Morton served in the Irish Guards as a national serviceman. Posted to Germany, he saw first-hand the effects of the war. Yet he believed he had been fortunate – many of his peers fought in the Korean War.

He had grown up in a non-political household but found common ground with other students in the Oxford University Conservative Association, which he would go on to chair. It was when representing the association at a meeting of the British national committee of the World Association of Youth – an umbrella group of various organisations – that he met Joyce Waley. They married in 1957.

The couple found rooms in Millfield Lane, Highgate, before moving to the Holly Lodge estate in 1959. It would become the family home for the rest of Mr Morton’s life, and where the couple would bring up four children.

Mr Morton worked for the Confederation of British Industry and then the Oil and Chemical Plant Construction Association. He was the CBI’s UK representative on the European Union’s economic and social fund committee in Brussels until 2015.

He served as a governor at La Sainte Union and the former St Richard of Chichester schools in Camden, and also spent 28 years on the governing body of St George’s in neighbouring Westminster.

His chairmanship of Camden Civic Society ran for more than a decade, reflecting his strong interest in conservation and the environment. Other passions included exploring his family history.

Further tributes are expected at Monday’s meeting, while a memorial event will be held in the autumn.


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