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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Bryan Merton

Chris Perry obituary

Chris Perry developed an understanding of people who lived in difficult circumstances when he conducted interviews for the Home Office’s national crime survey
Chris Perry developed an understanding of people who lived in difficult circumstances when he conducted interviews for the Home Office’s national crime survey Photograph: provided by friend

Chris Perry, who has died aged 76, was a journalist, a teacher, a politician and an indefatigable righter of wrongs.

Born in Winchester, Hampshire, Chris grew up on a housing estate and attended Peter Symonds school in the city. His father, Douglas, was a local government officer and his mother, Esme (nee Walker), a domestic servant.

Chris enrolled in the second year of the new University of York, to study history, in 1964. We sat alongside each other in the junior common room as the results were announced on television of the 1964 general election, which led to the first of four Labour governments led by Harold Wilson.

After York, Chris had a succession of jobs in local journalism, including on the Surrey Comet and St Helens Star, and in teaching, at Ruffwood school in Kirkby in the early 1970s as well as schools in Bradford and London. He was also a press officer for Derbyshire county council in the mid-70s.

Chris had a short-lived career as a politician. In 1970, he considerably reduced the Tory majority in Winchester after being selected as the Labour candidate. Two years later he was elected to Liverpool city council, winning 59% of the vote, a 34% swing from the Conservatives. During his time in Merseyside he met Lin O’Neill, who had a young daughter, Jayne. Chris and Lin were married in 1972. The couple separated later, and Chris eventually moved to London, where he worked as a teacher. Following Lin’s death in 2007, Jayne became Chris’s next of kin.

His happiest period at work was from the late 90s until he retired, when he was conducting interviews with householders as part of the Home Office’s national crime survey. He was living with his mother in Winchester during this time, and enjoyed visiting various parts of the country, developing an deep understanding of the troubles of many people who lived in difficult circumstances.

Following his retirement in 2011, Chris and his mother relocated to east Yorkshire. Esme died of cancer in her early 90s, and Chris later moved into a small local council flat, where he surrounded himself with music, films and books.

A fearless spokesperson for those who had little confidence to speak for themselves, Chris could get on with anyone. In his fedora, and with his wicked smile and Hampshire brogue, he could engage a whole carriage of train passengers or a ward of hospital patients in banter and laughter.

Chris is survived by Jayne.

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