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Martin Morton: Tributes paid to last Conservative councillor to lead Camden Council, who has died aged 87

PUBLISHED: 10:53 02 July 2019 | UPDATED: 12:47 02 July 2019

Martin Morton, former leader of Camden Council, who has died aged 87. Picture: The Morton family

Martin Morton, former leader of Camden Council, who has died aged 87. Picture: The Morton family

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Tributes have been paid to former leader of Camden Council, Martin Morton, who has died aged 87.

Martin Morton, former leader of Camden Council, who has died aged 87. Picture: The Morton familyMartin Morton, former leader of Camden Council, who has died aged 87. Picture: The Morton family

His wife, Joyce, spoke of a "gentleman" with a sense of civic duty. He was the last Conservative Party leader of Camden Council, serving for a year in 1970. He had three spells as a councillor between 1964 and 1986 in Highgate and Belsize wards.

On top of this, Martin stood unsuccessfully twice for the party in Hackney Central in both general elections in the mid-1960s.

The long-term Hampstead resident was a stalwart of several voluntary groups in the borough. He was both chair and treasurer of the Camden Civic Society for more than a decade, a trustee of the Royal Free Charity and a Friend of Highgate Society. A year before his death he was recognised by the Diocese of Westminster for his work.

Joyce said: "He liked to spend his time usefully, and he was very community minded. He was well liked by the opposition when he was on the council as well.

"He was very interested in genealogy, and the first and second world war. He had visited all the battlefields. Martin also loved following the cricket, he would have enjoyed the win against India very much."

The former council leader attended Ampleforth College, before going on to read history at Oxford University. Martin became president of the university's Conservative Association, and future Conservative deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine was a contemporary of his. He met Joyce at the World Assembly of Youth, when he was representing the party, and she was at the event on behalf of the Girl Guides. While a lifelong member of the Conservative Party, he had grown increasingly disenchanted with the party in more recent years.

The couple married in July 1957 in Chelsea, near where he had grown up. Shortly afterwards they moved to Holly Lodge, in Hampstead, where they lived for more than six decades.

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Outside of politics and the borough's organisations, he worked for the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Oil and the Chemical Plant Construction Association.

"He was a gentleman," said Joyce. "He thought it was his duty to get involved. He wanted to help people and was very well liked.

"He was very proud of his children and grandchildren," she said.

When Martin was elected to Camden Council in the borough's inauguration in 1964, one of the councillors across the chamber was Roger Robinson.

The two struck up a friendship that lasted until Martin's death. They even rowed together decades ago, in the Holland Cup competition on the Welsh Harp reservoir.

Speaking to the Ham&High, Roger said: "He was a great leader. I didn't agree with his political views but I felt he did a tremendous job and cared for people. He was a very sympathetic man and kind man. We got on extremely well.

"He didn't care if you had different views, he would still come up in the street and talk to you."

Martin died on Friday June 28 at the Marie Curie Hospice in Hampstead. Joyce paid tribute to the care he received at the home in Lyndhurst Gardens.

"He had such wonderful care. Everybody was so good and it's everything you could hope for," she said.

He is survived by Joyce, their four children and six grandchildren. A celebration of his life will take place in the autumn.

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