Ian Campbell

Politician with solid roots in Scottish Labour movement

Born: 26 April, 1926, in Dumbarton.

Died: 9 September, 2007, in Dumbarton, aged 81.

IAN Campbell was parliamentary private secretary to the Scottish secretary Bruce Millan from 1976-9, a period of industrial and constitutional upheaval. Campbell was far from certain that a Scottish assembly was a good idea, but he loyally toed the party line and backed it in the Commons.

After the fall of the Scotland Act, which would have established the assembly, and Jim Callaghan's ill-fated government in 1979, Campbell impressed as a diplomatic chairman of Scottish standing committees and the Scottish grand committee, which began sitting in the old Royal High School building in Edinburgh from 1982.

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In his 17 years as an MP, five of which found a Labour government in office, Campbell remained a backbencher but never gave any indication that he desired higher status. He was popular in the Labour ranks and a successful secretary of the Scottish group of Labour MPs from 1974-7.

Campbell was born in Dumbarton at the height of the Depression, the second of four children by William and Helen Campbell. Throughout his life he was devoted to the ancient capital of Strathclyde, in his personal and political life.

He attended Knoxland Primary School and Dumbarton Academy, where he proved a talented footballer. He left home to study electrical engineering at the then Royal College of Science and Technology, now Strathclyde University, in Glasgow. National Service took him to post-war Germany where he served with the Royal Engineers.

In 1950 he married Mary Millar. It was a strong marriage which produced five children between 1954 and 1965. Campbell worked in the steam test section of the South of Scotland Electricity Board from 1948 and rose steadily within the ranks, but politics was a developing interest. In 1958 he was elected to Dumbarton Burgh Council.

Campbell became provost of Dumbarton, aged only 36, when the Labour group took control of the council. The new administration carried out an ambitious programme of slum clearance, house building and town-centre redevelopment, but early in the first of his three terms as provost, the Denny shipyard, Dumbarton's last major shipyard and one of its major employers, closed.

Westminster was the inevitable next step. Tom Steele, the incumbent Labour MP for Dunbartonshire West, decided to stand down at the 1970 general election and Campbell was selected as Labour candidate in his place. He held the seat, in several guises and often narrowly, until retiring in 1987.

The 1970s was a heady decade in Scottish and UK politics: industrial strife under Ted Heath's government gave way to constitutional headaches over devolution, in turn, consumed by more industrial unrest as the decade drew to a close. Although Campbell's focus was primarily local, the growing popularity of the SNP nearly cost him his seat in the second general election of 1974.

But Campbell held on and took a close interest in the Scotch whisky industry, bottling plants being a major employer in his constituency following the demise of the shipyards, and he was chairman of the all-party Scotch whisky industry group in 1976.

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An unostentatious MP, he rarely spoke in the Commons and did not seek controversy, although he was a committed anti-abortionist. A religious man who had once thought of becoming a Kirk minister, Campbell was opposed to abortion legislation introduced by David Steel in the late 1960s and, with his friend Jimmy White, the MP for Glasgow Pollok, he did all he could to oppose any further relaxation of the laws, often acting as an informal whip on committees considering such changes.

Early in the 1979 parliament, Campbell successfully piloted a private member's bill through the Commons, "to enable Scottish local authorities to provide concessionary travel schemes for mentally handicapped persons".

In the run-up to the 1983 general election, he narrowly won a reselection battle within his constituency Labour Party after a left-wing challenge from Leo Crawley. That election saw Campbell re-elected for the new Dumbarton constituency, virtually identical to his old seat. He stood down at the 1987 election, succeeded by John McFall.

Campbell was content to leave political life behind and increasingly devoted himself to life as a grandfather, while also spending more time as an elder in Riverside Church, Dumbarton. He remained active in the community, most notably as chairman of the school board of Ardlui school for children with special needs, in Helensburgh, where his grand-daughter Michelle was a pupil. Sadly, Michelle died in 2005.

Campbell was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000. Apart from short hospital stays for treatment, he was cared for at home by his wife of 57 years, who survives him along with his five children, Willie, Ray, Helen, Sandy and Alison, their spouses and 13 grandchildren.