I first got to know Shirley Williams in 1966, when I was, briefly, a member of the Labour party, and she was its MP for Hitchin, in Hertfordshire, and a minister in Harold Wilson’s government. After a meeting about the Common Market at a hall in Letchworth the following year, I tackled her about nuclear weapons, even though the subject was not relevant to the meeting.
Her taxi was waiting, and we were standing in the pouring rain – yet she spent several minutes with me, a mere 15-year-old, forcibly arguing her case for multinational, rather than unilateral, disarmament.
She had a passion for people and making sure that even non-voting teenagers could express their views.
A Liberal Democrat councillor in later life, I canvassed locally with her several times and was impressed at how good her memory was in recognising people for whom she had done casework, and canvassed, decades earlier when she was MP, from 1974 for Hertford and Stevenage.
She became president of Stevenage Liberal Democrats and kept up her links with the town, always willing to attend local, council or party events.