George Osborne’s babysitter, a tenacious campaigner against the slums of 1970s Paddington and co-author of an internationally respected text on information management: these are merely the headlines of the multifaceted life of my wife, Margi Levy, who has died of breast cancer aged 62.
Margi was born to Arthur Levy, a civil servant, and his wife, Margaret, a postgraduate science student. The family home was a small apartment in one of the regency-style squares in Bayswater, west London, that were constructed in the 1840s to attract the rising numbers of affluent buyers in London.
However, by the 1950s the bourgeoisie had long since fled to the suburbs. In their wake, the dilapidated housing stock became a vast network of squalid rented rooms overseen by rotten landlords.
Nonetheless, this state of affairs enabled young families with more vision than cash to acquire an affordable, large, central London home. Consequently, the Levys gradually managed to become the owners of their entire house. Peter and Felicity Osborne, the co-founders of wallpapers designers Osborne & Little, moved in next door. In 1971 the Osbornes rejoiced in the birth of a son, Gideon (later George). As an undergraduate at the University of London, Margi would frequently help out her neighbours by babysitting the future chancellor.
But ad hoc gentrification aside, the wider social outrage that was Paddington’s housing crisis drove Margi into politics. She became involved in local campaigns and in 1978 was elected as a Labour councillor.
Her reputation as a tenacious campaigner ensured that she immediately became the opposition Labour group spokesperson on housing – then and now a major battlefield. Margi was relentless in pushing Westminster city council to implement national policies on housing improvement by using the government grants available for this purpose. She was also a driving force in achieving improvements in individual homes where living conditions had become intolerable. As Joe Hegarty, former leader of the Labour group, said at her funeral: “People in real need were rehoused, several through Margi’s personal intervention.”
In 1984, Margi and I married and soon afterwards we moved to Western Australia. By then she had become professionally engaged in the rising field of information systems planning; she joined Curtin Business school in Perth as a lecturer in ISP. In 1992, we moved back to Britain with our two young children and Margi became a lecturer at Warwick Business school. In 2003, while undergoing chemotherapy, she began work with Philip Powell on Strategies for Growth in SMEs: The Role of Information and Information Systems (SMEs being small and medium-sized enterprises). This was published in 2005 and remains a set text in many universities throughout the world.
Margi is survived by me and our children, Nick and Aithne, as well as her mother, Margaret, and her brother, Nicholas.