Sir Simon Milton (born 1961), Boris Johnson's Deputy Mayor, and former leader of Westminster Council died yesterday evening. Widely seen as one of the most effective policy innovators in the Conservative Party, Sir Simon was expected to join the Lords and enjoy a senior ministerial role in the years ahead. His passing is a terrible loss to politics and to his family and friends.
11am update from Paul Goodman: David Cameron has now made his tribute to Simon Milton, and it's published below with Boris Johnson's at the end of this article.
6pm update: The tribute of Cllr Colin Barrow, the leader of Westminster City Council, is now also published below.
ConservativeHome has received the following tributes:
From local government minister and former colleague at Westminster Council, Greg Clark MP: "Simon Milton - one of the most brilliant and successful Conservatives of our times - redefined leadership in local government. As Leader of Westminster Council, Chairman of the Local Government Association and Deputy Mayor of London, Simon disclaimed the 'Mr Big' tradition of voluble, larger-than-life municipal swagger. He brought instead an understated, meticulous approach which dissolved division, clarified purpose and earned him universal respect. This created the consent to pursue bold, reforming policies - resulting in unrivalled excellence in services as well as in value for money. For example, Simon - and Kit Malthouse as his deputy - was absolutely insistent that the quality of social care for those in vulnerable circumstances must be outstanding. Simon Milton's policies and approach made Westminster the most popular council among its residents of any in the country. It delivered unprecedented political success for our party and made Simon a source of wisdom for every leading Conservative in local government and Parliament - and not a few Labour ministers, who could see the value of his experience and insight. It is a tragedy that our party and our country have been robbed of a man of such talent. I will always be very proud of having worked for Simon as a member of his Cabinet when I was a councillor in Westminster. My heart goes out to Robert, Simon's much-loved partner who, like Simon, is an enthusiast for everything local government can do to make people's lives better than they would otherwise be."
From broadcaster and friend Iain Dale: "Sometimes life just isn’t fair. Simon was one of life’s good guys. Likeable, clever, competent and above all a conciliator. Even political opponents found it difficult to be nasty about him. He was also a leader. He led Westminster City Council and the LGA with huge distinction and has been a pivotal force in City Hall as Boris Johnson’s deputy. As a member of the Total Politics advisory board he was a great source of calm and well intentioned advice and we shall miss his wise counsel greatly. Politics was robbed yesterday of a truly remarkable individual. His partner Robert will be bereft, and it is he who is in my thoughts as I write this."
From Brian Connell, former colleague at Westminster Council: "Simon was one of the outstanding Conservatives of his generation. His ability to reach out beyond core Conservative supporters sometimes belied the strength of his convictions: but also gave a clue as to why he was such a popular figure. He was a compassionate and humane Conservative, who was a tremendous leader of Westminster Council which in its eight square miles has more diversity of communities, income and mobility than any other city in Britain. He cared deeply about all these communities - and it was no surprise to find that Mayor Boris came to rely upon his political judgement and 'how to get things done' across the whole of London. He was a great mentor, a good friend, and leaves a gap which Conservatives, and I, will find hard to fill."
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, is quoted in today's Guardian -
"He was a wonderful colleague and friend and will be much missed by everyone who was involved in public life in this city. He was kind, he was decent, and he was universally acknowledged to be brilliant at his job. He was a widely admired leader of Westminster Council, who played a key role in launching the first academy schools. He brought the same calm, logic and warmth to his role at City Hall. It is a great shock that Simon has been taken from us when he had so much still to offer"
- and David Cameron's tribute is as follows, as given to Paul Waugh of PoliticsHome:
"I was shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden death of Sir Simon Milton. Simon was an extraordinarily talented leader of local government in London. He was a pioneering leader of Westminster City Council, and in recent years a tower of strength to the Mayor and his administration at City Hall, as Deputy Mayor and Chief of Staff. He was a much loved and much admired member of the Conservative family, and a familiar presence at Party Conferences and Party gatherings. In all the years I have known him he was always kind, reliable, trustworthy and incredibly hard-working. He was in public life and public service for all the right reasons. He still had a huge amount to give and a great future ahead of him. He will be greatly missed. My sympathy goes to his partner Robert, and to his family and friends."
Cllr Colin Barrow said -
"Simon lived a full life in fewer years than he deserved to enjoy. His role at Westminster, in London government and the Local Government Association made him one of the leading politicians of his generation.
He led this council with great distinction for eight years and I have always felt honoured to follow him as Leader and implement many of the policies he initiated.
His work as the Leader of our city council - for the people of Westminster - will mean he will retain an enduring place in our respect and affection across the city.
My thoughts and yours will be with his partner Robert and their family."