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Michael Elliott

We are sad to report the death of Mike Elliott on 14 July 2016, who was a lecturer in the law school in its founding period and went on to become a globally acclaimed journalist and development activist. At his untimely death aged 65 he had been the President and Chief Executive Officer of the ONE campaign which has raised over $37 billion in the fight against global poverty and disease.

After leaving Warwick, Mike went to the London School of Economics. His subsequent career involved being a member of the policy review staff at the British Cabinet Office and leadership roles with the Economist, Newsweek and Time magazines. He was chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Poverty and Sustainable Development and sat on the advisory panel of the UNDP’s Human Development Report and the Board of the Global Poverty Project. In 2005 he was named one of the world’s 25 inspiring CEOs by GoodNet.

His untimely death came the day after his retirement party for the ONE campaign and many tributes have been paid to him. Bill Gates commented that “Michael Elliott was a tremendous leader and an inspiration to many (including me).” ONE campaign co-founder Bono declared that “Mike loved his life, lived it boldly and wanted the rest of the world to have that same experience of it. He was annoyed and sometimes angry at the waste of human potential. Above all else, he wanted his life to be useful. If you were around him, that’s what he demanded of you… [H]e was also great, great fun. In the world that ONE lives to change, that quality is one of the rarest and the one I personally will miss the most.”

Mike is survived by Emma, his wife of 40 years and two daughters.


We print below the memories of some of Mike’s colleagues from his time at Warwick.

I first met Mike when I taught him on a BCL Labour Law course one year. He and his classmate Paul Craig were unusual as BCL students, standing out from the rest. He was certainly unusual as a fellow academic at Warwick in the 1970s. He had that journalistic edge even then. He was a cheerful colleague, optimistic and sharp. I cannot help but recall one incident when he approached me asking if I remembered the legendary baseball playoffs between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants in ca 1955. Of course I did having run home from school that day to watch it. It was the US version of the legendary FA cup between Leeds and Sunderland in 1972 or the European Cup between Liverpool and Bayern Munich in Istambul a while ago. So I proudly said to Mike Yes and that I remembered the man who hit the home run that won the series and the pitcher who pitched the famous ball. Great, he said, but can you tell me the names of the two men who were on base when the home run was hit. I could only scratch my head. Where had he, a young English lecturer, gone to get that sort of detail about American “cultural” history? He will be missed.Steve Anderman, Emeritus Professor, University of Essex

Mike’s untimely death last week brings many fond memories of his time at Warwick. Mike was teaching constitutional and administrative law when I arrived at Warwick. Uniquely for that time it was a second year module and this remains the case today. Mike’s thesis was that understanding the constitutional affairs of the UK appeared easy but in fact was quite challenging. The unwritten nature of the Constitution and the interconnections between law, politics and power made the study of the subject complex and confusing. Teaching the subject in the second year was inspirational – students had gained confidence from their success in the first year and the Summer vacation prior to entry into the second year was a period of maturing and preparation for the oncoming challenges. Despite the obvious enthusiasm he gave to the subject, he was always surprised that so much could be achieved against all the odds.

Mike was always active, new ideas and thoughts about old ideas came tumbling out each day of each week. Mike was very much a “Warwick” person. He was Deputy Warden of Rootes under the tutelage of Peter Bowen and lived in Meriden House. In my first year I was appointed a residential tutor in Meriden House and as you might expect I was soon initiated into the culture of the residences as well as the exuberance of its Deputy Warden. The annual Meriden Ball, attended by the Vice Chancellor Jack Butterworth, became the social event of the year. Numbers increased and other residential houses on campus joined in. It was on a par with the fashionable Oxford and Cambridge Balls of the time but was always distinctly Warwick, with tongue-in-cheek humour as well as the usual fare of food and drink often prepared by the students. Mike was very much in charge and took enormous pleasure and fun in providing the inspiration and innovations. Few could guess that he was responsible and in charge as he was very much an integrated part of the event.

On the academic front before leaving Warwick and moving to LSE, Mike began to collaborate with Jeffrey Jowell. Mike contributed a chapter to the first edition of The Changing Constitution Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985, edited by Jeffrey Jowell and Dawn Oliver, on the “Control of Public Expenditure”. It is now in its eighth edition and I took over the chapter when Mike decided to leave academic life. His chapter on public money and its control is a marvellous analysis of a subject that even today receives too scant attention amongst public lawyers. It reveals a penetrating analysis of the need to hold government to account and was far sighted in realising that control of the public purse both defines public law as well as the systems of accountability. How perceptive that view was and remains so today. Mike’s chapter, because it still bears the imprint of the original is a fitting reminder of his cleverness, shrewd judgement and above all his concerns to help his fellow citizens. Mike’s time at Warwick Law School was all too short but he has left an indelible mark - enthusiasm, kindness, charm and wit as well as a penetrating understanding of how we are governed and how poor accountability has become.

John McEldowney, Professor of Law, University of Warwick

I last met Mike at Geoffrey Wilson’s retirement day in the 1990s – only a brief and slightly awkward hello – so my real memories are of his time when we were teaching together at Warwick. Though this is so long ago that it’s left me only odd vignettes of him, it seems unimaginable that that he could no longer be with us now, as the picture I have of him is still of youth, promise, talent and a brilliant future. In Peter Bowen’s wonderful early promotional film about Warwick, he’s in an office in Social Studies (mine at the time, borrowed for the filming because it was marginally bigger than most and had a large window) with a student, and he’s exploding with ’Essay crisis? But everyone has an essay crisis at this time of the year!’. [It’s the same film which includes Germaine Greer saying something like ‘There’s an article about incest in Hamlet; I think it's called ‘Not with my mother you don’t’.] Mike was an energetic and charismatic colleague and must have been worshipped by his students, being so close in age to them; and those of us who thought we were employable only as academics always knew that Mike could move into grander and more stellar territory – as he did.

I’m also remembering sociable times with Mike and Emma at the flat at Benefactor’s, and – in the year I was a warden on campus too, while Julio rented my then house in Leam Terrace – jolly moments of respite from students’ water fights and kitchen fires with invitations to Peter Bowen’s, overlooking the main student residences at the time, for evenings of food, good talk and films.

Philip Britton LLB BCL, Visiting Professor, King’s College London, Senior Fellow, Melbourne Law School