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Beth Graham, politician

Beth Graham
Beth Graham
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Beth Graham, who has died at 91, was a town, district and county councillor in the Yorkshire Dales and a four-time parliamentary candidate,

Born Elizabeth May Graham, known simply as Beth throughout her long career, was the elder of the redoubtable Graham sisters. They were of completely different temperaments, united only in their firm commitment to the Liberal cause.

Her younger sister, Claire, who died in 2008, was exuberant, extrovert and impulsive whereas Beth, though no less rebellious towards authority, acted with more subtlety and forethought.

She was born in Settle and never lived anywhere else save for her student years in London, where she joined the Liberal Club. Her father, a cabinet maker and joiner, eventually converted the town’s Victoria Hall into a cinema, which he ran.

Soon after finishing at university, and working in the family business in Yorkshire, came the 1950 general election at which the Liberal party was determined to fight a wide swathe of seats, in many of which the party had little or no presence.

Beth was despatched on a train to Faversham in Kent – a town she had not previously visited – complete with a banker’s draft for her deposit of £150. Polling just 7.2 per cent of the vote, her deposit was duly left behind.

Her next electoral contest was due to be the 1970 election and she was adopted as the prospective candidate for Keighley. However, the non-conformist Liberal establishment of the town complained of her habit of recounting what they regarded as risqué anecdotes to Methodist audiences, and she was prevailed upon to withdraw.

In February 1974 she contested the Richmond seat in North Yorkshire, taking second place and doubling the Liberal vote. In the second election that year she swapped the vast acres of the that constituency for the compact York seat, only just saving her deposit. This was her last parliamentary contest, and she chose instead to act as agent for her sister in the Skipton constituency and to concentrate on municipal politics, sitting on the Settle Town Council and the Craven District Council. She also held the Settle division on the North Yorkshire County Council.

She retired from the district and county councils in 2004 and, as her health declined, from the town council in 2010. In 2013, she given the Freedom of Craven and made an Honorary Alderman.

Her successor as Liberal county councillor was David Heather who tells how he arrived in Settle as a “committed left wing socialist” and was persuaded by Beth to stand as a Liberal Democrat councillor, telling him, “we are a broad church”.

She took no prisoners, telling those who complained of the market place as the venue for the Settle Festival to be issued with earplugs. Her profession was as a lecturer in management, finally at Bradford University. Latterly she led an increasingly isolated retirement in a nursing home in Ingleton.

Michael Meadowcroft