UK Politics

The ex-MPs who died in 2014 - part two

The Houses of Parliament at dawn Image copyright PA

This year saw the passing of two political heavyweights: former Labour MP and firebrand politician Tony Benn and ex-Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley. Their deaths marked the end of an era, but they weren't the only former MPs to pass away in 2014. (Read part one)

Cecil Franks, 1 July 1935 - 2 February 2014

Salford-born Cecil Franks caused an upset in 1983 by winning the hitherto safe Labour seat of Barrow and Furness for the Conservatives.

Labour recorded its worst ever post-war result in the 1983 general election but Barrow had still seemed a safe bet for the party, despite boundary changes.

As Franks' obituary in the Daily Telegraph records, the Conservative candidate's trump card was Labour's commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament.

Franks argued that abandoning the UK's nuclear submarine programme threatened jobs at the Vickers naval shipyard in the constituency, asking: "If Labour gets elected, what will the lads do on Monday?"

The result was a 9% swing to the Conservatives. Cecil Franks held the seat until 1992, when he lost to Labour's John Hutton.

Franks had initially been a Labour member himself and was elected to Salford council. He joined the Conservatives in the mid-1960s and went on to lead the Conservative group on Manchester council.

In the Commons, he blamed the decline of shipbuilding on "the disastrous combination of appalling management, the Luddite mentality of the shipbuilding trade unions and a totally undisciplined workforce", according to the Telegraph.

Though generally loyal to the Conservative government, he was one of 138 MPs who signed a petition against Education Secretary Keith Joseph's proposed changes in parental contributions towards student maintenance.


John Freeman, 19 February 1915 - 20 December 2014

Former Labour MP John Freeman was perhaps best known for his interviews for BBC television series Face to Face.

In a varied career, he was also a decorated soldier, editor of the New Statesman magazine, UK high commissioner to India, Britain's ambassador in Washington and chairman of London Weekend Television.

Winning the seat of Watford in 1945 in what the Daily Telegraph described as a "sensational" result for Labour, Parliamentary records show Major Freeman wore his military uniform for his first speech in the House of Commons on 16 August. He had served in World War Two, and he spoke about the aftermath of the conflict.

Ending his speech, he said: "We have before us a battle for the peace, no less arduous and no less momentous than the battle we have lived through in the last six years.

"Today the strategy begins to unfold itself. Today, we go into action. Today may rightly be regarded as 'D-Day' in the Battle of the New Britain."

Recalling the "tour de force" speech, the Daily Telegraph said: "Freeman, tall and handsome with a shock of ginger hair and in his major's uniform carrying the Desert Rats insignia, reduced Winston Churchill to tears of emotion when he congratulated him in the Smoking Room afterwards."

As an interviewer, he interviewed many well-known figures including Martin Luther King and Bertrand Russell for Face to Face, which ran on the BBC from 1959 until 1962.

According to a 2013 New Statesman profile, Freeman said it was "extremely tiresome" being treated as a celebrity as a result of the Face to Face interviews.

He took the role of editor of the New Statesman in 1961. The article says he was "no respecter of office", adding that he referred to Prime Minister Harold Wilson as a "little runt".


Sam Galbraith, 18 October 1945 - 18 August 2014

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Former neurosurgeon Sam Galbraith served as both a Labour MP and MSP and held the post of education minister in Scotland's first devolved government.

He was one of the world's longest surviving lung transplant patients, having undergone the procedure in 1990.

Sam Galbraith was born in Clitheroe, Lancashire, and educated at Greenock High School and Glasgow University.

He was first elected to represent Strathkelvin and Bearsden at Westminster in 1987 and served as shadow Scottish health minister.

Two years later he was diagnosed with fibrosing alveolitis, a rare genetic disease in which fibrous tissue forms in the lungs. In 1990, given just days to live, he had a lung transplant.

He was once quoted as saying that, having been so close to death, he was not overawed by the hurly-burly of political life.

He represented his Westminster seat until 2001. By that time he had also been elected to represent the constituency in the Scottish Parliament, winning for Labour in the first elections to the new devolved institution in 1999.

He was appointed education minister in First Minister Donald Dewar's first cabinet.

He also became known for being among those MSPs picked up for using colourful language in parliament, after being caught out using the word "bollocks" during a 2001 Holyrood committee meeting.


Paul Goggins, 16 June 1953 - 7 January 2014

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The Labour MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East had been in Parliament since 1997.

During his time in the Commons he served as a Northern Ireland and Home Office minister.

Born in Manchester, Goggins trained as a social worker before running a children's home.

The father of three was director of the Church Action on Poverty campaign group before becoming an MP, also serving as a councillor in Salford.

After entering Parliament he worked as parliamentary private secretary to then Education Secretary David Blunkett, moving with Mr Blunkett when he was promoted to home secretary.

In 2003 he became a Home Office minister, moving in 2006 to the Northern Ireland Office.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair said the former minister, who died just over a week after collapsing while out jogging, was "an outstanding public servant, a lovely man and a good friend".


Sir Eldon Griffiths, 25 May 1925 - 3 June 2014

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Sir Eldon Griffiths was the Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds from 1964 to 1992.

He was first elected to the seat in a by-election, going on to serve as a junior minister in Edward Heath's government from 1970-74.

Although on the right of the party, he did not find himself preferred under Margaret Thatcher, and his roles under Heath were the sum total of his ministerial career.

However, he served as parliamentary consultant to the Police Federation until 1988 focusing, as the Daily Telegraph noted, on the protection of serving police officers.

In 1970 he backed a bill to make 30 years in prison the minimum sentence for murdering a policeman on duty, which was defeated by just seven votes. He later backed a bill to bring back the death penalty.

As sports minister, he opposed sanctions on South Africa, arguing that they would not end apartheid.

He had strong links to the United States, which began during a year at Yale University. He went on to work as a journalist in Denver, Los Angeles and Seattle.

He moved to California in 1990, while still an MP, and divided his time between the US and the UK.

He was knighted in 1985 and made a Freeman of the Borough of St Edmundsbury in 2007.


Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman, 8 July 1923 - 4 March 2014

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman represented the constituency of Lancaster from 1970 to 1997, and the constituency of Cumbria in the European Parliament from 1979 to 1984.

She was an Oxford contemporary of Margaret Thatcher who worked as a social worker, dairy farmer and barrister - and was also voted "Number One Country Housewife of 1960" by the Women's Institutes, as the Daily Telegraph's obituary notes.

Born Elaine Kay, she first married Norman Kellett, who was killed in a car crash in 1959. She suffered head injuries in the accident and for time had memory loss.

She married her second husband, Edward Bowman, in 1971. Following the first direct elections to the European Parliament in 1979, they became a husband and wife team in Brussels and Strasbourg.

She had already represented the UK in the European Parliament. In 1975 she was one of seven Conservative MPs chosen.

A social Conservative who backed attempts by fellow MPs to limit abortion, she broke ranks with her party to oppose proposals to cut child benefit and to support low-cost rural housing.


Lord Kimball, 18 October 1928 - 26 March 2014

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Son of the Conservative MP for Loughborough, Major Laurence Kimball, Marcus Kimball was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge.

After a spell of National Service as a subaltern with the Royal Horse Guards, he farmed near Oakham and chaired the East Midlands Young Conservatives, wrote the Daily Telegraph's obituary.

He would not become an MP on his first attempt, losing the fight for the Derby South seat in 1955 to the future Nobel Peace Prize laureate Philip Noel-Baker, noted the Independent.

But success came a year later, when he successfully fought the Gainsborough by-election prompted by then-Commons leader Harry Crookshank receiving a peerage.

Marcus Kimball was an example of the Tory "Knight of the Shire", his parliamentary life devoted to defending and championing country causes. He fought tirelessly to block repeated attempts to ban hunting and hare coursing.

According to the Telegraph, he hunted on 1,182 days during his 27 years as an MP, before hanging up his reins at the age of 68.

He took the view that canvassing was undignified, and displayed no great appetite for ministerial office, reported the Independent.

And despite being a diligent parliamentarian and loyal Conservative, partisan issues were of less concern to Kimball than the rural way of life.

His advice for aspiring Tory MPs, said the Telegraph, was: "If you go after a seat, don't spoil them by promising to hold surgeries; I never did. And don't promise to live in the constituency until you've found out whether there is a good hunt. You can only get to know a constituency well if you ride over it."

He became deputy president of the Countryside Alliance, president of the British Field Sports Society and a controversial member of the RSPCA, which twice made attempts to expel him over his support for coursing.

He also voted to retain the death penalty and was a keen advocate of responsible gun ownership, serving on the Firearms Consultative Committee, said the Telegraph.

The paper also noted that he suffered heavy losses at Lloyds in in the late 1980s when Syndicate 553 collapsed. Marcus Kimball left the House of Commons in 1983 and became a life peer two years later, deploying his parliamentary skills to continue to frustrate anti-hunting legislation.

The Telegraph reported that he attacked Kenneth Clarke's Dangerous Dogs Bill but was particularly opposed to Lord Young's attempt to reorganise England's breweries and pubs in 1989.


Margo MacDonald, 19 April 1943 - 4 April 2014

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Once known as the "blonde bombshell", Margo MacDonald exploded into the political scene with a stunning 1973 by-election victory for the Scottish National Party in Glasgow Govan, which was previously a Labour stronghold.

However, she would spend just 112 days in the job before being ousted at the subsequent UK general election.

A charismatic campaigner, she served as the SNP's deputy leader during the party's Westminster honeymoon of the 1970s, before quitting the party in the internal conflict which followed defeat in 1979.

She left in 1982 in protest at the banning by the SNP of the left-wing 79 Group, of which she was a member.

Following her Westminster defeat, she built a career as a respected broadcaster, working on topical and current affairs programmes.

In 1981 she married her second husband Jim Sillars, who had moved from Labour to the SNP via the breakaway Scottish Labour Party. In 1988, he repeated his wife's feat, and took Govan from Labour in a by-election.

As the Guardian records: "They formed a formidable political couple, each marked by independent-mindedness as well as support for the independence cause."

Margo MacDonald rejoined the SNP and served as the MSP for the Lothian region, before going on to represent the area as an independent member of the Scottish Parliament.

At the start of 2003, after announcing her decision to stand as an independent in the forthcoming Holyrood election, Ms MacDonald raised concerns she was being "expelled" from the SNP without a fair trial, though the party leadership described her move as a "public resignation".

In July 2002 Ms MacDonald had confirmed she had been living with Parkinson's Disease for seven years, but blamed political "forces of darkness" for her condition being leaked to the media. As the SNP denied being the source of the disclosure, several senior party activists quit their posts in protest.

As well as the cause of Scottish independence, she was a passionate supporter of assisted dying, though her bill to give terminally ill people the right to choose when to die was rejected by a free vote in the Scottish parliament.


Iain MacCormick, 28 September 1939 - 19 September 2014

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Former SNP Argyll MP Ian MacCormick was elected to the House of Commons in the first 1974 general election, and represented the constituency until 1979.

He was one of a generation of nationalist politicians who helped make the SNP into a mainstream force in the 1970s.

Born in Glasgow, MacCormick pushed through reforms to Scotland's divorce laws during his time in the Commons, noted the Telegraph, which described him as "clubbable, civilised and with a natural streak of authority".

Scottish Education Secretary Michael Russell described him as a "remarkable man" who had been part of a "vastly influential Scottish political family which helped to build our modern nation".

MacCormick lived in Oban, and was a former teacher at the town's High School.

He died the day after voting in the Scottish independence referendum.

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