UK Politics

The ex-MPs who died in 2015 - part two

Houses of Parliament at sunset

This year saw the loss of one of the most memorable figures in post-war British politics, Labour peer Lord Healey. Another formidable political character, ex-Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy, died in June. But they weren't the only former MPs to pass away in 2015. Read part one here.

Tommy Graham, 5 December 1943 - 20 April 2015

A former engineering worker, Tommy Graham served in Parliament as a constituency Labour MP for more than 15 years.

He was first elected in 1987 in Renfrewshire West and Inverclyde and later, following boundary changes, as the MP for Renfrewshire West between 1997 and 2001.

The Daily Record said Mr Graham, who grew up in Glasgow, was also a member of Strathclyde Regional Council.

But he was expelled from the Labour Party following the suicide of his parliamentary colleague Gordon McMaster, who he had been accused of spreading rumours about, wrote the Daily Record. He denied the allegations but was ousted from the party following an inquiry, which he branded a "scam", it added.

Graham continued as an independent MP until his retirement at the 2001 general election, it added.


Lord Denis Healey, 30 August 1917 - 3 October 2015

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Denis Healey, who died in October aged 98, will go down in history as one of the biggest and most memorable figures in post-war British politics.

An intellectual heavyweight, who had a range of interests that stretched far beyond the narrow world of Westminster politics, he was known for his tough, no-holds-barred style of debate.

His relish for the cut-and-thrust of politics served him well during long periods in government in the 1960s and 1970s, and in the internal struggles that re-shaped Labour during its years in opposition in the 1980s.

Mentioned in despatches for his service in North Africa, Sicily and Italy during World War Two, he entered Parliament in 1952 and rose rapidly through the Labour ranks, serving as defence secretary for six years under Harold Wilson between 1964 and 1970.

But for many, the defining moment of his career came in 1976, when, as chancellor of the exchequer, he was forced to apply for an emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in an effort to save the pound from collapse.

Three months later he pushed through an emergency package of spending cuts and tax rises to comply with the IMF's demands, a move that Labour's opponents derided as a moment of national shame. But he thrived in times of crisis and took pride in "doing the dirty work for socialism".

He stood for the party leadership in 1980 but was narrowly defeated by Michael Foot. The following year, he won the deputy leadership by a whisker after an uncompromising contest against left-winger Tony Benn.

His retirement from frontline politics in 1992 gave him the space to indulge his extensive cultural hinterland, which included music, gardening, photography and writing. Lord Healey was respected, rather than necessarily loved, by fellow politicians but few could rival him in stature, in breadth of knowledge, and in cheerfully taking the knocks of political life.


Frank Hooley, 30 November 1923 - 21 January 2015

Frank Hooley was first elected to Parliament in the constituency of Sheffield Heeley, in 1966 - the first Labour candidate to claim the seat.

He lost the seat in 1970 but regained it in 1974, representing the area for another nine years, according to The Sheffield Star's obituary.

Mr Hooley served on numerous Commons select committees in the 1970s and 1980s, including those for procedure, foreign affairs and overseas development

Meg Munn, the MP for Sheffield Heeley between 2001 and 2015, is the daughter of Hooley's campaign manager at the 1966 general election, the paper's obituary added.


Greville Janner, 11 July 1928 - 19 December 2015

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According to the Guardian obituary, the reputation of long-serving former Labour MP and barrister Greville Janner was "overshadowed" by historic sex abuse allegations spanning more than 20 years.

It added that the allegations have been denied by Janner's family.

A Labour MP for 27 years, he had inherited his Leicester seat from his father. He chaired the Board of Deputies of British Jews from 1979 to 1985 and, according to the Daily Telegraph obituary: "He campaigned for Israel, human rights, the prosecution of Nazi war criminals and the safety and rights of people at work, but his later years were increasingly dominated by allegations of historic child sex abuse."

Before becoming an MP Janner was a war crimes investigator with Royal Artillery in Germany. He worked there immediately after the Second World War and later helped push for the War Crimes Act which was introduced by the Thatcher government.

Janner, who was born in Cardiff in 1928, went to Cambridge University after National Service, becoming President of the Union and sprinting for his college. He went to Harvard Law School as a Fulbright scholar, and was called to the Bar in 1955. Janner was also a member of the Magic Circle and founded the Parliamentary Magic Group, reports the Telegraph.

He became Labour MP for Leicester North West in 1970, leaving the Commons with a life peerage in 1997. He married in 1955 and is survived by his son and two daughters.

The Telegraph says: "Janner managed to be a diligent constituency MP and a busy QC, built a lucrative business from his expertise in employment and consumer law - producing more than 50 popular handbooks such as The Motorist's Lawyer - and ran courses for businessmen in the law and presentation.

"He also founded an all-party committee on the homeless, and chaired another on industrial safety for 24 years, mobilising it to demand an end to hospitals' Crown immunity from prosecution. He secured a review of the 'ludicrous' law that only women could be au pairs, and squashed a proposal for German veterans to march through London on the 50th anniversary of VE-Day."

But, as the paper said, his recent years were dominated by the child sexual abuse allegations with Janner, who was suffering from dementia, accused of 22 counts of historical sex offences against boys. A "trial of the facts" was set for April. Following his death a lawyer representing alleged victims said they had been denied justice.

Read more: The BBC news report on his death


Charles Kennedy, 25 November 1959 - 1 June 2015

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy led his party to their best ever election result in 2005 but, battling a drink problem, was forced to resign a few months later.

He was a genial, witty figure more than capable of holding his own on television panel games such as Have I Got News for You.

His laid-back approach contrasted with more earnest, policy-heavy rivals such as Simon Hughes and Malcolm Bruce.

But he was no lightweight. He had been one of the brightest of his generation, winning a Fulbright scholarship as well as national debating competitions at an early age and was spoken of as a future leader from his early days.

He was a popular figure among ordinary party members - and his blokeish image won him votes from people normally turned off by politicians.

Mr Kennedy was born in Inverness and educated at Lochaber High School - where at 15 he joined the Labour Party - and Glasgow University. He became president of the union in 1980 and joined the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

He seemed set for a career in academia but agreed to fight the seemingly no-hope seat of Ross Cromarty and Skye for the SDP at the 1983 election - and won. Unseating government minister Hamish Gray, he found himself thrust into the world of Westminster politics at the tender age of 23, as the youngest MP.

Mr Kennedy served as SDP spokesman on social security, Scotland and health and when most of his party merged with the Liberals to form the Lib Dems in 1988, he continued to hold a series of frontbench posts. His first major breakthrough came in 1990, when he was elected to the crucial post of party president.

He supported predecessor Paddy Ashdown's attempts to form an alliance with the Labour Party, but as soon as he became leader he set about uncoupling the Lib Dems from the party.

Many think his finest political hour was his decision to oppose the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

He was uncomfortable with the party's decision to go into coalition with the Conservatives after the 2010 election and he stayed clear of any government role. But he lost his seat at the 2015 election to the SNP.


Lord Mackie of Benshie, 10 July 1919 - 17 February 2015

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Part of the Mackie farming family, he was the Liberal MP for Caithness and Sutherland from 1964 to 1966, and former chairman of the Scottish Liberals.

During his two-year stint in the Commons, he served as the party's Scottish whip before losing his seat in 1966. A re-election attempt four years later, in 1970, failed.

However, that did not mean an end to his parliamentary career, for in 1974 he was given a life peerage and joined the House of Lords, taking the title Lord Mackie of Benshie.

He contested the 1979 European Parliament elections, but came second in north-east Scotland, wrote the Telegraph in its obituary.

David Steel, a Lib Dem peer and ex-Liberal leader, said Lord Mackie always laced his speeches with wit, which made him a popular figure in Parliament.

Born in Ballinshoe, near Kirriemuir, Mackie studied at Tarves School, Methlick, and Aberdeen Grammar School, wrote The Herald.

He joined Aberdeen University at the age of 16 to study for a BSc in agriculture, but being "a pushing young lout, who hated authority", he decided to join the RAF instead, it said.

The Telegraph's obituary described him as a larger-than life figure in Bomber Command during World War Two; he was awarded a DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) and the Distinguished Service Order (DSO).

After the war, Mackie had a farm at Ballinshoe in Angus and other business interests, including two hotels and a glass factory.

He had three daughters and a son, who died in infancy, from his first marriage in 1944 to Lindsay Lyall Sharp, who died in 1985, the Telegraph reported. He wed again in 1988 to Jacqueline, the widow of a partner in one of his hotel ventures.

He is survived by his wife, three daughters, seven granddaughters and four great-grandchildren, according to the Guardian.

Lord Mackie's son-in-law, Alan Rusbridger, is the editor of the Guardian.


Lord Mason of Barnsley, 18 April 1924 - 19 April 2015

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Roy Mason was a Labour secretary of state for Northern Ireland and defence secretary during the 1970s, and held other government posts during his political career.

Serving in the defence brief under Harold Wilson, he oversaw one of the most comprehensive reviews of the strength of the armed services since World War Two, said BBC Yorkshire's political editor Len Tingle.

Mason, an ex-miner, became a member of the Labour Party in 1943 and was first elected to Parliament in a by-election in Barnsley in 1953, winning with a majority of more than 28,000.

He was described in the Telegraph's obituary as a pint-sized pipe-smoker and angler with a enthusiasm for designing ties.

The paper placed him on the right wing of the Labour Party and said that aside from Margaret Thatcher he was the British politician most keen to tackle the IRA.

Mason became increasingly unpopular with Labour's left and had a bruising battle with miners' union leader Arthur Scargill over his seat in Barnsley, wrote the Guardian.

He represented the constituency in South Yorkshire until 1987, when he joined the House of Lords. He was made a Privy Councillor in 1968.

According to the Guardian, Mason set up the Barnsley Archives and Local Studies library in his retirement, and donated ministerial boxes and pit boots, a bullet-proof vest and his papers.

Born in Barnsley, he was educated at Royston senior school but after his father was crippled in a mining accident, he left at 14 to work in Wharncliffe Woodmoor pit.

When the war began, Mason tried to join the RAF on a number of occasions but was always sent back to the mines, the Telegraph said.

He is survived by his wife Marjorie and two daughters.

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