Brian Mawhinney, who died on Saturday, was a tough talking Ulsterman, who rose to the heights of political power in John Major's government. He became one of Major's main confidantes and was a highly effective and competent cabinet minister. He was a man of some contradictions - apparently ruthless, but also a very kind man. Toughly spoken, but always with a twinkle in his eye. He carried a slight air of menace and threat and in some ways would have made a very good chief whip. When he left politics he got a second wind and served as chairman of the Football League.
I first met Brian Mawhinney in 1994 when he became Transport Secretary and I can't help but admit that he scared the living daylights out of me. I was deputy MD of The Waterfront Partnership, a transport industry public affairs consultancy and MD of The Waterfront Conference Company, which organised transport industry conferences. He spoke at several of our conferences and I advised various of my clients on issues which he was responsible for. He was a very 'proper' man and understood very well the proprieties of the lobbyist-politician relationship.
In the ensuing years we would have a chat at party conferences, but I was never part of his inner circle.
In 2012 I got a call from his literary agent who wondered if I might be interested in publishing his autobiography. If I am honest, I was sceptical. He had been out of front line politics for more than a decade and I wondered how honest he would be. However, I was impressed by the manuscript and he related some very good gossipy stories indeed, none of which I can now remember. My instincts were right, though, and it is safe to say the book never troubled the bookshop cash registers too much. It deserved to do better and I always felt I let him down.
I have huge respect for this most honest of politicians. Yes, his very social conservative religious and social views were not my cup of tea, but he never rammed them down my throat. He wrote a book about his religious convictions, which I thought at the time was decidedly odd. Maybe that's because we think anyone who wears their religion on their sleeve is odd.
Brian was devoted to his wife Betty and was very proud of his three children.
I last spoke to Brian two years ago when he phoned to discuss another book idea. It was clear that he was suffering from ill health, and the idea was never developed. When I put the phone down I remember thinking that was probably the last time we would speak.
Brian Mawhinney was far from a typical politician. He didn't suffer fools, he was loyal to those who were loyal to him, and he was one of John Major's closest allies.
I was proud to know him, proud to publish him and will always have great memories of him.