Tributes flood in as Red Ron passes away

TRIBUTES were today being paid to the firebrand former Labour MP for Leith Ron Brown, who has died from liver disease at the age of 69.

Mr Brown, who held the Leith constituency for eight years until 1987, died at the city's Royal Infirmary last night following a long battle with illness.

A statement on behalf of the family said: "He will be greatly missed not only by family and friends but by the many socialists and ordinary people whose lives he touched."

Born in West Pilton, the man dubbed "Red Ron" worked for the Electricity Board before serving as a councillor for Leith between 1974 and 1979.

While he was a trainee electrician before his days in politics, he almost died after sustaining a severe electric shock.

Later, he was involved in the founding of Scotland's Anti-Poll Tax campaign, and he famously damaged the House of Commons mace during a poll tax debate in 1987.

More recently, he worked as Chairman of the Edinburgh Trades Council and lent his support to the Scottish Socialist Party.

His family issued thanks to the staff at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary of "for their wonderful and tireless work and support throughout Ron's illness."

His family also announced that a commemorative bench may be placed at one of the former Ainslie Park school pupils favourite spots at the foot of Leith Walk.

The SSP's national convener, Colin Fox, paid tribute to Mr Brown for his socialist values.

He said: "The Scottish Socialist Party has today lost a dear comrade and friend. Say what you like about Ron Brown, but he held true to his socialist principles to the very end.

"It will be his commitment to trades union values, struggling for better pay and conditions and struggling against attacks from bosses and government that people will remember him most.

"Ron was a founder member of the Scottish Socialist Party. His belief in working people and their determination to change the world was unshakeable and inspired us all.

"Working people in Edinburgh owe Ron Brown a great deal - in particular the people of Leith. He represented them at many levels for many years, and he was first and foremost a Leither."

Edinburgh South MP Nigel Griffiths said Mr Brown was a champion of the people.

He said: "Ron was a colourful character who was very much part of a double-act with his wife May. Many people thought that in different times she would have been an MP.

"He felt passionately about his constituency and was a powerful advocate for the poor and dispossessed in Leith. That is what he will be remembered for."

Former Labour MP Tam Dalyell added: "Ron Brown was portrayed as a figure of fun, but in my opinion this was totally unfair.

"I would be sad if he was simply remembered for his various much-publicised escapades. When I visited as their guest Leith Labour Party, I found that he was held in affection surpassed only by that accorded to his late wife, the raging left-winger May Brown."

Mr Brown is survived by his two sons, his partner, brother, and six grandchildren.