Liberal International has lost its steward

Robert Woodthorpe Browne died after a brief illness at the age of 79. A truly global guy has left us
Robert Woodthorpe Browne

Robert Woodthorpe Browne

© Liberal International

BBC World Service and The Economist Newspaper – these are the media that I regularly consult when I want to have reliable and competent news about world affairs. Since I came to know Robert – a few years ago when I began to be active in Liberal International – he came to my mind every time that I switched on the radio to listen to the BBC or skimmed over the pages of The Economist. Often enough, I asked myself why this is so. The answer is straight and simple: more than anybody else I knew, Robert represented the global spirit of British cosmopolitanism and liberalism.

First to his cosmopolitan spirit: He spoke four languages fluently. From his native English, he could easily switch to French and Spanish – and to the mother tongue of his wonderful wife Barbara, to German. And not only did he switch easily to these languages. More than that, he was a connaisseur of the history and culture of these countries; and he loved their food and wine. A European citizen par excellence! And a global one at that as no country in the world was far enough for him to be studied and travelled. As late as in mid’ 2022, he was the first representative of Liberal International to visit the new Global Development Hub of our Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Nairobi. He always stood ready to support global networks. And it is of high symbolic significance that his home, not far from the Underground Station “Earl’s Court” in London, was literally on the way of the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow Airport, the gateway to the world.

His liberal spirit was closely connected with his cosmopolitan outlook. By passion and conviction, he was a global Liberal; in Britain, he joined the Libdems (at that time still called Liberals) in 1960, no less than 62 (!) years ago. He worked hard to make liberalism operate efficiently and smoothly – and, of course, with a worldwide scope. He helped to run the London office of Liberal International at the residence of the Liberal Club in London’ Whitehall Place – giving as much as possible support to the professional staff at any time of the day, week, month or year. He was the steward in the back. As to organizational matters in London, nobody could match his invaluable competences and contacts. He also supported the members of the Liberal International Bureau (including myself) at any moment we chose to pick up the phone and call him for advice. And that advice was always helpful, knitting us all together and evening out any differences of opinions or priorities, but at the same time taking a clear stand. When leaving, after his long time in the Bureau, he was elected to become a patron of Liberal International – and it is hard to think of anybody else being more apt to take over this kind of honorary duty.

Liberal International will miss him dearly. And so will all in the global liberal family. And even more so Barbara, his widow, and his son Robert will miss him. Our thoughts are with them. A great Liberal has gone. We will never forget him.