I was Chairman of the Hammersmith & Fulham Conservatives from 2001-2004. It was a difficult time for our party. The New Labour government was popular and the Conservatives elected two leaders in a row, William Hague and Iain Duncan-Smith who were incapable of appealing to the British public. Locally in Hammersmith & Fulham we lost the Parliamentary seat in 1997 and failed to re-take it in 2001. The local council (a unitary authority as are all London borough councils) had been in the hands of the Labour party since 1986 and they were to hold it for 20 years.
Antony Lillis was a few months older than me and had been a councillor since 1990. It cannot have been an easy job, knowing that any contested vote would be lost and that any influence had to be obtained by way of negotiation and persuasion, not by force of numbers. For about 15 years he was the opposition spokesman on education and children’s services and on the voluntary sector. He threw himself into this task with enthusiasm. He was one of those very few politicians who was able to maintain and develop friendships across the political boundary. Always cheerful and jolly even in the most depressing political circumstances, he was a great help to me. Whatever his private views, he was always publicly supportive of the Party and those charged with the task of leading it.
In 2006 he was finally rewarded – the Conservatives took power and he was given the Cabinet role which he had shadowed for so long. It was not going to be an easy job since the state schools in the borough are mediocre, with the exception of the Oratory (reserved to Catholics – the Blair children went there) and Lady Margaret (Church of England girls only). As with Surrey, most people who can afford to educate their children privately, do so. Antony was well on his way to revolutionising the provision of education in Hammersmith & Fulham when he fell ill in June. I returned from holiday to find that he had passed away. You can read his obituary and the many heartfelt tributes to him here: http://www.lbhf.gov.uk/Directory/News/Cllr_Lillis_loses_battle_with_cancer.asp
Any councillor would be proud of Antony’s achievements. He will be missed.