Bob Blizzard obituary

·4 min read
<span>Photograph: Flying Colours/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Flying Colours/Getty Images

The former Labour MP Bob Blizzard, who has died aged 71, won the bellwether parliamentary constituency of Waveney, north Suffolk, in the Labour landslide election that swept Tony Blair into power in 1997, and his Westminster career was encapsulated within the years of the ensuing Labour governments.

Blizzard only narrowly lost the seat in 2010 when the tide of Labour’s popularity had retreated, leading to the coalition under David Cameron, but he was decisively defeated by the Conservative incumbent, Peter Aldous, when he stood once again in 2015.

Yet despite the relative brevity of his tenure of the coastal seat, he had a successful time in the House of Commons. He enjoyed the rare experience for any politician of being liked and admired both by his political colleagues and his constituents, because he was demonstrably a man of passionate conviction who delivered on his commitments and also because he was someone who was practical, hard-working and never forgot a name or face.

Blizzard was a schoolteacher for 24 years before being elected as an MP and was understandably familiar with the circumstances of his constituency, having been a councillor for 10 years on Waveney district council (now East Suffolk district council) from 1987, and its leader from 1991 until 1997. Although he made his first formal entry into politics as the result of a toss of a coin, flipped to decide the winner after a tied vote for the council seat in the Lowestoft suburb of Pakefield, his drive for political progress was never casual.

As an MP, he continued to pursue local issues for the benefit of his constituents, notably securing a relief road for Lowestoft’s gridlocked traffic and campaigning vigorously for a third bridge in the town across Lake Lothing, the £73.4m project finally securing approval in 2015. But he was also interested in energy policy, Latin American trade and animal welfare.

Blizzard fought fiercely in the Commons in favour of the Hunting Act 2004, and was still seeking proper enforcement of this legislation while undergoing treatment for cholangiocarcinoma, a rare and aggressive cancer of the bile duct.

At Westminster Blizzard was a member of the environmental audit select committee for two years until appointed a parliamentary private secretary in 1999, first to Lady (Helene) Hayman as agriculture minister and, after the 2001 election, to Nick Brown at the Department for Work and Pensions. He resigned from this post in 2003 because of opposition to the Iraq war: looking back in 2011, he said: “It was a big moment and it took a lot to stand up to Tony Blair and not vote for him, but I was right and history has proved it was right to vote against it.” He announced his resignation on his website, saying “war should only be a last resort”.

In 2005 he rejoined the government as PPS to Douglas Alexander at the Foreign Office and then at Transport. He was appointed to the whips’ office in Gordon Brown’s government in 2007 and was promoted to become a senior whip the following year.

Blizzard was hugely enthusiastic about jazz. He was secretary of the all-party parliamentary group for jazz appreciation, and founded the parliamentary jazz awards and the Lowestoft Jazz Weekend at the Seagull theatre in his constituency. He was a supporter of Lowestoft Town FC.

Born in Bury St Edmunds, the son of Arthur Blizzard, a signwriter, and his wife, Joan, he was educated at Culford school before studying for a BA at the University of Birmingham. He taught first at Southfield secondary school in Gravesend, Kent, for three years before being appointed head of English at Crayford school, Bexley, south-east London, in 1976. There he also volunteered to help teach English in the Asian community in the area for the Community Relations Council. In 1986 he returned to East Anglia as head of English at Lynn Grove high school, Gorleston-on-Sea, Norfolk.

Blizzard married Lyn Chance in 1978. They separated when he met Jane Washington-Evans in 2008 through their mutual interest in animal welfare. He and Jane became civil partners and he is survived by her and by a son and a daughter from his marriage, which ended in divorce.

• Robert John Blizzard, politician, born 31 May 1950; died 5 May 2022

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