Nick Lowles pays tribute to former Mirror editor Peter Willis, who has sadly passed away. He had long-championed the paper's collaboration with HOPE not hate.
It was with real sadness that I learnt about the sudden death of Peter Willis, the former editor of the Daily Mirror and a longtime friend and supporter of HOPE not hate. Peter, who moved on to be a senior executive at The Mirror, was just 54 when he died suddenly on Friday.
Peter was a really decent guy. I say that as though I should be surprised. Perhaps I am. He was a big supporter of HOPE not hate and not only continued and strengthened the relationship between us and The Mirror over many years, but went out of his way to be involved.
As editor of one of Britain’s tabloid newspapers (and the only Labour-supporting paper), he was also a very busy man. He had many issues to worry about and, as an editor of a tabloid in an increasingly online world, many stresses. However, he always made time for HOPE not hate and the campaigns that we ran.
He would sit down and listen to what we were up to, offer suggestions as to how we could improve our messaging and – from time to time – even give me a call to chat about the pressing issues of the day.
Peter never saw himself as a political operative. In fact, he often quite appeared slightly uncomfortable around politicians. And yet, and probably because of this, he had his finger on the pulse of Mirror readers and society at large. Sometimes his caution would be frustrating, but invariably it would be right.
Pride of Britain
As the creator and key figure behind of the hugely successful Pride of Britain awards, Peter also understood the power of storytelling and promoting inspiring people. In 2013, he presented the awards to our own Community Champion winners alongside Mercury award winner Speech DeBelle.
The Daily Mirror did not have to be so openly be associated with HOPE not hate, but it did so because it believed it was the right thing to do. Peter’s predecessor as editor, Richard Wallace, began the relationship back in 2007, and it has been continued by Peter’s successor, Alison Phillips, ably assisted by Ros Wynne-Jones (who wrote a moving tribute to Peter), Kevin Maguire and a host of other reporters and columnists.
Many Mirror readers were older and economically anxious, the very people the far right were – and are – trying to exploit. Peter, and the rest of The Mirror team, took a principled position to take racism and fascism head on. For this they need to be applauded.
In a world where media portrayals of Muslims, refugees and minorities have so often been negative, The Mirror spoke out in their defence and used its pages to explain sometimes difficult and complex issues to readers.
On behalf of everyone at HOPE not hate, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to Nicky and to her and Peter’s children, and everyone at the Daily Mirror.
Salud Peter, we will remember you by continuing to work what we do – a cause I know you were so passionately behind.
The Mirror & HOPE not hate
CEO, HOPE not hate
Nick Lowles is chief executive of HOPE not hate. He is a campaigner and journalist who comments and appears regularly in the media. Nick is author of 'Codename Arthur: The True Story of the Anti-Fascist Spy Who Identified the London Nailbomber', 'White Riot: The Violent Story of Combat 18', 'Hooligans: The A-Z of Britain's Football Hooligan Gangs', and co-author of 'Mr Evil: The Secret Life of Pub Bomber and Killer David Copeland'.Twitter