Enid Wistrich obituary

Other lives: Academic and dedicated Labour councillor in London

My mother, Enid Wistrich, who has died aged 91, was once described by a tabloid newspaper as possibly “the most dangerous woman in Britain” following her proposal, as chair of the Greater London council’s (GLC) film viewing board in 1975, to end its powers to censor films. She was a dedicated Labour councillor in London for more than a decade throughout the 1960s and 70s.

Born in London, Enid was the second daughter of Bertha (nee Brown) and Zadik Heiber, a businessman, both from Polish-Jewish families. She grew up with her sister, Jacqueline, near the shop her mother ran on High Street Kensington, selling ladies’ lingerie, corsetry and hosiery.

She attended St Paul’s girls’ school in Hammersmith and in 1947 won a place at the London School of Economics to study government and politics. After graduating, she went to teach government and politics at a women’s college, Mount Holyoke, in Massachusetts. Observing McCarthyism in the US at its height, on returning to Britain in the early 50s she resolved to become involved in politics and joined the Labour party. She was soon elected to Camden council.

In 1973 she became Hampstead’s representative on the GLC. Her first post was to chair the film viewing board, a censorship committee, with a young Ken Livingstone as her vice-chair. Enid caused controversy almost immediately by announcing her opposition to the idea of government censorship and suggesting that her post ought to be abolished. When a proposal to do this was brought forward in 1975, it attracted news coverage and outrage from the Nationwide Festival of Light, a Christian organisation. Enid became a heroine of the civil liberties movement at the time. But her plan failed because a number of labour GLC members got cold feet and voted it down.

She was later appointed vice-chair of the transport committee, and took a great interest and role in improving London transport. She was also an active member of the Inner London Education Authority, taking a particular interest in special needs education. As a Camden councillor she chaired the arts and libraries committee and became a governor of Greater London Arts and the British Film Institute.

In later years Enid returned to academia as a professor of government and politics at Middlesex University. She wrote books on local government, film censorship, the politics of transport, devolution and localism, and regional identity and diversity.

Many of my friends described Enid as formidable and slightly terrifying on first meeting, but they soon saw that she was always interested and kind and was an accepting person without prejudice.

She had a wonderful marriage to Ernest Wistrich, whom she married in 1950; he died in 2015.

She is survived by my brother, Daniel, and me. Another son, Matthew, died in 1971.


Harriet Wistrich

The GuardianTramp

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