An example of public service at its best

Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for West Worthing
Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for West Worthing

During the analysis of the United States mid-term elections, one comment struck me deeply. The United Kingdom and the United States are each capable of becoming disunited. I prefer people in politics who try to bring people together after, and preferably during and before decision times in election or referendum.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was twice decorated for his soldiering on the eastern front against the Nazis before being stripped of his rank, charged with dissemination of anti-Soviet propaganda,and locked up in the Lubyanka prison before years on the Gulag.

Soon after its publication in 1962 I read his personal memoir of a single day in the labour camps One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. The later Gulag Archipelago has been described as an extended scream of outrage. These words are based on Jordan Peterson’s foreword to the new edition. He asks why is it still acceptable to profess the philosophy of a communist.

The 1917 October 25th Revolution (old style calendar) started in Petrograd on November 7. Solzhenitsyn gave evidence of the suffering for the communist experiment, offering the insight to help us avoid the catastrophe repeating. This week The Times 2 section on Wednesday had an extended article.

The contrast comes from the life of my East Preston friend Derek Whittaker, born June 2, 1940 in Worcester, who died on October 31. He served as leader of Arun District when I was first elected as local MP. For over twenty years, I looked forward to meeting him, to being teased and to having the opportunity to hear his always positive suggestions on how local and national government could achieve more good and to reduce avoidable harm.

His cheerful life was given in order to his wife Jennifer, then to their three children and five grandchildren, before his selfless constant dedication to the community in every possible way. He came to Littlehampton aged five where his father had a fishmonger and poulterer business. From 16 his estate agency work was in Worthing, Rustington and Lancing, before he established his Whittaker & Co., growing to offices in Rustington, Littlehampton, East Preston, West Worthing and central Worthing.

|Also in the news - a senior councillor has been quizzed on why weekly refuse collections in Adur and Worthing will be scrapped; Stephen Frith’s elderly father issued an emotional video appeal over the tragic murder of his Worthing son; and a jury has concluded that an 18-year-old patient at a Worthing mental health clinic died as a result of her mental health issues which led her to self harm|

At the top of the market, the ‘The man from the Pru’ bought him out. Derek created and ran the Gerrard House small business centre: it has now been redeveloped by McCarthy and Stone.

He served first on West Sussex County Council. Later, when his business was established he joined the Arun District Council, and after being chairman he was leader for about seven years. In a bad year for Conservatives, he kept control I believe because his practical love for the community was widely known.

Under his vision the East Bank development came to fruition. I knew him when he was the Local Government representative at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. He went to Kosovo when Arun’s chief executive Ian Sumnal was appointed to resurrect local government after the conflict.

His involvement in Round Table started his tremendous contributions to Rustington Hall, the fantastic charity established for elderly people. For forty years of which 25 were as chairman, he quietly and determinedly transformed that community. The home originally had dormitory style bedrooms. Derek fulfilled his imaginative plans. Sheltered flats were constructed in the grounds. He led the creation of the admired nursing wing. During a brief period, spare capacity was used for homeless people, before they purchased suitable houses in Littlehampton for this purpose.

Some do a little and brag a lot. Derek did an enormous amount in many fields and never boasted. I and many others have been inspired by his example, cheered by his friendship and we can treasure our memories of his life.

---

Benefit from an ongoing discount on your Herald or Littlehampton Gazette by joining our voucher membership scheme. Once you’ve subscribed we’ll send you dated vouchers which can be exchanged for your paper at any news outlet. To save money on your Herald or Littlehampton Gazette simply click here.