The MPs and ex-MPs who died in 2017 - part two

Published
Image caption,
In common with all Sinn Féin MPs, Martin McGuinness never took his seat in Westminster

In 2017, we bade farewell to one of the most controversial figures in modern Northern Irish politics, the man credited with making devolution work in Wales, a Conservative MP who married into the Churchill political dynasty and one of the original Maastricht rebels.

This is part two of a four-part series - read part one here, part three here and part four here.

Martin McGuinness: 23 May 1950 - 21 March 2017

Martin McGuinness, who died in May aged 66, was the IRA leader who became a peace negotiator - a committed Irish republican who ended up shaking hands with the Queen.

Together with Gerry Adams, he was the main republican architect of the move towards a political solution to Northern Ireland's problems.

His life followed an extraordinary trajectory between violence and politics, moving from being a senior commander in the IRA to helping broker talks that eventually led to the peace negotiations of the 1990s.

Eventually, he became Northern Ireland's deputy first minister, forging an unlikely alliance with Ian Paisley, the DUP leader who was the fiercest - and loudest - critic of the republican movement.

In 1973, Mr McGuinness was convicted of IRA activity by the Republic of Ireland's Special Criminal Court after being caught near a car containing explosives and almost 5,000 rounds of ammunition.

Security chiefs were in no doubt that he was a key figure in the IRA as it reorganised and rearmed in the 1980s.

But behind the scenes, he engaged in secret contacts with British agents which laid the groundwork for the IRA ceasefires and peace negotiations of the 1990s.

When the Good Friday Agreement led to the creation of a devolved government at Stormont, he became education minister and his good working relationship with Mr Paisley led the pair, about an odd political couple as could be imagined, becoming known as the Chuckle Brothers.

Mr McGuinness was MP for mid-Ulster for 16 years between 1997 and 2013 although, in common with other Sinn Féin MPs, he never took his seat at Westminster.

According to his obituary in the unionist newspaper the Belfast News Letter, his was a career "forged in the flames of the Troubles which reached its zenith after the guns had fallen silent".

Piers Dixon: 29 December 1928 - 24 March 2017

Image source, Keystone Pictures USA / Alamy Stock Photo
Image caption,
Piers Dixon's first wife was Sir Winston Churchill's granddaughter

Conservative politician Piers Dixon, who died aged 88 in March, had a relatively short career in frontline politics, representing the Cornish seat of Truro in Parliament between 1970 and 1974.

The Eton and Cambridge-educated stockbroker, whose father Pierson was British ambassador to Paris and the United Nations, entered Parliament in the year Ted Heath won a surprise victory over Harold Wilson.

He held onto the seat in the "Who Governs Britain" election in February 1974 but lost by 464 votes to the Liberals eight months later in the second election that year.

Mr Dixon was a member of the Monday Club, a group of activists who believed the party had moved too far to the left under Harold Macmillan, and which wielded considerable influence for a time in the party.

A Times profile in 1968 described him as having "a brisk, slightly Cityish manner, and an outlook which he freely confesses to be well to right of centre within the Tory Party".

He married four times. His first wife - sculptor Edwina Sandys - is Winston Churchill's granddaughter and the daughter of Conservative cabinet minister Duncan Sandys.

According to the Daily Telegraph's obituary, their wedding was attended by six cabinet ministers, while he was one of the last people to visit the former prime minister and wartime leader on his deathbed in 1965.

After losing his seat, M Dixon returned to his career in the City and did not contest elected office again. He wrote a well-regarded biography of his father - Double Diploma - and another book on Cornish Names.

John Fraser: 30 June 1934 - 6 April 2017

The Labour politician, who died aged 82 in April, represented the south London seat of Norwood in Parliament for more than 30 years.

First elected to Parliament in 1966, the Londoner served as a junior industry and employment minister under Harold Wilson, before being promoted to minister of state for prices and consumer protection by James Callaghan.

A lawyer by training, Mr Fraser was a senior partner in the firm Lewis Silkin, established by the eponymous Labour MP and minister who was the architect of much of the UK's post-war planning legislation.

He followed a fairly traditional route into Parliament, serving as a councillor in the borough of Lambeth before wresting the Norwood seat from the Conservatives at the second time of asking in 1966.

He went on to defend the marginal seat on another seven occasions before the constituency was abolished in 1997 and he lost out in a selection battle with Tessa Jowell for the neighbouring Dulwich seat.

According to his obituary in the Guardian, it was John Fraser's "knowledge and profound understanding" of his constituency and its inhabitants that marked him out.

During his long political career, he campaigned against slum landlords and stop and search laws, and steered legislation through Parliament obliging garages to display their petrol prices, while also limiting the scope for firms to escape liability for breach of contract or negligence.

He was also a talented linguist, and had a lifelong interest in esperanto.

Nigel Forman: 9 August 1932 - 26 January 2017

The Conservative politician, who died aged 74 in January, briefly served as a higher education minister in John Major's government before resigning unexpectedly for personal reasons in December 1992.

The MP for Carshalton and Wallington in south London for 21 years was regarded as being a "wet" on the left of the party and was overlooked for ministerial office by Margaret Thatcher.

The son of an army officer, Mr Forman was born in the Indian city of Simla - where generations of British soldiers and colonial administrators spent the summer months.

He worked in the Conservative Research Department - the incubator for many Tory political careers - for eight years, before winning the seat of Carshalton and Wallington at a by-election in 1976, triggered by former home secretary Robert Carr's elevation to the House of Lords.

Describing himself as a One Nation Tory, he was not a natural sympathiser with Margaret Thatcher's economic and social policies, favouring voluntary agreements with unions and closer European integration and expressing concerns about unemployment levels and cuts to child benefits.

He survived several efforts to de-select him at a local level, and while serving as an aide to a string of cabinet ministers in the 1980s, he had to wait 13 years to serve as a salaried member of the government.

His Times obituary described Nigel Forman - who held degrees from Oxford, Harvard, the College of Europe and Sussex - as having "something of a perpetual student" about him.

After he lost his seat to the Liberal Democrats in 1997, he followed perhaps what was his natural vocation, teaching at a number of universities and delivering courses for Parliament's own in-house training facility.

Rhodri Morgan: 29 September 1939 - 17 May 2017

Rhodri Morgan, who died in May aged 77, spent nine years as first minister of Wales, cultivating his own idiosyncratic style and subtly differentiating his administration from Tony Blair's New Labour government.

He used the newly devolved powers given to Wales to opt out from Blairite reforms to health and education as part of an approach that was dubbed "clear red water".

Born in Cardiff just after the outbreak of war in September 1939, Mr Morgan was educated at Whitchurch Grammar School, Oxford and Harvard University. He worked for South Glamorgan Council before becoming head of the European Community's office in Wales in 1980.

In 1987 he was elected as the MP for Cardiff West, serving in various front-bench roles until Labour won the 1997 election, when he took on the chairmanship of the Public Administration Select Committee.

His real ambition was to take the helm in the new assembly created by the 1997 referendum, but he lost two leadership elections, one to Ron Davies, and a second, in bitterly contested circumstances, to Alun Michael.

But within nine months of the first devolved elections in May 1999, Mr Michael had gone, his authority undermined by a row over EU funding. Mr Morgan succeeded him in February 2000.

He governed in coalition firstly with the Liberal Democrats and then, more controversially with Plaid Cymru, before a serious health scare in 2007 in which, in his own words, he came "perilously close to snuffing it".

In an era of sound bite politics, his vernacular style was unlike that of most politicians - his response to being asked whether he wanted to lead the yet-to-be-created assembly was to ask "do one-legged ducks swim in a circle"?

Paul Keetch: 21 May 1961 - 24 May 2017

Paul Keetch, who died aged 56 in May, was one of almost 30 new Lib Dem MPs elected to Parliament in 1997 on the coat-tails on the Labour landslide.

He won the seat of Hereford - which had last gone Liberal in 1929 - as the Conservatives found themselves being pushed back across large swathes of the country.

He was active in local politics from an early age, being elected to Hereford City Council at the age of 21 and serving as a constituency agent in the 1983 general election.

During his 13 years in Parliament, he took a keen interest in foreign affairs, serving on the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, as chair of the Liberal International British Group and as a British delegate to the Nato Parliamentary Assembly. He was also foreign affairs and defence spokesman under Charles Kennedy.

Closer to home, Mr Keetch founded the all-party parliamentary group on cider.

He held onto his parliamentary seat but with diminishing majorities in 2001 and 2005 before announcing in 2006 that he would not contest the next general election.

The following year, he was taken seriously ill while on a flight to Washington DC and was diagnosed with idiopathic ventricular fibrillation - requiring him to be fitted with a heart defibrillator.

In 2010, a BBC investigation found he was among 20 MPs to have breached rules in relation to registering and declaring overseas trips paid for by foreign governments.

After leaving frontline politics, he worked as a political lobbyist and had the distinction of becoming the most senior Liberal Democrat to campaign for Brexit in the 2016 EU referendum.

John Taylor: 19 August 1941 - 30 May 2017

The Conservative politician, who died in May aged 76, was MP for Solihull for more than 20 years.

Described in his Daily Telegraph obituary as an "affable right-winger" and a "kind man with a big heart", he represented the West Midlands constituency between 1983 and 2005, having previously been a member of the European Parliament for five years.

He never achieved high ministerial rank, enjoying spells in the whips' office under Margaret Thatcher and John Major and as a junior minister in the department of trade and industry.

A solicitor by background, he founded his own law firm before entering Parliament while also becoming a stalwart in local government, serving on Solihull Borough Council - before becoming opposition leader and then leader of West Midlands Metropolitan County Council.

He was a staunch defender of the local car industry, vigorously opposing attempts by the Thatcher government to sell Land Rover to US firm General Motors in the mid 1980s.

His final question in the House of Commons, in early April 2005, was about the impending demise of MG Rover, which went into administration days after.

M Taylor also championed the case of the South African-born athlete Zola Budd, who competed for the UK after being controversially given a British passport by the Thatcher government.

Bill Walker: 20 February 1929 - 6 June 2017

Bill Walker, who died in June aged 88, was a leading figure in Scottish Conservative politics for more than 30 years and one of the Maastricht rebels who harried John Major's government over Europe in the 1990s.

He never held any ministerial office and was a frequent rebel when it came to Europe, maintaining an unwavering opposition to what he saw as a purely political project.

In its obituary, the Herald newspaper wrote that while the Scottish Conservatives had "long been portrayed by their political opponents as a party of toffs, no one could have been less of a toff than Mr Walker".

He was born in a tenement in Dundee, the third of eight children, and started work at 14 as a message boy at GL Wilson's department store to help the family after his father lost his job.

After a varied career in the furnishing industry, he was elected MP for Perth and East Perthshire in 1979, having fought the entire campaign in a wheelchair after a gliding accident.

He won three subsequent elections for the re-drawn seat of Tayside North before losing his seat in 1997, when every single Tory in Scotland was defeated. Despite this, he remained an influential figure - serving as deputy chairman of the Scottish Conservatives between 2000 and 2008.

Outside of politics, Mr Walker was best known for his long association with the air cadets - first joining the Dundee squadron of the Air Training Corps in 1942.

After national service, he served with the RAF for nine years, his tours of duty including spells in the Middle East. He went on to establish the Central Gliding School, teaching more than 1,000 cadets to fly and became President of Air Cadet Gliding.