'Unforgettable' Plymouth character Jonny Morris dies at age of 56

Tributes have poured in for Jonny Morris - one of Plymouth’s most colourful politicians - who has died at the age of just 56. Mr Morris served Plymouth City Council’s Southway ward for nine years and was known for his love of his cats, crosswords, football, cricket and Inspector Morse.

Among tributes from Labour colleagues, Cllr Charlotte Holloway called him: “A unique and unforgettable character with an exceptional mind.” Luke Pollard, currently campaigning to retain his Sutton and Devonport parliamentary seat, said Mr Morris’ death was “a real loss” and Council Leader Tudor Evans highlighted the “talent, intelligence, and fun” he brought to Plymouth’s political scene.

Mr Morris was born in 1967 and his political career began in Reading in 1995 where he was lead member for environment on the local authority. Moving to Plymouth in 2003, he was elected to the council in a by-election in 2013 and went on to be re-elected in 2014 and 2018, serving Southway until he retired in 2022.

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The city’s Labour party has collectively spoken of its “enormous sadness” at his passing. Cllr Evans, said Plymouth Labour owed Mr Morris a “great deal” and added: “There's much to be grateful to him for.

“A busy ward councillor, a parliamentary assistant and an organiser and coordinator of real talent. We were able to create a scrutiny committee in the council, looking at the impact of Brexit, which made the very best use of his brain power and wit.

“Jonny made friends easily but could be deft in combat with his opponents. He worked hard, steering us during some tough times from his desk in the Labour HQ, like a captain on the bridge.”

Mr Morris could be outspoken and controversial, voicing his opposition to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in 2019, two years after making a Nazi-salute-type-gesture in a meeting in protest at Tory and UKIP members cutting short a budget debate. He also struggled with mental health issues and took time off from his council responsibilities in 2019 to deal with them.

“We feel his loss most keenly when thinking of his struggles in the past few years,” said Cllr Evans. ”It robbed us of him, and robbed him of the chance to fulfil his potential.

“Such talent. Such intelligence. Such fun. My thoughts are with his family and his many friends.”

Mr Morris studied at Oxford and Reading and his jobs included working as a bookseller at Blackwells, in Oxford, and being part of Alison Seabeck's team when she was Plymouth Moor View's Labour MP. He was known for his love of his cats, crosswords, football, cricket and Inspector Morse.

Whilst working in the bookshop he got to know Morse's creator Colin Dexter, a regular customer, who introduced him to John Thaw. He had also been a climber, a hockey player and, for someone as keen as he was on literature and philosophy, he was proud to have met Bertrand Russell when he was a child.

Mr Pollard described Jonny as “a man of such contradictions”. He said: “Thoughtful and intellectual he was as comfortable being jovial and playful as he was debating politics.

“I will remember Jonny’s friendship and support and his efforts during some of Labour’s hardest times to keep the party going. He was a man with such potential. Rather than being sad because of his loss, I’m trying to be grateful that he lived.”

Among other tributes Cllr Holloway posted on social media: “Crushed to hear that my old political friend Jonny Morris has passed away. A unique and unforgettable character with an exceptional mind.

“When I started out in politics he was a rock, and could always be relied upon for his special style of direct feedback. We joked, we argued, we played chess, and I loved him dearly. The world is a little dimmer without him.”

Cllr Zoe Reilly posted: “Goodnight Jonny, I can’t quite believe it but I won’t go into memories because they were ours. I will miss you my friend.”

Cllr Jemima Laing posted: “Always telling me off for talking too much! RIP Jonny.” And Teri Portmann simply wrote: “Rest easy Jonny Morris.”

Mr Morris’ death comes just days after Plymouth lost another former Labour councillor, Eddie Rennie, who died at the age of 68 having only retired as a councillor in May. He represented the Sutton and Mount Gould ward for 25 years.

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