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Fifer through and through

Brian Taylor | 11:37 UK time, Wednesday, 13 August 2008

My sympathy to the family of John MacDougall, who has died after a prolonged illness.

As others have borne witness, the length of the preparation does not lessen the shock of the final loss.

Born in Dunfermline, John MacDougall was a Fifer through and through. Indeed, his was almost the quintessential Fife Labour career.

Employment at the Methil yard, service as a union shop steward, Labour branch chair, Fife councillor and council leader, MP in Henry McLeish's old Fife constituency, then MP for the new Glenrothes seat.

He had, in truth, little opportunity to make an extensive or, more accurately, sustained impact at Westminster. Illness determined that: the insidious and hateful blight of Mesothelioma.

Political contest

But, added to his Westminster service, he will be remembered for his substantial work in union, council and party circles - plus his efforts within European politics. Plus his commitment to his native Fife.

His death, of course, means a by-election. That will involve a political contest, a sharply-fought political contest.

But not yet, I trust, not yet.


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  • 1. At 12:54pm on 13 Aug 2008, Gary Hay wrote:

    Shocking and saddening in equal measure. My condolences go out to the family of Mr. MacDougall - clearly this is a situation that trancends political influence and over the coming weeks I hope that the media decide to pay thier respects to John instead of turning this tragic event into a circus revolving around the bi-election that will follow.

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  • 2. At 1:06pm on 13 Aug 2008, flyfifer wrote:

    I am so very sad to hear the news about Mr MacDougall.
    Like you, I hope there is no media circus already starting about a bi-election any time soon.
    I see Brown visited Mr MacDougall this week. Wonder if he'll visit Fife when the frenzy does begin??????
    In the meantime, give the family time and space to mourn a really good, honest guy.
    Just wish there were more like him..........

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  • 3. At 1:17pm on 13 Aug 2008, British_Lion wrote:

    Sad news indeed, I agree that a media circus and indeed a by-election itself would be extremely insensitive at this time and I hope that the media will understand this. A by-election will come in due course, but remember that somebody has tragically died and not simply stood down.

    A tragic, sad loss of a politician who had integrity and honour, something which seems to be sorely lacking these days.

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  • 4. At 1:18pm on 13 Aug 2008, Barbazenzero wrote:


    As discussed on the previous thread, the by-election can't be until late October.

    May I suggest that this thread not be used for political pointscoring and just left open for those who knew him to comment?

    Please open a new thread ASAP for regular political rough and tumble.

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  • 5. At 1:38pm on 13 Aug 2008, oldnat wrote:

    I remember John MacDougall from my time in Fife. We disagreed on a number of issues and agreed on others. There was no question as to the probity or decency of the man.

    His death is sad for his family and friends.

    However, unless he had changed a lot over the last few years, I suspect he might have been amused by the idea of politics ever taking a break!


    This thread had to be posted, but can I suggest another one very soon (maybe time to look again at the Scottish Tories?), otherwise the thread will become like all others.

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  • 6. At 1:51pm on 13 Aug 2008, Jake-the-S wrote:


    I would agree with the previous posts qnd that this thread be used solely for the purpose of showing respect to a formidable MP.

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  • 7. At 1:54pm on 13 Aug 2008, AMoffat3 wrote:

    Very sad news and my thoughts go to his family.

    I have met many politicians, from all the main parties, and I can honestly say that most of them are decent people who want the best for their constituents. Why is it we only read that about them after they die?

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  • 8. At 2:06pm on 13 Aug 2008, northhighlander wrote:

    John was a politcian of integrity and humility and represented the very best of what it means to be Scottish. Public life is very much poorer for his passing.

    I agree I hope this thread is used appropriately with dignity.

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  • 9. At 2:21pm on 13 Aug 2008, scot2010 wrote:

    Like all the posts so far, I would like to add my condolences to his family. Although I support a different party and never had the opportunity to meet him, it is clear from others that Mr MacDougall was a well respected and valued local MP.

    I first heard news of his illness before the Glasgow East by-election and it is clear that it was well known in political and press circles for some time. It is to the credit of all in those circles that he and his family were left alone to deal with his illness.

    I would like to add my voice to those above who have called for no politicking until his loved ones have had a chance to mourn properly. In particular not on this blog. I hope the moderator weeds out any who abuse this

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  • 10. At 4:12pm on 13 Aug 2008, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Evidence above of Scottish courtesy. I second the general motion.

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  • 11. At 5:26pm on 13 Aug 2008, Hugo of Garven wrote:

    Brownedov et al,

    As my Labour opponents said to me at local elections,

    'If you cannot stand the heat, get out of the kitchen'.

    Many of them were honourable men.

    However, the death of a high-level politician is a political occasion.

    Thus I say to you . . .

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  • 12. At 7:11pm on 13 Aug 2008, Brian Hill wrote:

    Condolences to John MacDougall's family, friends and colleagues.

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  • 13. At 7:52pm on 13 Aug 2008, cousteau696 wrote:

    The greatest disrespect to the late MP will be if the timing of the by-election (to give Mr MacDougall's erstwhile constituents proper representation) is 'managed' for party political advantage.

    It is high time that such matters were codified by statute - a proper period of mourning (as is only right and proper), followed by a defined period of campaigning.

    Whenever a Member of Parliament ceases to act in that capacity (through resignation, elevation to the peerage or sad death), the by-election should take place on the sixth Thursday thereafter - with the only exception to be if this would fall during Christmas holiday period, and then polling should take place on the second Thursday of January.

    In such circumstances, reflection upon the passing of a good constituency MP could be a genuine act and not sullied by a whispering campaign as to the likely by-election date (and tacit campaigning even on the day of decease).

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  • 14. At 8:44pm on 13 Aug 2008, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    I'll second the suggestion

    A toast to absent friends

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  • 15. At 9:15pm on 13 Aug 2008, boogieeck wrote:

    I am a Fifer and a rightwing economic liberal member of the Conservative party. take it as a compliment to the late MP that he had my respect above all other Fife MPs

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  • 16. At 9:18pm on 13 Aug 2008, U11769947 wrote:

    With sympathy,to the MacDougall family, colleagues and friends.


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  • 17. At 10:37pm on 13 Aug 2008, MathCampbell wrote:

    I too did not not know the man; I only moved to Scotland a few years ago, and would have had little chance to get to know the man, being that I have never visited Fife (apparently it is lovely; time has meant I have yet to experience it!).

    However, what moved me to post was the remarkable courtesy shown by the other posters here in their lack of political remarks, and their genuine statements of condolences for a man whom many would have regarded as a bitter enemy.

    From the accounts of all concerned, from all colours of the political spectrum, John MacDougall was a decent, honest, and honourable man; Fife, and I expect the wider world particularly Westminster, is a sadder place without him.

    I too second the motion that another thread be started for the inevitable discourse from those not so enamoured with honour and courtesy as those who have already posted.

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  • 18. At 07:33am on 14 Aug 2008, AndrewFR wrote:


    I'm a Fifer and not many even of us would call Fife lovely. it has it's braw places but it also has too many industrial areas to describe the whole place as lovely.

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  • 19. At 12:27pm on 14 Aug 2008, helibhoy wrote:

    I recall the unseemly haste in which the East Glasgow by-election was rushed through, the "excuse" being denying the electorate of East Glasgow representation for a prolonged period was unacceptable.(Not withstanding the fact that a low turnout was advantageous to Labour and the date was during the Glasgow fair holiday). Given the the unmitigated disaster that East Glasgow was for Labour, will the same haste apply or will denying the electorate of Glenrothes somehow become acceptable, to delay the inevitable mauling Labour will again receive. Given the Glenrothes proximity to Gormless Gordon's seat I would not hold my breath.

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  • 20. At 12:43pm on 14 Aug 2008, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Well, we almost got to 20 comments in a spirit of forbearance and respect...Andrew, I recall something being compared to "a wet day in Lochgelly." Personally, I enjoyed a pleasant fortnight's work/residence in Lochgelly, though my B&B was in Falkland...

    Absent friends

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  • 21. At 1:00pm on 14 Aug 2008, goodingm wrote:

    whilst the mans death is sad , there is a lot of sanctimony in all the comment re not talking about politics. I for one had never heard of him till his death was announced , so he hardly set the heather on fire nationally. He may have done much good work locally but based on comments of his voting record at Westminster he did nothing for Scotland. Like many he voted as ordered by party and Scotland deserves better from people appointed to act in Scotlands interests. We need people sent to westminster to look after the interests of scotland not jsut as cannon fodder for their party.

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  • 22. At 1:00pm on 14 Aug 2008, Barbazenzero wrote:


    As we've been saying from the beginning, the truce was bound to break and frankly I'm surprised it lasted 24 hours.

    PLEASE post a new thread. The issues in #19 certainly won't go away and this is not the thread we should be airing them on.

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  • 23. At 1:49pm on 14 Aug 2008, BoNG0_1 wrote:

    To be honest, it is a shame for the family of John MacDougall, but equally as honest is my indifference to a death of someone I never knew.

    If those of you are going to be this 'caring' about someone you never knew then I expect you to all post a heart felt post here for every one of the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi's who have died un-necessarily... and under the direction of the Labour party that John MacDougall stood for?

    PS... This whole post is full of hypocracy, since, once the By-election is over, most of you will not even be able to remember the gents name!

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  • 24. At 08:47am on 16 Aug 2008, scot2010 wrote:

    #23 BoNG0_1

    I take great offence at your post. I'm a member of another party and did not know the man. But I can still feel sympathy for his family. That does not mean I do not feel the same for all those, Iraqi, Scottish, English, American and any other nationality, who have died needlessly in this illegal war.

    And, PS, I, and I'm sure all contributing to this blog, will remember Mr MacDougall's name long after this by-election.

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  • 25. At 11:01am on 16 Aug 2008, SCFNL29 wrote:

    Its terrible really that after this mans death the second thing that will have been in people's minds will have been a by-election, I guess its an unavoidable outcome.

    As an SNP supporter I'd rather we weren't in this situation and I doubt there will be anybody who will take any pleasure in the potential gain of another Westminster seat at this moment in time.

    Delaying it until October would seem to be fair. I dont think anybodys at fault that we all turn to a by-election after hearing the sad news but it is a bit sad isnt it in some ways.

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  • 26. At 11:05am on 16 Aug 2008, SCFNL29 wrote:

    And to #23, thats a bit of a cold post! Jeez.

    I think for me its more about the coldness in thinking about by-elections before the man is even laid to rest! I won't remember the man's name, infact I struggle to even remember it as I type it but that doesnt take away from the fact that it doesnt hurt to show a bit of compassion about the dead!

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  • 27. At 09:20am on 18 Aug 2008, Alasdair_McGray wrote:

    BBC says - The Kingdom of Fife has lost a loyal servant. But no one in the capital, Glenrothes, seemed to know that.

    It’s tragic that Mr MacDougall should die at such a young age, best wishes to his family at this time.

    Back to the BBC comment, I am not surprised. This is true of all Scottish MPs with the exception of prominent SNP members and Labour ministers.

    Russell Johnston (why no blog on him, answer cause he's not Scottish Regional Labour), people in Inverness, Nairn and Skye will speak well of him, those over 40. But ask them what he did exactly for the people, blank faces all round I guess.

    So what do Scottish MPs achieve for Scotland, answer very little that I or the rest of the Scottish population know about. They are merely part of government machinery far away.

    They just seem to disappear into the ether when they leave Scotland. Only trace we have of them is the money they squander at our expense. Michael Martin, a complete disgrace!

    English people know very little about Scottish MPs other than the Scottish Regional Labour ones vote for Foundation Hospitals, ID Cards, English Education Bills, 42 days detention and the Iraq war.

    Next and most obvious question, why does Scotland continue to send MPS to Westminster and why do the English accept this nonsense? Answer habit and vested interest. Scottish Labour regional MPs raison d' etre is to feed Scotland propaganda shore up a woeful government and disrupt SNP government.

    If Mr MacDougall had worked for the benefit of the people of Fife just across the water in Edinburgh, people would have had visibility of his good deeds and hard work.

    This should be the topic of conversation. Why does Scotland continue to send MPs to Westminster?

    P.S. Brain, is it still policy for BBC Scotland to support Scottish Regional Labour?

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  • 28. At 1:56pm on 18 Aug 2008, BoNG0_1 wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 29. At 3:23pm on 18 Aug 2008, BoNG0_1 wrote:

    Scot2010, I take great offence with anyone who supports war.

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  • 30. At 2:25pm on 19 Aug 2008, tammienorrielass1 wrote:

    I too am a supporter of another party and I welcome the tolerance which has been shown here so far - with very few exceptions.

    However, I cannot but think back with regret to the situation in 2006 when a sitting MSP(previously an MP) died after a long illness. The funeral had not been announced before one party had leaflets circulating, never mind the election called and other parties joined in immediatedly after the funeral service. Note the election had not been called. Not only that there were phonecalls too.

    The voters on the receiving end were pretty upset as no matter what their politics, the MSP was well liked.

    I sincerely hope for the folk of this Fife constituency, that a decent period of respect is shown.

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  • 31. At 5:38pm on 19 Aug 2008, Barbazenzero wrote:

    #30 tammienorrielass1

    The three weeks delay to stage a by-election is not about "a decent period of respect" but about representing the electorate. I see no reason why the two cannot go side by side, nor any reason why the process could not have been started the day after the death was announced.

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  • 32. At 7:25pm on 19 Aug 2008, tammienorrielass1 wrote:

    #31 Sorry Brownedov - of course it is about representing the electorate, but you may find, as the offending parties did in the case which I mentioned, that it does not go down too well with the voters. I suspect that this may have played a part in Crewe as well.

    There seems little point in getting up the backs of the people who are to do the voting if you hope to win, does there? To be electioneering before a funeral is not respectful to the electorate.

    (Besides the local parties have to select their candidates and that is a process strictly for them and nothing to do with any forum, however hard they speculate)

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  • 33. At 04:48am on 20 Aug 2008, VincentMcdee wrote:

    As today is a week later and Bryan has ignored the request for a different thread let me just say:

    Trust Brown to plan the election as to better disturb the SNP National Convention starting the 16th and ending the 19th of October.

    Helpfully we have activists enough to cover both events, if some delegates would wish they could be canvassing instead of listening and voting.

    We manage to tally 1.153 different helpers in the Glasgow by-election, with a peak of 676 at the same time on a Saturday.

    We canvassed the 60.000 potentials three times plus, while Labour barely managed to cover 20.000 plus once.

    A lot of us used this inside information to make a bundle with the bookies, mine was £175 to a hundred.

    Winning is sweet, making money in the process....shame the bookies have smarted this time, they do not expect only 365 more votes, but probably ten times more to justify odds of 1/4.

    Motherwell next if Jack is not made to resign his sinecure in Malawi, Brown is very capable of much more than that to protect himself.

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  • 34. At 2:35pm on 20 Aug 2008, tammienorrielass1 wrote:

    #33 It was unnecessary to reveal that amount of information.

    Besides Conference is within easy travelling distance of this Fife constituency and many activists who may not necessarily have been able to reach Glasgow will be within striking distance. And how! It is not the first time that a by-election of some sort was going on at the time of Conference so it is an advantage not a handicap. If course it could be a handicap to other parties!!!!

    As you say, there is also Motherwell but that is not after a death.

    (You do not appear to realise the party who lost a sitting member I referred to, is doing rather well now.)

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  • 35. At 4:33pm on 21 Aug 2008, tammienorrielass1 wrote:

    As a post script - intodays Scotsman there is an article where it mentions that telephone canvassing started last Friday. ie before the funeral. The people concerned were not best pleased and felt it was distasteful. I think you can say that the chances are their vote will be changed.

    As said in #32
    "There seems little point in getting up the backs of the people who are to do the voting if you hope to win, does there? To be electioneering before a funeral is not respectful to the electorate".

    Reap what you sow. The first thing is to communicate with those and be sensitive to those, who put the crosses in the boxes.

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  • 36. At 06:45am on 28 Dec 2008, dennisjunior1 wrote:


    I am sending my condolences to the family of Mr. John MacDougall; and the rest of the citizens of Scotland...

    --Dennis Junior--

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