Alan, who had been a member of Hounslow borough council for four years until 1990, had cultivated his contacts within the sprawling suburbs lying to the east of Heathrow, and he was quietly confident that he could win sufficient votes in Feltham and Heston in 1992, in what was one of the largest Asian communities in Britain and he successfully dislodged the sitting Tory MP.
Alan was a charming, amiable, kindly and unassuming man who became an unobtrusive loyalist on the Labour backbenches. However, he could be enlivened by a passion for music. He played the drums and the harmonica, sometimes arriving at a party with a plastic carrier bag containing dozens of harmonicas, all of which he intended to play.
For such a quiet and intensely private man it was, in its way, incongruous that he and his wife, eventually elected in 1997, when Heal also returned to the Commons, became known in 2009 as “Mr and Mrs Expenses”. This led to an unhappy period of humiliation in the press coupled with much public scorn.
Locally he made himself unpopular for changing his mind about the necessity of a third runway at Heathrow. This now abandoned project was widely opposed in his constituency, a view he initially shared, but which he then reneged upon, claiming that it would not affect most of his constituents. Despite the row that ensued, he held his seat in 2010 election, when Ann lost to the Conservatives’ Mary Macleod.
Alan was born the son of Jack Keen, whom he never knew, and Gladys (nee Sivills), who came from Teesside. His mother went to work at the age of 14, and two years later moved to London, where Alan was born, in search of employment, while desperately missing the close-knit community of the impoverished streets of Grangetown. She took her baby son back to Middlesbrough when he was three weeks old, and he was immensely proud of his heritage.
He went to Sir William Turner’s school, Redcar, and up to 1992 worked as a systems analyst, accountant and manager. In 1980 he married Ann (nee Lloyd Fox). He is survived by her and the son and daughter from his first marriage.
A great lover of sport, he said once: “We shall win gold medals and make our nations world champions only if we ensure that all children and young people have a chance to participate in sport.” He was chairman of the all-party groups on football and on athletics, and a member of the select committee on culture, media and sport.
Lawrie McMenemy writes: Alan Keen could lay claim to being football’s greatest fan in parliament: he was himself a good player, and in the 1970s and 80s a scout for his local club, Middlesbrough. Among the managers he served was Jackie Charlton, and among the footballers he spotted was Graeme Souness, a lifelong friend. Other friends included Kenny Dalglish, Steve McClaren and Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Alan made the football group just about the biggest of its kind in parliament. With 150 members, it carried considerable weight. I met Alan regularly in his capacity as chairman and was impressed by his ferocious support for his hometown club, his knowledge of the game and the two reports on its governance that he conducted.
Tributes: Ed Miliband: “Alan Keen was a decent, generous man. Labour to his core – loyal, passionate about social justice and deeply committed to a fairer society. Alan was great friend to me and he will be sorely missed by all.”
Gordon Brown: “Alan was a great MP, locally popular, a diligent London MP, and a great fighter for local causes. I salute his bravery in facing cancer – fighting it as long as he could – and he will be remembered as someone who taught us how to fight illness. As he acknowledged, the NHS could not have done more to be of help and support.”
Tony Blair: “Alan would be much-missed as a hard working MP and a dedicated constituency campaigner. In the north east he will be remembered for his time as a scout with Middlesbrough. He brought that passion for football with him to Westminster and was a fantastic advocate for sport as a force for good in society through all his years in the Commons.”
• David Alan Keen, politician, born 25 November 1937; died 10 November 2011