My friend Barrie Stead, who died on 18 March at the age of 88, was a Labour politician active for six decades, with a strong interest in the arts and education.

He was born in Berkhamsted, Herts, but spent most of his childhood in Bromley, before attending St John’s College, Oxford, and then training as a solicitor.

Barrie stood twice for election to Parliament, first for the safe Conservative seat of Kensington South in 1964, and then in 1979 for Fulham, where he lost narrowly in the Thatcher general election landslide.

Barrie became leader of Hammersmith and Fulham council in 1973. He played a key role in shaping the borough’s cultural life, purchasing the Riverside Studios from the BBC, acquiring Fulham Palace from the Church Commissioners, and saving the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith from demolition by developers.

In 1981 Barrie was elected to the GLC. He turned his attention to education, serving as the chair first of ILEA’s finance sub-committee and then its schools sub-committee.
These were tumultuous times in politics, but Barrie successfully negotiated the political shoals of Labour party divisions, strong unions, and a Conservative government determined to shackle – and eventual abolish – the GLC and ILEA.

Under Barrie’s leadership, ILEA introduced many forward-looking policies which still resonate today, including expanded day care and after-school programmes, increased provision for 16 to19 year-olds, and fundamental reforms of special education. His attempts to equalize resources between different primary schools in the face of declining rolls, and to ensure a balance of abilities within each comprehensive school, were controversial, but Barrie persevered, reaching a compromise with the teaching unions who objected to compulsory redeployment of staff. Barrie vigorously opposed the budget cuts imposed by the Conservative government and rejected their claim of profligacy.

Barrie’s political activism continued after his retirement. He remained active in local politics, and was still leafleting a few weeks before his death. He also took up new causes, working to help refugees with a local charity, and attending many company AGMs on behalf of ShareAction to urge them to pay all staff the living wage.

Hammersmith and Fulham council awarded Barrie the Freedom of the
Borough last May for his ‘tireless services to the community.’

Barrie was pre-deceased by his wife of 51 years, Millicent Bowerman, a concert pianist and arts administrator, who died in January.

Steve Schifferes

Link to Instagram Link to Twitter Link to YouTube Link to Facebook Link to LinkedIn Link to Snapchat Close Fax Website Location Phone Email Calendar Building Search