Kate Alley

I worked with Ian at ASH and very much wanted to come to his memorial, however I will likely be in Australia on 2nd April (coincidentally the anniversary of my mother’s death six years earlier).  This will be the first time I have seen my family in four years.  I had thought I might be travelling later in the month and able to attend, but my dates are looking certain now. In a COVID world, of course, who knows what will be? 

Ian was someone I admired enormously.  He was certainly the best manager I ever had and, as a contract worker who moves jobs at least every six months, that is saying a lot.  My favourite thing about him, apart from his ferocious campaigning skills and parliamentary knowledge, was his utter disregard for meaningless bureaucracy, a view he has passed on to me.

Three memories particularly stand out:

Ian:  You’re doing very well.  Do you have anything you want to say?

  • Him randomly calling the word “astroturfing” to me from behind his desk on the other side of the office.  I had to use a new website called “google” to find out what it meant but it became the blue print for much of my work at ASH.
  • Having my “appraisal”, which consisted of the following conversation:

Me:  um, no. (a confused pause) Thanks.

Ian: Right, can we not do the rest of this? It’s such a waste of time.

And we went back to work.  ha ha ha ha ha ha

  • Him having a shouting row with Nick Ferrari on LBC radio one morning.  Even through the closed door of the meeting room, the noise was thunderous but he came out with an enormous grin on his face.  Nick F (a t**t if ever there was one) called back a few minutes’ later to say it a fantastic interview and invited Ian to come on again.

I don’t think he ever did. I have never met someone so hell bent on avoiding the limelight.  The respect of his colleagues was enough.  I think quite a few people found him intimidating.  I don’t know why, he was incredibly generous with his time and expertise.

My first experience of the world of tobacco control was in the year 2000, when the idea of restrictions on smoking in public places was unthinkable.  Impossible.  Seven years later, it was law. Would it have happened without Ian?  I don’t think so.  This is no disrespect to the many others who worked on that campaign but Ian’s contribution was without question the deciding factor.  It is a tremendous legacy to have left the world.

On the day after we won the vote in the House of Commons, I sent an email to our regional campaigners, giving them the run down on what had happened, in all its technicolour glory.   I started by saying that when it came my time to die, and my life was flashing before my eyes, I hoped that the passing of smokefree legislation in a stunning parliamentary landslide was one of the moments I would get to see again.  I hope it was for him too.

My deepest condolences for your loss.