Covid-19 claims life of Atherstone-born retired MP Bill Olner who ‘never stopped serving the people’

  Posted: 18.05.20 at 20:35 by Nick Hudson

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TRIBUTES have been paid to a “good and decent” Atherstone-born politician who went on to represent neighbouring Nuneaton as one of its longest-serving MPs.

Former Solicitor General Mike O'Brien spoke of his personal “sadness” at news that Warwickshire county councillor Bill Olner passed away today at George Eliot Hospital, Nuneaton, following complications to Covid-19.

The 78-year-old was known to have underlying health issues.

Mr O’Brien, former Atherstone and North Warwickshire MP who also held ministerial positions in Energy, Pensions and Trade, said the area had lost a “true town champion”.

Mr Olner was a once-in-a-generation “local boy done good” who never attempted to rise “above his station”, according to former Nuneaton and Bedworth mayor Bob Copland.

Ex-Mayor Bob Copland: Touching tribute to former Labour MP Bill Olner

Ex-Councillor Copland told Nub News that his Labour colleague of many decades was a “top man”, blessed with being able to “disagree over issues but he would never fall out with you”.

He said one of the greatest things about him was how he "never stopped helping his own people".

Born in Atherstone in 1942, Mr Olner spent the majority of his life – in the next town.

Educated at Nuneaton Technical College and trained as an engineer, he became a shop steward at Rolls Royce and later area secretary to Unite trade union forerunner AEEU.

Politics eventually beckoned and he spent 21 years as Labour councillor for Nuneaton and Bedworth, rising to lead the authority from 1982-87.

In his final year as leader he became mayor and used his charity appeal fund to help create the Mary Ann Evans Hospice which serves the Atherstone area.

In 1992 he became Nuneaton’s MP – a position he held for 18 years and in terms of length of service was only bettered by World War Two member Frank Bowles.

He saw his electoral majorities slashed from 13,540 to 2,280 before announcing his decision to retire.

But his desire to serve his adopted town never dimmed and he returned to politics as a Warwickshire county councillor in 2013 until his death – first in the Arbury and Stockingford wards and latterly in Abbey.

Ex-Councillor Copland said it “not a common thing” to retire as an MP and then come back as a councillor.

He summed up his political friend’s achievements: “He was never ambitious and never got above his station.

“This local boy done good because he never stopped helping people.”

His widow, Gill, was his life-long marital supporter and served as his mayoress in 1987-88.

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