UK Politics

The ex-MPs who died in 2016 - part two

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This year saw the loss of a politician who pulled off one of the biggest upsets in by-election history, a key figure in the Northern Ireland peace process and a Tory MP born during World War One. But they weren't the only former MPs to pass away in 2016. Read part one here.

Arthur Latham, 14 August 1930 - 3 December 2016

Labour's Arthur Latham was the MP for Paddington North, and then Paddington, from 1969 to 1979.

He entered Parliament in a by-election caused by the death of MP Ben Parkin.

His first parliamentary question was on the policing of cricket grounds, ahead of the planned tour of the UK by the South African team of 1970.

Among the subjects he focused on in Parliament were animal rights (on one occasion, complaining about the practice of fitting blinkers to pheasants) and sex and race discrimination.

Mr Latham also campaigned for tenants' rights, a particular issue in his part of London, in which slum landlords operated.

In 1972, he gave an impassioned speech on the Vietnam war, saying: "The greatest moral example that the Americans could give to the world at present is to recognise the reality of the situation in Vietnam, and not to continue slaughtering military and civilian personnel on both sides, not to run the risk of world war and nuclear annihilation to save an American President's face."

Mr Latham became a Havering councillor, serving as leader.


Eric Lubbock, 29 September 1928 - 14 February 2016

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Eric Lubbock came to the public's attention in one of the more dramatic by-elections of the 20th Century.

In 1962, the Liberal candidate, off the back of many miserable years for his party, as it was squeezed by the big two parties, ousted the Conservatives in the Kent constituency of Orpington.

"There is not a safe Tory seat in the country," Mr Lubbock declared.

The by-election was prompted by the appointment of the previous MP as a county court judge. Following the upset, Mr Lubbock, formerly an engineering consultant, held on to Orpington until the general election of 1970.

Mr Lubbock, educated in Canada and at Harrow and Oxford, was an amateur boxer who fought in Parliament for incitement to racial hatred to be made a crime. He was also a critic of Apartheid.

He served as Liberal chief whip, as the party slowly increased its number of MPs from the seven it had had when he entered the Commons.

After his defeat, he was soon offered a way back to Parliament, as a hereditary peer - becoming the 4th Baron Avebury in 1971.

He returned to his business career and converted to Buddhism.

In 1987, he said he was leaving his body to Battersea Dogs Home, arguing that, as it was biodegradable, it could be used to feed animals. But the home's manager refused, saying, according to the Independent: "I am sure there is a lot of nutritional value in the noble Lord and the dogs are not fussy, but we just couldn't do it."

He also served as president of the Conservation Society.


Patrick Mayhew, 11 September 1929 - 25 June 2016

The broad, tall figure of Patrick Mayhew became a familiar sight on television during the 1990s, when he served as Northern Ireland Secretary.

Appointed in 1992 by Prime Minister John Major, and staying in the job until 1997, he was seen as helping to lay the groundwork for the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, setting up a power-sharing assembly in Northern Ireland, in 1998.

The Guardian reported that both Unionists and Republicans had found Mr Mayhew "stiff and pompous" when appointed, but added: "Both sides were, however, starting to weary of a conflict that neither could win. Mayhew helped to initiate the faltering first steps to dialogue with the Dublin government - 'talks about talks' in Downing Street - and Major offered the possibility of the appointment of an American peace envoy."

Before taking on the Northern Ireland job, Mr Mayhew, a barrister, was solicitor general, and then attorney general.

He attempted to block the publication of former MI5 agent Peter Wright's Spycatcher memoirs and was responsible for the abolition of the "sus" law, under which police had stopped young, often black, men on the possibility of wrongdoing.

Mr Mayhew, who became Sir Patrick upon being made solicitor general in 1983, was MP for the ultra-safe Conservative seat of Tunbridge Wells, in Kent, from 1974 until he stood down in 1997.

In 1986, according to the Telegraph, he forced the resignation of Trade and Industry Secretary Leon Brittan over the leaking of his confidential advice during discussions over the proposed takeover of the UK helicopter firm Westland.

He was the son of an oil executive and studied at Tonbridge School and Oxford University before being called to the Bar.

After leaving the Commons in 1997, Sir Patrick received a life peerage, retiring from the Lords in 2015.


William McKelvey, 8 July 1934 - 18 October 2016

A man of the hard Left, William McKelvey was a supporter of Tony Benn and a mentor to former Labour MP George Galloway, remaining friends with him even after he was expelled from Labour and founded the Respect party.

Mr McKelvey spent his entire parliamentary career, from 1979 to 1997, in opposition. As MP for Kilmarnock, which became Kilmarnock and Loudoun in 1983, he was committed to the cause of Scottish devolution, which happened only after he was forced to withdraw from running again in 1997 because of ill health.

He served as chairman of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee and, in 1995, chaired an inquiry into drug abuse in Scotland. Its recommendation was that heroin be "selectively decriminalised and supplied free to those addicts who wanted to kick their habit".

The son of an accordionist, Mr McKelvey, who trained as a fitter and worked as a union official, championed the cause of the Scotch whisky industry.

"William 'Willie' McKelvey was a rare breed of politician in the modern era - one that genuinely cared for his fellow man," according to the Scotsman, "and one that did not become tainted, sanitised or swayed by his Westminster parliamentary experiences. He was to many 'a working-class hero'."

"Short, with a quick wit and a ready smile, McKelvey was popular across the Commons," said the Telegraph. "He once sang a question on the floor of the House - to the tune of The Tangle of the Isles - only for the Hansard reporter to mishear it as 'You'll never smell the Tam of the aisles.'"

Mr McKelvey was replaced as MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun by Des Browne, a future defence secretary.


Albert McQuarrie, 1 January 1918 - 13 January 2016

Albert McQuarrie really was from another era. Thought to have been the UK's oldest surviving MP, he was born 10 months before the end of the First World War.

Brought up in Glasgow, he trained as a plumber but joined up as soon as World War Two started, becoming an officer in the Royal Engineers. He specialised in the dangerous task of disposing of unexploded German bombs, at a time when the technology for doing so was far more basic than today's. A doctor's stethoscope and sandbags were among the tools used.

A Conservative, he served on Greenock Town Council and ran several times for Parliament before winning the East Aberdeenshire seat in 1979, then Banff and Buchan from 1983.

Mr McQuarrie was a physically active man who continued to campaign on issues important to him. He lost his seat in 1987 to the SNP's future Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond.

But he still liked to get involved in politics. "At 91, he turned his hand to composing," said the Scotsman, "and wrote the election song used by Jimmy Buchan, the Tory trawler captain who stood for his old seat in the general election of 2010. A catchy little ditty it was too - and broadcast on radio and loudspeaker vans during the campaign - but it didn't win Jimmy the seat."

When Mr McQuarrie died, Mr Salmond said: "He revelled in his title of the 'Buchan Bulldog' and we enjoyed some fierce political debates, as worthy opponents should. He will be much missed, obviously friends and family, but also the wider political and public life in Scotland."


Ronald Murray, 15 June 1922 - 27 September 2016

Ronald Murray had a long and distinguished legal career that saw him, in retirement, become a notable campaigner against Trident.

He was the Labour MP for marginal seat of Edinburgh Leith from 1970 to 1979. In 1974 he became Lord Advocate and a privy councillor.

As Lord Advocate, he tried to resolve the apparent miscarriage of justice arising from the Glasgow safe-breaker Patrick Meehan's conviction for the murder of 72-year-old Rachel Ross during a burglary at her Ayr home in 1969 - only to be threatened with impeachment. Mr Meehan was eventually freed with a royal pardon.

Mr Murray was educated at Edinburgh and Oxford universities before being called to the bar. He ran for Parliament three times before becoming an MP.

He argued against the UK staying in the European Economic Community, when the Labour government held a referendum in 1975. Mr Murray also pushed for reform of Scotland's homosexuality laws.

He continued to serve as a lawyer until his retirement in 1995, frequently arguing the case against renewing Trident.


Eddie O'Hara, 1 October 1937 - 28 May 2016

Image caption Eddie O'Hara was a former university lecturer

Labour's Eddie O'Hara represented the Merseyside seat of Knowsley South for 20 years. An Oxford-educated classicist, he translated the works of the Beatles into Latin.

After Mr O'Hara's death, his son Terry told the Liverpool Echo: "He was a born educator. He was a teacher and classicist by background and he had a strong interest in educational matters and Greek cultural heritage."

The son of a horse-keeper at Bootle docks, Mr O'Hara attended Liverpool Collegiate School, before going to Oxford to study classics. Afterwards he taught in schools and went on to lecture at CF Mott college (which later became Liverpool Polytechnic).

He served as a councillor from 1975 and won his parliamentary seat in a by-election in 1990, caused by the death of Labour MP Sean Hughes. As a Liverpool FC supporter himself, he campaigned on behalf of the families of those who had died in the previous year's Hillsborough disaster.

Another important issue for Mr O'Hara was the return of the Elgin Marbles from the UK to Greece. He continued to press for this after he retired from politics in 2010. He told the Daily Telegraph in 2011: "If you visit the Acropolis museum you see gaps in the displays, ghostly images of the pieces that remain in the British Museum. Every time an international visitor sees them, that's a discredit to the UK."