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Inspirational journalist Lord Deedes dies aged 94

Lord Deedes only filed his last copy as a columnist on August 3
Lord Deedes only filed his last copy as a columnist on August 3

LORD William 'Bill' Deedes has died at his home in Kent aged 94.

The Aldington man was a former Tory MP and editor of the Daily Telegraph, only filing his last copy as a columnist on August 3 this year.

He was well-known and very well thought of in the village on the edge of Romney Marsh and was an enthusiastic participant in local issues. Although he became less involved as he got older, he was no stranger to the parish council and other Aldington organisations.

Shepway Conservative agent Gordon Williams said: "He was always very involved with us and someone we knew well. He was also someone that young people were fascinated by as much as older. He really listened to people and understood.

"His last article for the newspaper was comparing the genocide in Darfur with that of the Nazis and he was very concerned about Africa and clear in his expression right up to the end."

Shepway prospective parliamentary candidate Damian Collins said: "He was an inspiration to many people, as much for his humanity as politics.

"He was a great example as a man and also as a public servant. Sometimes it's easy to forget in the hurly burly of politics that decency and public service are what it's all about.

"His career would be an inspiration to anyone in politics."

A young Bill Deedes was the model for Evelyn Waugh's war reporter William Boot in the novel Scoop. He was also affectionately satirised later in Private Eye's fortnightly "Dear Bill" letters.

Lord Deedes was a keen golfer, and was for many years President of Littlestone Golf Club, a links course near New Romney. He was also president and patron of the Kent and East Sussex Railway, based in Tenterden.

He played a full part in judging each year's Shepherd Neame Kent Journalist of the Year, establishing the awards as a well-respected annual event and giving local reporters on all media a boost.

At a national level, giants of politics and journalism have been lining up to pay tribute, including Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who said: "Britain owes a huge debt of gratitude to the patriotism and public service given by Bill Deedes.

"He started writing as a professional journalist more than 78 years ago and few have served journalism and the British public for so long at such a high level of distinction, and with such a popular following."

And Baroness Thatcher told the Telegraph: "Bill was a dear friend who will be greatly missed. He had a uniquely distinguished career in politics and journalism.

"He managed to appeal to new generations just as effectively as he did to earlier ones. I am deeply sorry at his passing."

Bill Deedes was elected Conservative MP for Ashford in 1950, serving briefly as Minister for Housing. He became minister without portfolio for Harold Macmillan in 1962.

He became editor of the Daily Telegraph in 1974, the paper he had first joined in the 1930s.

After Max Hastings took over as editor in 1985, he stayed on as a leader-writer and columnist, although it was as a reporter that Deedes was most happy.

He had three daughters and two sons.

William Francis Deedes, born June 1, 1913, died August 17, 2007.

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