Wednesday 26 May 2010

Sad news

Earlier this week, it was reported that Robert Chambers one of the original ' Leicester Loonies' had passed away.

An obitury is posted here from his 2nd wife Caroline:-

Robert Chambers - A man for all seasons

Are you sitting comfortably – got a cuppa tea and some tissues? Then I will begin

Thank you for your recent email of condolences. Please excuse the stream of consciousness mind dump, but so many people seemed to only know a part of Roberts’s life and have kindly written to express sympathy. – and ask for info and news about Rob and his passing.

Primarily I have written this for Sam, Libby, and Kate but also for others– so some bits might only be relevant to some – and I apologise for the length –but hell I think he deserves it – please excuse the lack of individual reply. Thank you to Jon Dobinson for helping spread the word amongst the comrades.

Born 2nd January 1964 – third son to Marjorie and Walter Chambers of Burton on Trent – he has 3 brothers – Alistair, Duncan and Edward – all of whom he had little to do with most of his life. They were very different to him, and seem such pale versions of him I often wondered whether he was left on the door step by the milkman!

Educated at Wulfric Comprehensive Burton on Trent (which famously opened the year he went there, and closed the year he left!). Then at Leicester Uni for a degree in Gov and Politics – for which he was proud to get a gentlemen’s degree of a 2.2 with no work whatsoever, and a mountain of credit card debt – he saw this as an achievement and one in the eye for his boring brothers who actually saved whilst at Uni! – He made lifelong friends there and was proud to be one of the original Leicester Loonies (more on this later!). Later Rob studied at Canterbury Uni for a Law Degree


Roberts’s first job was for the Coalition for Peace through Security, and then the Freedom Association based in Waterloo working with Dr Julian Lewis, Tom (?), Gerald Hartup, Norris McWhirter and Phyllis. Fond memories of here – as Rob was working for them when we got married and Julian and Gerald attended the wedding. We had fun in London with ISHR, running mad campaigns that he dreamed up – including the Free the Soweto 100 campaign as just one example. Then he got a job working for the International Society for Human Rights which took us as a family to Germany in 1991 until 1997. This meant we left London and his political ambitions and loves, but closer to some amazing human rights work, and there are many people who are free now, but political prisoners then for whom he campaigned and championed their causes. Rob then had various periods of unemployment, linked to a general depression with everything following some extraordinarily harrowing work with ISHR. He loved this time though – with me out at work in London long days, and him being a househusband and it was here in Whitstable that we got Mutley the Dog (a very famous little jack Russell who was mad, and we all love him, and miss him much). During this time he took his Law degree and was going to be a solicitor or similar, but when it came to it he decided he really didn’t like the law, despite being an A student.

Following the untimely and unexpected death of his sister in law Alison, we were all shook up and decided life was too short - Robert let me realise one of my passionate dreams to run a pub, and in 2002 we took on the tenancy of the Kings Head in Hythe. Had I known that he would have problems with booze later in life, I would never have had a pub with him – but hey ho!

The pub was kind of his last glory moment; we won national awards for our marketing initiatives and genuinely run “one hell of a pub”, with mad stunts, wacky themes, great food and lots of parties. Rob was the master of the beer, and loved looking after it, lovingly putting it to bed each evening, and waking it gently each morning. We got into the CAMRA Good Beer Guide in 2005 and he was SO PROUD – this was an achievement far in excess of the National Marketing Award I had won! Sadly by 2005 chinks were appearing in the marriage, stresses and strains and the passage of time meant we only spent 3 years in the pub, and then left. There then followed another period of unemployment interspersed with some work for Kent Association for the Blind, and then in 2008 he landed a job with Kent Victim Support mobilising and recruiting volunteers.

His Love Life!

Boy! Rob had a way with the ladies, but he was definitely a one-woman at a time man. He married his childhood sweet heart Carol when he was 21 – sadly the marriage did not last long – I would imagine going out fly posting in support of the working miners on his wedding night may have contributed to this marriages failure!

He had not long moved down to London when he met me at the Conservative Party Conference in 1984/5 in Blackpool. We fell in love quickly and I moved in with him, Dougie Smith and Rob Clarkson at the squat/flat in Battersea, and then our own place in the madly named Peregrine Heights – where we were caught numerous times by Special Branch fly postering for the various mad causes he supported (are we spotting a theme here???)

We enjoyed the 1987 election in Battersea – when John Bowis took the seat from the Labour party, and we are cited in numerous political books of the time as being particularly radical and mad - have the cuttings somewhere….

We married in Battersea in March 1989 it was a quiet wedding – just 50 odd people, at Wandsworth Town Hall and then a local pizzeria. Rob and I were just “too cool for school” to organise anything different. Carl Rae was our best man, and the wedding was attended by many who have been in touch recently including Jon and Debbie Dobinson – who was pregnant at the time I remember - I am so glad to see that they are still together. Paul Staines (or as he is known now famous political blogger Guido Fawkes at and Marjorie Nicholson were our witnesses…although she was Marjorie Brady then. So sad to see she lost her man Steve to MS only last year – he too was a pal of Robert. Marjorie and Rob worked together on ISHR/NTS stuff with George Millar who also passed away last year. It seems what the Red Army and KGB failed to achieve Mother Nature is doing for them! Also present was Adrian Lee, Martin Chinnery, Julian Lewis MP and others. (Sorry if I missed names)

I look at the pictures now and we were so young, and so beautiful and so naive. I am comforted by the fact that lacy tights and gloves are now back in again, and I don’t look too bad, although Robs 1980s glasses will never ever make it back in vogue, unless you are an extra for Ashes to Ashes!

Our honey moon was in the Gambia, where Rob and I didn’t just lie on the beach, but went up country to do some research and aid work.

The Children

I fell pregnant with our first child about a year after we got married. It was not planned and I was really worried about telling Rob, but his response was typical Rob, I remember sitting in a pub with him (I had brought him nearer to the beer to break the bad news hoping this would help), and he said “marvellous, little people walking around with our faces on, how brilliant – now what are we going to call him/her”

Sam was born in a particularly auspicious time, marked by the passing of the queen over the water (Maggie) and Cabbages. Typically surreal for Rob. I had gone into St Thomas Hospital Lambeth the day that Geoffrey Howe gave his “stab in the back” speech against Maggie, just before the meeting of the 1922 committee and her resignation in 1990. As he was coming home from the hospital (via the St Stephens pub in Westminster where Sam’s head was not just wet but positively drowned), the taxi followed a truck going to New Covent Garden, which dropped a bag of cabbages all over the road. Rob made the driver stop and pick them up and when I came home from hospital the week later the flat REEKED of rotten cabbages as he had forgotten them and left them in the bedroom!

We moved to Germany when Sam was just 3 weeks old. I was only 21 and living in a strange foreign city, speaking not a word of the language with just Rob. Rob was more of a feminist than I was and said that there was nothing I couldn’t do – so I should just get on and do it. This was the making of me I feel.

Robs job at this time was amazing – he travelled all over the world supporting and promoting Human Rights – from Cuba, to Russia, China to Kosovo – I could write a whole book on his achievements at the time.

He was instrumental in the research work building up the case, and setting up the War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague together with colleagues, especially Annette Blettner and Paul Osterbeek (who was his favourite partner in crime – ex-Dutch special forces and a very special man – I remember them teaching a 2 year old Sam to piss of the balcony onto the Left wing demonstrators below on International Labour Day- he thought it was hilarious).

We lost a baby in 1992 – when I was 8 weeks pregnant – it was a horrible time – we had been getting death threats from the Red Army Faction and Bader-Meinhof and we moved by the police for our own safety whilst he was away at a conference elsewhere in Germany – it was a terrifying time – I remember not being able to get hold of Robert, and there being a bomb at our house, and not much more as I kinda lost it for a while whilst losing the baby.

Joy returned soon after when I found out I was pregnant with Libby – our daughter. She made me so ill with a 9 month morning sickness – and Robert spent many hours lovingly preparing little dishes of delicately steamed vegetables and rice, which I not so lovingly sicked up every evening…. Ah… happy days.

Our kids were both emergency caesareans, and Rob was not present for either birth – he said he felt as useful as a pork butcher at a bar mitzvah although he waited outside for Libby to be born. Libby was born in February 1993. She was a tiny baby – due to my sickness and her premature arrival she only weighed 4lb – as opposed to Sams 9 lb 10oz! Robert was the first to bathe her and dress her and he presented her to me as I came round from the operation, and said, “well – I am pleased to tell you that you have given birth to a beautiful little oven ready chicken” it was hilarious – naked, new born and pulling up her legs she looked like a chicken, and that nickname has stuck ever since.

Sam has Aspergers syndrome (Autism) and has struggled all his life to fit in, or to be able to do what others find easy. Robert took care of him in the last three years, and they have a deep and special bond. I was always the “doer” and champion on his behalf with authority, Rob was his mate and they communicated on a very deep and meaningful level – which was not typical father and son. Liberty (Libby) looks like me, but with fabulous streaks of her dad – she has his passionate and ferocious spirit when it comes to championing the underdog or playing devils advocate. Both our children know that they were loved by both of us, in our own unique ways – and as a parent who could hope for more. Rob wanted a whole litter of children, but sadly the Drs said with my various gynae problems, if I had another child it would probably kill me, so we held off having any more, much to his dismay.

Hobbies and Passions

Bird watching (the feathered kind) was a passion from early age and endured throughout his life. He needed an excuse for the binoculars and spying on people he told me! I remember him taking me on a date bird watching when we first were going out – he made me walk 21 miles through mud and reed bed to watch some rare and exotic brown feathered thing which excited and enthused him. He used to have an encyclopaedic memory for birds, and indeed many other facts and figures – he had photographic recall of things he read in newspapers etc which made him very useful in his intelligence side of the job His other interests were all things country and growing – he had an allotment in recent years, and always enjoyed growing things. He liked cooking – although I am sorry to say – he had a taste for very very hot curries and lacked a delicate hand – the kids grew up though with a taste for the exotic which stands them in good stead in the local curry houses.

The Movement

Vote the line, walk the line! If I have to explain the movement and FCS to you then you weren’t in it and wouldn’t understand. For those that were… remember the days as the Leicester loonies, Loughborough Conference, being Party Reptiles and Shirley Stotter banning us from attending conference, the closure of FCS, the Leicester loonies reunions and those mad mad three years…oh my when we were young we thought we were going to rule the world – and we could have done…. I still find it funny now that Rob told Nick Robinson (yes him of BBC Politics fame) to “f*ck off and die you odious little wet” when he caught Nick trying to chat me up at a Young Conservative Conference. I have never been able to take Nick seriously again, and I have to confess to watching Sky News rather than the Beeb when it comes to my politics fix!

Rob has always been a passionate Libertarian Conservative – having held office in the FCS from an early age, then in Battersea and Canterbury Conservative association.


I think there are a lot of very clever, fabulous people who struggle with depression and alcohol problems; it’s almost like the ying to the yang on their brilliance. It all became too much for me to cope with and we parted in February 2007. I am sad that he did not manage to conquer the demon booze, but to be honest there was nothing Rob liked more than a skinful of beer, whilst chain smoking and giving forth on the wrongs of the world – it was what made him – and he never lost his intelligence or his wit. I think he was more like his mad Jack Russell dog than we thought! Rob has continued to make a difference to people’s lives with his generosity of spirit on the blogosphere with his mad, surreal MutleytheDogsDay out blog – which I have to confess I find too confusing and painful to read, but I know he and others found it hilarious.

The manner of his passing is dramatic, shocking and frustrating. I used to have Bitter Sweet Symphony has his ring tone on my phone… I thought that was fitting, but perhaps better is What a Waste, by the Blockheads, although Libby played me Heaven is a Halfpipe tonight, which has so many good memories of Rob I think I might just have it as that – even though I know the phone from him won’t ever ring again.

The End

Rob was discovered on Friday 21st May at 7.30am dead in his bed at home, by our son Sam. We are still awaiting a definitive cause of death, but it looks likely to be heart and organ failure due to a number of factors, including his lifestyle. I don’t believe Rob knew how ill he was, and his death was not expected by anyone.

His partner Kate is kindly organising and paying for the funeral as I have to focus on Libby and Sam but particularly Sams needs. Keeping a roof over Sams head is my main priority now, as sadly Rob left this world as he entered it, naked and with nothing.

Kate will be emailing and posting everyone details of the funeral in due course. She is a beautiful lady, both inside and out, who met him through his blogs and has no idea of his mad mad past. The story of their lives for the last three years, is hers to tell not mine, which is why she is copied in on this email - I am hoping she can do the next bit of his life justice.

A word of warning to our political friends though, if you meet her at the wake– try not to freak her out – I think she is a bit of a leftie liberal to be honest – fancy Rob loving a wet hey – who would have thought it? Perhaps he saw the need for a coalition long before Cameron, but I think we need a caucus meeting to sort out a line on this one LOL.

She made his last years very happy. She and I are trying to be friends and do the right thing by him…. He would have hated it; there was nothing he liked more than a bit of a verbal or intellectual fight

I hope to see some of you - if not all - at his funeral - the date of which Kate will advise... if not RIP Rob - Aluta armada Continua Comrade!

Much Love

Caroline xx

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