Tributes are never easy, but writing about Pete is an honour and privilege

It is never easy to write a tribute.  You spend way too much time gazing into the distance remembering things about the person you’re meant to be eulogising, the funny exchanges, the reason you were friends.  Writing a tribute from an organisation, on behalf of a very mixed group of people, for someone who began as a colleague, is even stranger. And then add into the mix that most of us had never even met in real life.

But writing about Pete Newbon is an honour and a privilege. He was truly a unique individual.  He was a fair and kind man.  Level-headed with the ability to calm the most volatile of sentiments.  Never one to give up a fight or to lose the point, he managed to go into battle in a respectful manner, always knowing where the line was.  In a social media world where many lose perspective and forget that they are engaging with another human being, Pete always stayed focused and dignified, often steering the group back onto a steadier path. 

He joined LAAS (Labour Against Antisemitism) in 2018 but had been an active fighter, challenging the rise of antisemitism long before that.  He was proud of his Jewish identity and heritage, part of that was ensuring that anti-Jewish hatred was never tolerated.  Pete had an inherent sense of right and wrong, always the gentleman, perhaps only to be expected from a man who lectured on Romantic Literature. 

As a colleague, he quickly became a friend.  His open warm manner and his gentle humour made him a favourite with everyone.  A quick scroll through social media in the last 24hrs shows literally hundreds of messages highlighting his kindness and generosity, sharing in our disbelief that our beloved Pete is gone.

LAAS is not a membership organisation, there are no joining fees, no obligations, just a desire to stand up and speak out against political antisemitism.  But for a small few, the directors and steering group, that commitment is much greater.  We were lucky that Pete agreed to become a director in 2018.  He was an integral part of the battle to ensure that Jeremy Corbyn was not elected as Prime Minister and the subsequent fight to return the Labour Party back to being a safe space for Jewish members.  His sharp intellect and historical referencing helped shape our strategy and kept us focussed on what was really important.

Pete, like us all, was not just a fighter against antisemitism.  He was a well-respected senior lecturer and academic, often posting, what for many of us were, obscure but perfectly apt, historical references to mirror current issues.  Romantic pictures and grotesque gargoyles often featured on his Facebook page. 

But Pete, most of all, was a family man.  His partner Rachel and his three young daughters, were the focus of his life.  So many of us were let in to snapshots of his family, enjoying hikes and adventures, watching the girls as the grew up. There was barely a day without a new photo accompanied by a funny anecdote.  The joy he took in his family and shared with us all, was clear to see.  Above all else, they were the center of his world.

We at LAAS will miss him terribly.  We are still numb from the shock, disbelieving that we will never have another conversation or read his thoughts and opinions in our group chat.  We will miss his wisdom, his integrity, his humour.  But most of all, we will miss Pete Newbon – our colleague and our friend.

About the Author
Fiona Sharpe is a spokesman for Labour Against Antisemitism and a Communities Consultant working with minoritised communities.
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