Earl Russell 1937-2004

Publish Date: 06/08/2007

Liberal historian and politician Conrad Russell, son of philosopher Bertrand Russell, has died. He was 67.

Conrad Russell, gained a reputation as a defender of the disenfranchised and he was one of the gay movement's most loyal friends in the House of Lords. He was at the forefront of the campaign to repeal the notorious Section 28, which prohibited the 'promotion of homosexuality' by local governments. Condemning Section 28 as ''useless, or else it is pernicious'' Russell was frequently to be found battling with peoples bigoted views over subjects like gay adoption rights and civil partnerships.

In April Earl Russell wrote to The Lesbian and Gay Foundation in support of The Civil Partnership Bill.Below is a transcript of that letter.

"I am delighted to offer a message of support for the Civil Partnership Bill. I spoke in support of Lord Lester's original draft Bill and my absence from the second reading of the current Bill will be due only to the 70th birthday celebrations of a friend of nearly 50 years standing.

I think we all have the right to live in the way we prefer, provided that we thereby do no harm to others. I cannot see that a couple who prefer to live as a single partnership thereby do any harm to anyone else at all and I therefore unreservedly support their right to live as they wish. I will do my best to make sure the Bill is passed."

Yours sincerely
Earl Russell

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy called Russell "a personal, political and intellectual rock of support for me. And his contribution to the development of liberalism in Britain cannot be underestimated. He was a vigorous campaigner to the end, both in the Lords and for the Liberal Democrat party itself."

Russell sat in the House of Lords as Earl Russell, a title he inherited from his half brother in 1987.Russell also taught history at Yale University and the University of London, specializing in the 17th century and the English Civil War. A lifelong smoker, he had suffered from respiratory problems for several years. His wife died last year, and his two sons survive him.

The Lesbian and Gay Foundation would like to pay our utmost respect to Earl Russell and give thanks for all his support and dogged determination to fight injustice and harmful legislation. It is indeed no coincidence that Section 28 has now gone and the Civil Partnership Bill has just been passed by The House of Lords.Without supporters like Conrad Russell we may still be fighting some of these still very basic battles. We would also like to pass on our heartfelt sympathy to The Earls family and friends.

Conrad Sebastian Robert Russell (Fifth Earl Russell), historian and politician, born April 15 1937; died October 14 2004