Stanley was endlessly jovial, stopping to talk to everyone. A fusspot staffer, one would try to hurry him through any such casual encounters but rarely made progress. He had almost an excess of the common touch, loved to chat and loved to laugh. For him, all were welcome, political friends and obvious opponents alike. This was a sense of emotional hospitality that never wavered, even in the presence of those whom his staff thought were blethering twits. Labour to the core and thus hardly a friend of Mrs T., Stanley kept a miner’s lamp prominently on his desk; he was also fiercely anti-racist and the merest mention of the apartheid state brought out the tiger in him  –  any chance that came his way he would kick it as hard as he could. He had marched with Jesse Jackson through the streets of London to campaign for the release of Nelson Mandela, going unnoticed by the crowd, never a man to insist on the spotlight or the microphone.

He had his obsessions  –  one was the plight of non-domiciled seafarers, one was the quality of seaside bathing water, another was Hugh Gaitskell whom he had rather liked. Along the way, Stanley made few enemies and, where necessary, would cooperate with those who flew under different political colours. But whatever the bumps and scrapes along the way  –  and they were many in Hackney and beyond –  he was at heart and quite visibly, unashamedly a Labour Party guy. When he visited a women’s textile collective in East London  – having promised them as a European Commissioner, he would actively support continuation of their training grant  –  he was asked why he, apparently so exalted, was doing so much to help. “We don’t change our shirt!”, snapped the unambiguous reply.

One thing he hated was to eat a meal on his own. He lunched once with, of all people, the prevailing Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; the latter managed to spill his soup down his ecclesiastical front. Shamefully, Stanley giggled and indeed giggled for the rest of the day. But he had a big heart too. When one local authority had voted for a leadership of rather famous lesbians, he ostentatiously  –  tame now but controversial at the time  –   visited that Town Hall to take coffee with them all. They loved him.

All kinds of people with ambitions to and or memories of serious political success would casually call on him. All were welcomed : Neil Kinnock, Dick Spring, Peter Mandelson, John Smith, Jeremy Thorpe, Charles Haughey, Stuart Holland, Dennis Healey plus various leaders of European and South American parties. German greens, Italian social democrats, Danish communists, French Gaullists….diversity of the day’s interlocutors was never a problem. He craved debate and purposeful point-scoring; in any Parliament he was very much chez lui. Presciently, as it seems now, Stanley declared that 1985 was to be European Year of the Environment  –  perhaps his finest hour.

He loved, above all, talking about his family, specially the achievements of his kids. To the frustration of his staff (who always had plans for his every waking hour) he would regularly make time to phone his elderly Mum. I guess private offices never want family to be around  –  it interferes with timetable and distracts the principal. This is, however, generally a mistake. Let the boss be a human being; it’s always for the better in the end.

Besides, Stanley was a big-hearted man. Being friendly and indeed affectionate was in his nature. All through the buffets and rewards of life, he never changed. And he did good along the way. So good on him. He was a lot smarter than his manner would suggest  –   but every bit as nice.

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