Ivy Needham, veteran campaigner who fought for Maxwell pensioners, dies aged 88

Ivy Needham
Ivy Needham
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VETERAN campaigner Ivy Needham – who was awarded an MBE for leading the fight for the Maxwell pensioners in the 1990s – has died at the age of 88.

The grandmother-of-four from Leeds died at Copper Hill Nursing Home in Hunslet on Thursday.

Tony Blair meets Ivy Needham in 2005

Tony Blair meets Ivy Needham in 2005

Mrs Needham spent most of her life championing various causes, most notably for the Maxwell pensioners, when it emerged corrupt publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell had plundered millions of pounds from his employees’ pension funds.

The widow, who was registered blind and deaf, headed the campaign after she was made redundant from Petty’s Printers on Christmas Eve in 1982.

She was so appalled that 85,000 people were facing the future without a pension, her fight for justice saw her lobby MPs including Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair and Ann Widdecombe who, in her autobiography Strictly Ann, described Mrs Needham as “10 times as effective as any trade union leader because she spoke from the heart without losing her head”.

Mrs Needham’s fight also took her to the European Parliament in Brussels and the House of Commons where she handcuffed herself to railings. And in 1996 she was awarded an MBE at the Palace.

Her daughter, Wendy Fletcher, 64, said: “It was just incredible. She did get some of the pensions back. Sadly a lot of the pensioners had died by then and a lot never had their pensions. But obviously a lot did, and that was because of mum. I think she was proud of herself. We are all certainly proud of her – what she did and how many people she helped. She wasn’t going to stand back.”

The following years saw Mrs Needham supporting firefighters and nurses on strike, fighting against charges to pensioners for home help, battling day centre closures and raising more than £4,000 for Help for Heroes.

Mrs Needham also leaves a son, Kingsley, 57. Her funeral will be held at Cottingley Crematorium on January 3 at 3pm.