Judi Jackson obituary

Other Lives: Labour party councillor in Watford who was personal assistant to two MPs

My mother, Judi Jackson, who has died aged 74, was a Labour councillor for Watford borough council between 1983 and 1991, and a feminist, socialist and local campaigner. She also worked in Westminster for 20 years from 1980, as a personal assistant to the Labour MPs Alf Dubs and Willie McKelvey.

She was born in Roundhay, Leeds, the daughter of Joan (nee Patterson), a finance officer, and John Rivers, who died when she was 18 months old. Judi grew up in Hertfordshire from 1948 and went to St Joan of Arc Catholic school in Rickmansworth. At the age of 18, with no qualifications to her name, she emigrated to Australia under the “ten pound Pom” initiative, returning as a single mother with two young daughters. She then went to night school, completing O-levels and A-levels before studying sociology at East London Polytechnic (now University of East London). In 1978 she married Mike Jackson, my father; they divorced in 1994.

Judi was heavily pregnant with me when she was elected for the Holywell ward in Watford in 1983, and I arrived a month later. I spent some evenings in my first year asleep in a carry cot at the back of the council chamber, as both my parents were councillors.

Judi was secretary of Watford CND in the early 80s and campaigned strongly against the nuclear threat. Her Sundays would often be spent at Greenham Common women’s peace camp, along with other Watford women.

Her focus as a councillor was on newly emerging green issues, and she was elected chair of the council’s environmental health and licensing committee in 1988. In this role she pioneered the setting up of recycling centres around the town, and also persuaded the council to consider the environmental impact of planning decisions as a standard procedure. She led an anti-smoking campaign in the town, giving up her cigarettes in the process.

Along with a group of exceptional local women, she campaigned for the setting up of the Watford Women’s Centre, which was achieved in 1989 and is still going strong. She also worked with Women’s Aid to establish a women’s refuge.

She stood down from the council in 1991 and became a local magistrate, sitting on the Watford bench. She remained an active member of the Labour party until she died.

Judi was a Woodcraft Folk leader for many years, taking young people camping and youth hostelling. In the early 2000s she moved to Stroud in Gloucestershire to set up the Rivers art gallery in Nailsworth. It became a hub for art lovers and like-minded people who would come in to buy work and debate the issues of the day with Judi. My sisters and their families joined her in the area.

She is survived by her daughters, Rebecca, Amanda and me, and her grandchildren, Ellen, Harriet, Reuben, Ruby, Ava, Otto and Kit.

Alice Nicholson

The GuardianTramp

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