My brother-in-law, Nicholas Russell, the sixth Earl Russell, who has died of a heart attack aged 45, was a tireless campaigner for disability rights. Perhaps his greatest achievement, while he was campaigns officer for the Royal National Institute for the Blind, was to campaign successfully for guide dogs to be permitted in taxis, and the resulting legislation, Private Hire Vehicles (Carriage of Guide Dogs etc) Act 2002, was due, in large part, to his effective campaigning and his well-known, meticulous eye for detail.
Nicholas, like his grandfather, Bertrand Russell, was an active member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and like his father, Conrad Russell, the historian and Liberal Democrat peer, took a great interest in politics: Nicholas was a lifelong member of the Labour party.
Born in Wimbledon, south-west London, Nicholas was the elder son of Conrad and Elizabeth (nee Sanders). He spent time during his childhood years in California and Connecticut before returning to London, this time moving to Kilburn. He was educated in Hampstead and studied industrial relations at Leicester University. He dedicated his working life to a combination of his favourite passions: disability rights and politics. He worked for a variety of disability rights organisations including the RNIB and Guide Dogs for the Blind, and he was politically active in not just the Labour party but also the Co-operative Group, where he was on the board, as well as the Socialist Environment and Resources Association and Transport 2000.
Having been elected as Labour councillor for Cann Ward, Waltham Forest, in 2010, he held the position for four years until May this year. In local politics, Nicholas’s forte was as a grassroots, old-fashioned, community councillor.
The qualities that made Nicholas a brilliant campaigner, a persistent and focused determination, were, perhaps, not ones which were best suited to climbing the greasy pole of modern politics, but they were borne from an unusual purity of intention: he was not a party apparatchik; he was a caring, community-focused, sometimes gloriously uncompromising, individual.
Nicholas had a difficult start in life but eventually found love and happiness with his fiancee, Georgina, with whom he lived in a close-knit community in Leytonstone, east London, with their two cats. He was happiest when sitting at the kitchen tables of his neighbours, talking intensely about politics with his cat, Moo, sitting on his chest.
Nicholas was styled Viscount Amberley between 1987 and 2004 and succeeded as Earl Russell on his father’s death in 2004.
Nicholas is survived by Georgina and by his brother, John.