Remembering Claire Kelley

By Lucy Johnson, Feb 05, 2021 2:02

Tributes have been paid to local Liberal Democrat politician and community activist, Claire Kelley, who passed away from cancer last month at Saint Michael's Hospice.

Claire was active in local politics for over 20 years and worked as a senior caseworker for former Harrogate & Knaresborough MP, Lord Phil Willis. 

She had previously won seats on both Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council and, in 2010, stood as the Liberal Democrat candidate to replace Phil Willis when he retired as MP, eventually losing out by a mere 1,039 votes.

She also took on other roles in the local community including as a governor at Oatlands Infant School, chair of governors at St Aidan’s, and chairing the trust board when the Yorkshire Causeway Schools Trust was established.

During the 2010 General Election campaign, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After successful radiotherapy treatment, Claire returned to work, taking up a post in the office of Leeds North MP Greg Mulholland.

On behalf of Harrogate & Knaresborough Liberal Democrats, Councillor Pat Marsh paid tribute to Claire: "It was with great sadness that we learnt about the passing of our friend and former colleague Claire Kelley.

"It was my late husband, Reg Marsh, who introduced Claire to politics.

"She used to deliver leaflets for him and he saw the potential in her and eventually persuaded her to stand as a Lib Dem councillor, alongside himself and the late Shirley Taylor, they made an awesome team.

"Claire served on both Harrogate Borough Council as well as North Yorkshire County Council, holding major roles in both.

"She worked hard in the campaign to get Phil Willis elected as the first Liberal Democrat MP for Harrogate & Knaresborough and went on to work alongside him in his office as his case worker helping many local residents with their problems and concerns.

"When Phil retired Claire put her name forward as the Lib Dem candidate. Unfortunately, she lost by a small margin; that will always be Harrogate’s loss.

"Claire also was involved with St Aidan's School dedicating many years as Chair of Governors showing her commitment to the importance of state education not just at St Aidan's but across the whole district."

"Claire was a well-loved, caring person whose passion for Harrogate and the world she lived in, was very strong.

"She was a hard-working colleague who was never afraid to speak out when she felt it was necessary.

"Despite her illness she spent many hours working for Judith Rogerson's election campaign in 2019, often being one of the last to leave the office.

"She was a fighter, even to the end and a campaigner who gave many years of service to the people of Harrogate District. She will be greatly missed."


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