Lancashire County Council chairman Keith Iddon remembered as a politician who "never had a bad word to say about anybody" after sudden passing
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The veteran Chorley representative died suddenly at his home on Thursday, just over a month after being elected to his new post at County Hall - a role in which he was set to be the authority’s figurehead for the year to come.
Speaking to the Lancashire Post shortly after taking on the largely ceremonial job, the Conservative member said that he was overwhelmed by the kind, congratulatory comments he had received from all sides of the often combative county council chamber.
It was for the saddest of the reasons that the cross-party respect and affection he commanded was on show once again, just weeks later, as he was remembered by colleagues as one of the most popular of Lancashire politicians - a gent who bridged the political divide with ease.
David O’Toole, Tory group whip on the county council, said that in all the years he had known Keith, his friend had achieved the near-impossible feat of being a councillor who “never had a bad word to say about anybody”.
“He was always very even-tempered and met people with a big smile and a warm Lancashire ‘Hello’. He was extremely popular with everybody and well-liked by all the county council staff.”
County Hall’s Labour opposition group leader Azhar Ali - whose party supported Keith’s nomination as the authority's chair last month - paid tribute to a “politician who transcended party politics”.
“He had a great sense of humour and wit - and was also a calming influence. He was very humble and caring - and someone who always had time to talk.
“If he ever saw my car in the car park at County Hall, he'd give me a ring and I’d go and have a brew with him and we’d put the world to rights.
“Keith was a great councillor and a really good friend to me. His are big boots to fill and he really will be missed,” County Cllr Ali reflected.
County council leader Phillippa Williamson said that Keith had been “a great champion” for Lancashire since being elected to represent the Chorley Rural West division in 2009, “showing passion and unlimited enthusiasm in everything he did”.
"He was…looking forward to using his time in office to bring new investment, growth and business to Lancashire. His sudden death is a great loss to the county council and to the people he loved to serve.
"Our condolences go out to his family and friends. He will be sadly missed by his colleagues across Lancashire,” County Cllr Williamson added.
During his 14-year stint on the county council, Keith Iddon spent four years in one of the most high-profile and challenging cabinet roles, taking on responsibility for Lancashire’s highways from 2017. He also rose to become deputy leader of the authority, serving under former leader Geoff Driver for two years until the latter stepped down in 2021.
Keith had been tipped to move into the top role, but was pipped to the position by County Cllr Williamson. However, he told the Post last month that while he had “worked hard” to ready himself for that step up, his personality meant that he was probably more suited to the non-political post of chairman, especially after his experience in the role of vice-chair for the last 12 months.
The Croston-born politician, who later moved to Mawdesley, built a successful business out of an early fascination with HGVs, forming the Leyland-based haulage firm K&P Transport with his brother Phillip in the early 1970s. The company flourished after being founded with just one used lorry bought for £50, with the £12.50 road tax for the vehicle borrowed from their mum, Win.
Although Keith largely left his long distance driving days behind after entering local politics in the mid-2000s, he was still doing short journeys for his sons’ haulage company up until his death - and spent much of the rest of his spare time indulging a lifelong love of pigeon racing.
He was also a Chorley borough councillor for 17 years, latterly serving both of the areas to which he had the strongest connection as one of the ward members for Croston, Mawdesley and Euxton South.
Chorley Council’s Labour leader Alistair Bradley recalled a colleague who could “diffuse situations with a smile, a joke and a stroke of his hair and a twinkle in his eye”.
“He was well respected because of the fact he listened to all sides of an argument and he didn’t always play things politically, he [did] whatever was best for his residents. Keith was always a gentleman - courteous, kind and helpful.”
Alan Cullens, Tory group leader on Chorley Council, said that Keith had been “an integral part of the Conservative team” in the borough for nearly 20 years, adding: “We have lost a committed councillor and a dear friend.”
“He was forever a gentleman, with a great sense of humour, who would regularly go out of his way to help people and mentor new councillors.
“As deputy chairman of the county council last year, he attended numerous events and his enthusiasm for the county and its people was always there to see.
“His passing is a sad loss to political life and he will always be remembered with great affection,” Cllr Cullens said.
Keith told the Post that he was eager to spend his year as chair banging the drum for Lancashire and its businesses. However, he was also keen to ensure that his own personable persona brought dignity and mutual respect to the sometimes boisterous county council meetings which he was set to chair for the next 12 months.
He had only taken on that task once before his time in the post was cruelly cut short, but the Liberal Democrat group leader at County Hall, David Howarth, said that the esteem in which he was held meant he was perfectly placed to keep order.
“I was very shocked and saddened to learn the news of his passing and our condolences do go out to Keith’s family - he will be very sadly missed,” County Cllr Howarth said.
The county’s Green Party group leader, Gina Dowding, added: “Keith was genuinely committed to his role as a councillor, very easy-going and always a pleasure to work with on cross-party issues.
“He was looking forward to his year as the chair of the county council - as we all were - and he will be much missed by everyone. Our thoughts are with his family.”
Ribble Valley North East division representative Ged Mirfin said that Keith was his "go-to person for advice" when he was first elected.
"Less of a mentor and more a highly accessible font of knowledge that I knew I could pick up the phone to, no matter what time of day, and he was never too busy to take my call.
"He became a trusted friend who I could rely on to act with discretion."
Keith Iddon leaves behind his wife, Barbara, as well as twin sons, a daughter and three grandchildren.
As a mark of respect, the flag on County Hall will be lowered to half mast on the yet-to-be-arranged day of his funeral, a service that will no doubt be as well attended as the man whose life it will celebrate was liked - by councillors of all political colours.