When Anthony Lester died in August the Autumn edition of the Journal had already gone to print. Lord Lester, who lived in Half Moon Lane was a long-time resident of Dulwich and had been chairman of the governors of James Allen’s Girls’ School at the time of the School’s 250th anniversary celebrations in 1991. He joined in the festivities, donning a period costume for the procession of the entire school, all dressed in 1741 costumes from the school, through the Village to Christ’s Chapel. He was chair during a large phase of building at JAGS, which included a new library and careers centre and saw the school’s introduction of a pre-prep department. His legal background in race relations was tested by the new acronym for the entire junior school as - JAPS to which he felt considerable unease.
Anthony Lester attended the City of London School and Trinity College, Cambridge where he read history and law. He spent two years at Harvard Law School, arriving soon after the murder of three civil rights campaigners in Mississippi in 1964 by the Ku Klux Klan. This event appears to have channelled a great deal of his legal career down the path of both human rights and the campaign against racial discrimination where he helped set up the ongoing organisation, playing pivotal roles in the Sex Discrimination Act 1976 and the Race Relations Act 1976. He spent 30 years campaigning to enshrine the European Convention of Human Rights into domestic law.
Called to the Bar after return from Harvard, he took silk in 1975. He stood as Labour candidate for Worthing in the 1966 General Election where he had a veritable Everest to climb despite the nationwide success of Harold Wilson’s campaign. He was trounced by his Conservative opponent, Terence (later Lord) Higgins, a former Dulwich resident and Alleyn Old Boy.
After editing a book of speeches and essays by Roy Jenkins in 1967 Anthony Lester was later recruited by Jenkins, then in his second spell as Home Secretary, to work on race and sex discrimination legislation. Lester followed Jenkins into the SDP when he formed the ‘Gang of Four’ in 1981. He was made a Liberal Democrat peer in 1993.
It was sad that his glittering career and reputation were destroyed by the unproved allegations of sexual harassment in 2018 relating to an alleged incident twelve years previously. Although supported by a majority of his peers in the House of Lords, age and ill health persuaded him to resign.