Obituary by Caroline Lucas
Dr Mike Woodin, who has died from cancer at the cruelly young age of 38, was everything a Green politician should be, combining a radical and inspiring vision of how the world could be together with the practical policies to get us there. At a time when our elected representatives are increasingly viewed as cynical and self-serving, his political career was an inspiring reminder that honesty, intelligence and humanity can still thrive at the heart of public life.
Principal Speaker for the Green Party and Leader of the Green Group on Oxford City Council, he made an enormous contribution to the growth and success of green politics at both local and national levels. He brought a new professionalism to the Party and, in his role as Speaker, was one of the most articulate, passionate, and persuasive advocates of its policies.
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When Mike died, the communal sorrow was overwhelming. In Jewish tradition, the burial would happen normally within twenty-four hours. Mike died on a Friday, so it was not possible for the funeral to take place until Monday. This gave me, and a small group of Mike’s close friends, the time to think very carefully about ‘the right kind of funeral’ for us and for Mike. We were able to order a ‘green coffin’ made of cardboard, which was decorated with the children’s drawings of some of Mike’s favourite things: sunflowers, mountains and music.
We wanted the funeral procession to pass by the Town Hall, where Mike was the first Green City Councillor, and Balliol College, where he was a lecturer. Because of the one-way system the only way to achieve this was by bike. Also Mike was a keen cyclist who biked in Oxford daily. And so the idea of the bike procession, with Mike’s coffin on a bike trailer, came about. The arrangement of all this happened in a few hours, around a meal table, between people who loved Mike.
We wanted to find a way of keeping Mike’s vision alive – the theory and practice of Green Politics. Many people felt moved to donate to a cause in his memory, so there needed to be something which would have an appeal to the wide variety of communities of which he was a central and active member: as an academic and student of Oxford University, as the main speaker for the Green Party, as an Oxford City Councillor for ten years and as a member of the Jewish community.
I remember the sense of support and empowerment generated by the planning of his funeral. I don’t know how I would have survived without it. The Trust was a way of maintaining this intent, to ‘keep doing things with Mike’s name on’.
Deborah Glass Woodin