Tributes paid after former MP John McWilliam dies at 68

TRIBUTES were paid last night to former North East MP John McWilliam after his death at the age of 68.

TRIBUTES were paid last night to former North East MP John McWilliam after his death at the age of 68.

Mr McWilliam, who mentored Gordon Brown early in his career, served as member for Blaydon, Gateshead, between 1979 and 2005.

He died peacefully at Perth Royal Infirmary on Saturday.

Last night friends and colleagues recalled fond memories of a “colourful character”, who married three times, and was famed for his love of life and grasp of technology.

Frank Earl, the MP’s agent and office manager until 2005, said: “He was a great chap to us all. I worked for him for a period of six years. As well as being my own MP for 26 years he became a good friend and great employer.”

Newcastle North MP and good friend Doug Henderson said Mr McWilliam’s legacy would live on.

“He made an important contribution on the Speaker’s Panel and he was one of the few people in the House of Commons, who understood IT,” Mr Henderson said.

“He set up a body which discussed technological development, which is still going to this day. He liked life and was full of fun.”

Mr McWilliam was born in Falkirk in 1941 and educated at Leith Academy and Heriot Watt university, Edinburgh. He worked as a telephone engineer for the Post Office, joined the Labour Party in 1966 and became a city councillor in Edinburgh in 1966.

It was during his time as the city’s treasurer, education convenor and commissioner for local government accounts that he met Gordon Brown.

He never held ministerial office, the start of his career in the Commons coinciding with the start of 18 years of Conservative rule. But he was made deputy Shadow Leader of the Commons in 1982.

After splitting from his wife and ex-secretary Lesley in 1991, Mr McWilliam married twice more, declaring: “This time’s the last!” when he met and married Helene in 1998.

Mr McWilliam’s successor Dave Anderson said: “He was very respected for the work he did for the Labour party and his constituency. He was someone who treated people properly.”

After retiring from Westminster Mr McWilliam returned to Scotland.

His funeral will take place at 1.30pm, this Friday, at the Crieff Church of Scotland church, in Perthshire, followed by a service of committal at Perth Crematorium, at 3pm. Colleagues are asked not to send flowers.

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