Eric Minett: Yarmouth politican twice stood for Liberals in General Elections

Tributes have been paid to a loyal and long-serving further education lecturer and well-respected political presence who died last week aged 79.

Eric Minett's people-first approach won him many friends across all parties during a political career that spanned more than four decades.

He took some significant steps on the local political ladder, serving on many influential committees at borough and county level, topping the polls thanks to his genuine character and aversion to party politics.

He was also well-known for his role as a senior lecturer in English and Liberal Studies at the Great Yarmouth College of Further Education where he gained a reputation for his passion for helping students to make the best of their educational chances, instilling a lifelong love of literature in many.

Born in Caister, Eric David Minett attended Great Yarmouth Grammar School, did two years' national service as a drill instructor and was a guard of honour at the funeral of George VI.

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He later lived in Bradwell where he became a founder member of the village community council.

He represented the area on the former Lothingland Rural District council between 1964 and 1969 and was elected to Yarmouth Borough Council in 1976, where he was the only Liberal member.

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In 1977 Yarmouth's Liberals chose Mr Minett, then aged 45, as the prospective parliamentary candidate.

In April 1979, fighting his first general election in the Yarmouth constituency, he said that the 34 years of government since the war had been evenly shared by the big parties and had resulted in a long catalogue of failures. In his first speech, Mr Minett called on his fellow party members to 'get out of your seats and into the streets.'

In August 1984 Mr Minett stood down as Alliance parliamentary candidate for Great Yarmouth after fighting the last two general elections and greatly reducing the gap between the Alliance and second-placed Labour. He also supported Yarmouth's second river crossing and said that it should take priority over a bypass for Attleborough.

At county level he was elected as Labour member for Lothingland West with an 870 majority over the Conservative candidate in May 1997, standing down for health reasons in 2001. He served on the standards committee, where he was Labour spokesman, and was deputy cabinet portfolio holder for culture and lifelong learning. He was also on the Great Yarmouth Area Museums Committee.

John Holmes, who worked alongside him on education, said he was 'down to earth and very caring,' adding: 'I always felt that for him it was all about what was best for the people rather than politics.'

Mr Minett is remembered fondly by scores of former students he taught for A level English at Yarmouth College after joining the staff in 1961 and rising to head of department. He continued as a governor after his retirement.

He was a staunch campaigner for nursery provision and campaigned for a day care nursery at the college – finally set up in the early 1990s.

When the nursery moved to a refurbished building on the Lichfield Road side of the campus, Mr Minett performed the opening ceremony in 2007 and said securing a nursery was his finest achievement in his long career.

He was also an active Rotarian since 2004. He leaves a widow, Shirley, whom he married in 1957, and daughters Caitlin and Lucy.

A funeral service will be held at Great Yarmouth Crematorium, Gorleston, on Tuesday, April 3 at 2.40pm.

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