He was described by The Times 's political sketch writer as tall, dignified and faintly grand.
If anything has held back David Rendel, Liberal Democrat spokesman on higher education, it is his schooling. He was a scholar at Eton - a point that crops up regularly in press coverage about him and that was thought to be a factor in his failure in the Lib Dem leadership contest two years ago.
Described by The Times's political sketch writer, Matthew Parris, as tall, dignified and faintly grand, Mr Rendel once said that his privileged background had prompted him to want to give something back. He followed Eton with 14 months working for Voluntary Service Overseas in Cameroon and Uganda.
At this week's party conference he will be arguing for free university education. For him, tinkering with grants will not be enough. "Fees are the totem that everyone knows about and I think are very off-putting, even for students who know they don't have to pay them," he said.
His university education was at Oxford, where he studied physics and philosophy and became a rowing blue. He then worked in the energy industry as a middle manager for Shell International, British Gas and Esso.
In 1987 he was elected to Newbury District Council and became MP for Newbury in 1993. His majority of 22,055 was the largest Liberal or Lib Dem Westminster majority in history. He became Lib Dem local government spokesman and was appointed team leader for social security and welfare after his re-election in 1997. He championed the cause of widows' full entitlement to the state earning-related pension scheme (Serps).
As a member of the Commons' public accounts committee, he helped to expose Sir Jocelyn Stevens, former chairman of English Heritage, for hiring out Kenwood House for the wedding of his friend, former King Constantine of Greece.
An environmentalist and cyclist, he nevertheless supported the bypass for Newbury, where his wife is a GP and his three sons attended local schools.