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David Chidgey

Obituary for Journal of Liberal History

Photo: NLCDavid Chidgey came into parliament via the time honoured Liberal route of local government and a fortuitous by-election, but although he was a conscientious councillor on his local town council and later on the Winchester City Council, his sights were quite early set on a parliamentary career. His first big contest was a European Parliament by-election for the Hampshire Central seat in Autumn 1988 but thereafter he concentrated on the Eastleigh constituency, winning it at the second attempt in February 1994 at a by-election caused by the death of the Conservative MP in highly unusual circumstances. He held the seat twice thereafter before retiring at the 2005 general election. He was made a Life Peer in May 2005.

David was unusual in being a highly regarded civil engineer, a rare breed in the House of Commons, and, prior to his election, he had managed many major overseas engineering projects mainly in Africa but also in Bangladesh, Brazil and the Middle East. As a natural parliamentary follow up to his practical work he became a member of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. It was also appropriate that he became the party’s spokesperson on Transport, which also helped him in his Eastleigh constituency with its history as a railway town.

He was a conscientious constituency MP and preferred to achieve results by applying expertise and by working constructively with other MPs rather than banging the party drum too loudly. There were also opportunities for David to apply his engineering expertise to local issues as was evidenced by his speeches on the protection of the chalk streams which flowed through the local rivers in his constituency. He was also pleased to have played a significant role in the successful campaign to block plans by major high street banks to increase charges significantly at cash dispensing machines which would have disproportionately affected poorer people. His regular and unassuming habit of walking down from his constituency office to buy a lunchtime sandwich provided an informal opportunity to be approached by constituents and he was amused by their regular mispronouncing of his name as “Mr Chidley.”

When he moved to the House of Lords he became the party’s specialist front bench spokesman on African development and on human rights issues. With his internationalism and his attention to environmental issues David was a natural Liberal. His easy conviviality was evident in his active involvement in the National Liberal Club in which he used his experience and his contacts to assist with meetings on overseas affairs.

David William George Chidgey, engineer and politician, born 9 July 1942, died 15 February 2022.