My father, Roger Straker, who has died aged 86, was a personnel officer whose negotiating skills bridged many a gap between unions and management in industry and public transport in the 1970s. He was also a lifelong Liberal Democrat.
He was born and brought up in Beckenham, Kent, the son of Roland Straker, owner of a printing business, and Constance (nee Hubbard), a music teacher. He attended Dulwich prep school, which was evacuated to Betws-y-Coed, Snowdonia, for three years during the war, and then Kingswood school, Bath.
Roger did his national service in Malaysia during the communist insurrection and became an officer, before studying economics at Jesus College, Cambridge, graduating in 1958.
His interest in politics began at Cambridge, where, as chair of the Liberal Students club, he staged a debate in 1957 at which a motion to decriminalise homosexuality was passed. It took another 10 years before this passed into law. He subsequently stood unsuccessfully for the Liberals in the 1964 general election in Glasgow Pollok, where his 11.5% share of the vote was considered a triumph.
Roger spent his working life in personnel departments where he was often at the forefront of the fraught industrial relations of the era. After graduating from university he spent six years at Hoover in Glasgow, then spent much of the 70s at British Leyland in Cowley. In 1977 he joined the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (responsible for the rail/bus services in the county) as personnel director, before joining London Underground in the same role in 1984.
He was at London Underground for eight years, a period that included the King’s Cross fire and subsequent inquiry, as well as periods of industrial action. He was known for his consensual negotiating style, which was helped by the warm personal relations and trust he had established with many of the most powerful union leaders of the time. He abhorred the confrontational industrial relations of the Thatcher era and believed that a constructive relationship was the way forward.
After he retired in 1992, Roger’s negotiating skills proved useful when he successfully led the merger of two Methodist circuits in Brighton and Hove. He was active in the church, delivering meals on wheels and supervising construction works. He also served on the Employment Appeal tribunal and was a governor of Seaford college, West Sussex.
He greatly enjoyed music, with regular visits to Glyndebourne, travelled extensively, and loved to attend football and cricket matches, while also playing golf regularly.
In 1960 he married Ann Lovell. She survives him along with their three children, Carly, Elizabeth and me, nine grandchildren and a great-grandchild.