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Plaque unveiled in memory of former Norwich MP

PUBLISHED: 11:00 12 March 2010 | UPDATED: 09:18 01 July 2010

The unveiling of the plaque in memory of John Garrett at Blackfriars Hall in Norwich.

The unveiling of the plaque in memory of John Garrett at Blackfriars Hall in Norwich.

Sarah Brealey

A Norwich MP who left a lasting impact with his efforts to improve the way politics works will be remembered with a plaque bearing the word "Reformer".

A Norwich MP who left a lasting impact with his efforts to improve the way politics works will be remembered with a plaque bearing the word “Reformer”.

Yesterday the slate plaque was unveiled at Blackfriars Hall in the city, where John Garrett's memorial service was held in 2007. The Labour MP for Norwich South from 1974-1983 and 1987-1997, he was described in a national newspaper obituary and at his memorial service as “the most effective parliamentary reformer of his generation”.

The plaque was unveiled by his daughter Georgia and his successor Charles Clarke, watched by friends, relatives and Labour Party colleagues. The word 'reformer', which appears in capitals on the plaque, was Mr Garrett's own choice.

Mr Clarke said: “The choice of the word 'reformer' is appropriate for two reasons. Politics is at the core of reform. John was the first to say politics was the way to make change happen, to improve the lives of people.

“Secondly, he tried in a way that I think was path-breaking to make politicians understand that we had to make things work better and more suited to the needs of people. He dedicated himself to making things work better.

“John was the first politician in the country to really get that thought.”

Mr Garrett unseated his Conservative predecessor, Tom Stuttaford, in 1974, though he was himself defeated in 1983 before winning the seat back. He brought his expertise as a management consultant to his work as an MP. He helped to get statutory independence for the National Audit Office, making it responsible to parliament, not government, and therefore a more independent watchdog over how public money is spent. He also helped set up the parliamentary select committee system, covering every department, which still exists and helps to scrutinise the workings of government.

His daughter, 45, a literary agent and mother-of-three, said: “I feel very moved and incredibly proud. Dad was so devoted to Norwich, he loved it so much. I feel he would have been incredibly gratified to see it there.”

Sue Whitaker, former leader of the Labour group on Norfolk County Council, recalled how she once appeared on national television singing Sonny and Cher's hit I Got You Babe with Mr Garrett.

She added: “John did a lot for the city in the time he was an MP, and people still remember him with affection. It is only right we should recognise him.”

Mr Garrett, who was always a keen constituency MP, went on to serve on Norfolk County Council and Norwich City Council. He was a keen birdwatcher who also listed “dabbling and arguing” among his hobbies in Who's Who.

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