Tribute: Luke FitzHerbert: No one to replace a man ahead of his time

As a journalist, you soon learn the score: most people would rather avoid talking to you. When they do, they just faithfully repeat the party line. If you're lucky, you might get the odd morsel tossed to you 'off the record'.

That was the way the rest of the world did things. And then there was Luke FitzHerbert. Resembling an eccentric inventor, he operated as a kind of antidote to Alastair Campbell. After rifling through a Charity Commission regulatory report or internal National Lottery strategy document that had somehow landed on his desk, he would phone, bark out a couple of paragraph numbers, exhort you to take a look, and abruptly put the phone down. The rest was up to you.

Luke was so off-message he didn't even have a job title. The description 'senior researcher' that appeared in Third Sector was a fruitless attempt to pin him down. I'm not sure if the Directory of Social Change ever tried to rein him in to its communications strategy, but it would have been about as realistic as herding cats. He was joyfully uncontrollable.

The unique thing about him was that he didn't represent any interest. He had managed to carve out a niche for himself where he was beholden to no one. He had strong opinions, but they were his own. Just as he might defend charities against what he saw as the commission's overly intrusive registration process, he could also criticise them for insufficient transparency.

And it's worth remembering that the positions he took could provoke considerable hostility. When he accused trusts and foundations of being too secretive, or published the major charities' fundraising costs, there were howls of protest and threats to sue. But he was ahead of his time.

In many ways, Luke went against the spirit of the age - prepared to take a risk when others were risk-averse, a generalist when others were narrowly specialist, and unconcerned about what the rest of the world thought of him when others were obsessed by their reputations. The sad thing is there is really no one to replace him.

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