AS Sir David Price’s challenger in the general elections of 1983 and 1987, may I be permitted following his death this week to endorse the warm words of spokesmen from his own party regarding his long service as Eastleigh’s MP.

Regardless of the fact that in Westminster elections I was his opponent, our personal relations were extremely cordial.

At the time of the second contest I’d just suffered the embarrassment of losing my council seat, and it said a lot for Sir David’s character as a gentleman that far from making unpleasant remarks or trying to score cheap points, he never even mentioned the fact.

At the time of the second election my wife, Margaret, was leader of the council when the Liberals and SDP (together campaigning as the Alliance), took control of Eastleigh for the first time.

She found Sir David very easy to get on with and had the highest regard for the way in which he put political differences to one side in his dealings with the council.

She remarked how different he was from the Tory MP for neighbouring Southampton Test, Sir James Hill, who was always publicly criticising the council of the city he was supposed to represent and stirring up animosity.

An anecdote may amuse readers. After Margaret had completed her first term as mayor in 1985, we went to Florence for a week to make a clean break between being First Citizens and returning to normal. Who should also be on our plane but Sir David and his wife!

I whispered to Margaret: “I pushed Labour into third place at the last election and was runnerup, and he’s worried about what might happen next time so he’s personally checking that I’m on the plane to Italy, where he’s arranged for his friends in the Mafia to be waiting.”

She replied: “Unlikely. He’d have delegated that task to someone else to avoid being seen.”

Sir David served Eastleigh well for nearly four decades, and one wishes there were more people in life today who demonstrated his traditional virtues.

Martin Kyrle, Liberal Alliance parliamentary candidate for Eastleigh, 1983 and 1987