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Colin Breed, Lib Dem MP for South East Cornwall who tried to heal divisions over hunting – obituary

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Published Time: 16.05.2024 - 08:40:38 Modified Time: 16.05.2024 - 08:40:38

Breed, a Methodist lay preacher, opposed a foxhunting ban, voted against the Iraq War and campaigned for community hospitals Alamy Colin Breed, who has died aged 77, was a former bank manager who was Liberal Democrat MP for South East Cornwall between 1997 and 2010, and for much of his time in the Commons a front-bench party spokesman

Breed, a Methodist lay preacher, opposed a foxhunting ban, voted against the Iraq War and campaigned for community hospitals

: Alamy

Colin Breed, who has died aged 77, was a former bank manager who was Liberal Democrat MP for South East Cornwall between 1997 and 2010, and for much of his time in the Commons a front-bench party spokesman.

A Methodist local preacher, he opposed a ban on hunting and the extension of gay rights, voted against the Iraq War and regularly visited the Middle East trying to promote greater understanding.

Amicable and bearded, Breed both locally and at Westminster built a reputation for trying to find out what lay behind the obvious in any issue affecting Plymouth’s Cornish hinterland across the Tamar.

He campaigned against the “neglect” of Cornwall by national government, the closure of community hospitals, and water charges he saw as excessive, and sought the renationalisation of Devonport naval dockyard.


Colin Edward Breed was born in London on 4 May 1947, the son of Alfred Breed, a chef, and the former Edith Smith. He spent his childhood in Wandsworth, then after his father took up a job in Torquay attended the town’s grammar school.

He joined the Midland Bank at 17, working his way up to area manager. From 1981 he spent a decade in asset management as managing director of Rowan Dartington, now part of St James’s Place. After a brief corporate finance consultancy, he was a director of Gemini Abrasives from 1992 until his election to Parliament.

Breed joined the Liberal Party in 1966, and in 1982 was elected to both Caradon District Council and Saltash Town Council; he was twice mayor of Saltash.

For the 1992 election, he was agent to the local MEP Robin Teverson in his campaign to oust the moderate Conservative Robert Hicks as MP for South East Cornwall. Teverson finished 7,704 votes short.

Five years on, Hicks retired and the Conservatives chose Warwick Lightfoot, a Kensington councillor who had been special adviser to three Chancellors, to succeed him. His opponent’s lack of local roots, and the strong national swing against John Major’s government, helped Breed capture the seat by 6,480 votes; he would retain it comfortably in 2001 and 2005.

In his maiden speech Breed welcomed the £40 million Lottery grant that launched what became the Eden Project, because of its effect on preserving plant varieties. He went on to promote an Energy Efficiency Bill to make such data compulsory in a mortgage survey, being livid when the maverick Tory Eric Forth talked it out.

Paddy Ashdown soon appointed him a front-bench spokesman on trade and industry. Charles Kennedy, taking over the leadership in 1999, brought Breed into his shadow cabinet, giving him the agriculture portfolio. At this time, he also served on the General Medical Council.

: Alamy

At the start of 2001 Breed formed an All-Party Group on the countryside with the Conservative David Curry and Labour’s Bob Blizzard, in an effort to heal the divisions in Parliament caused by the ongoing strife over banning foxhunting.

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