Yesterday I attended Simon Milton's memorial service in Westminster Abbey which was a celebration of the remarkable life of someone who has left his mark on both the City of Westminster and London as a whole. It was a wonderful occasion with touching tributes from Robert, his partner, Lisa Milton, his sister and of course, Mayor Boris Johnson. The order of service also included a letter from the Prime Minister and the service was attended by all of the great and good in London government.
In preparation for becoming council leader I sought the advice of three individuals: Sir Edward Lister, Sir Simon Milton and Sir Merrick Cockell. All have now been knighted for services to local government but Simon was the first to be recognised and one of only two Conservatives knighted under the Blair Labour government.
Simon and I went to the same school, had the same inspirational history teacher (Keith Perry) and went on to the same university where we were both were elected President of the Union. Simon achieved this feat by being elected unopposed whereas I had to endure a bloody battle against Karan (now Lord) Bilimoria which I won by a measly 12 votes. Simon was one of only a handful of student politicians who achieved the prized double of the presidency of the Cambridge Union and the chairmanship of the Cambridge University Conservative Association (CUCA). I failed in my bid for this second prize and was famously beaten not by my opponent but by the speaking clock which ruled that my nomination papers had been handed in a few seconds too late. Years later I discovered that I had been stitched up but that's politics!
I had lunch with Simon only weeks before he died and he gave me very sound advice in preparation for some of the battles that lay ahead based on his own personal experience. He also continued to provide support from his hospital bed until just days before his death. Simon was half my size but a towering figure in London political life. Boris is right that he would have naturally gone on to a seat in the House of Lords and one of the great ministries of state. My thoughts have remained with Robert and his family since his tragic and untimely death.