Brian Stewart Parkyn, chemist and politician, born April 28 1923; died March 22 2006
When industrial chemist Brian Parkyn took Bedford for Labour from Winston Churchill’s son-in-law and former Tory agriculture minister, Christopher Soames, in March 1966 by just 378 votes, it was widely thought locally that he was the only person who could have done so. Parkyn, who has died aged 82, managed to unite the local party and attract to it a younger generation, many of whom were employed in the town’s new technology industries.
riving around in an ancient Bentley and always wearing a cape, he stood out. Yet he was respected, not least for living his socialist principles through his role at the chemical company Scott Bader. Formed by Ernest Bader in 1921, the firm fulfilled his wishes 30 years later when the Scott Bader Commonwealth started holding the company’s shares in common ownership, so that its workers could – and still can – share in decision-making and profits. Parkyn was there at the beginning, and continued as a director (1953-83) to ensure that it worked.
Born in Stanford-le-Hope, Essex, he was brought up by an uncle following the break-up of his parents’ marriage. After attending King Edward VI grammar school, Chelmsford, he studied at various technical colleges before joining Scott Bader in 1946. He served as a council member of the British Plastics Federation (1959-75), and his book Democracy, Accountability and Participation in Industry was published in 1979.
As an MP, he spoke on technical and industrial issues, and served on the science and technology select committee (1967-70). In 1969 he became chairman of its carbon fibres subcommittee, keen that Britain should not be left behind in this significant new development.
He had first fought Bedford in October 1964. In 1970, he lost the seat when Edward Heath’s Conservatives came to power, and he stood unsuccessfully for the last time in October 1974. As his agent, I knew how effective an MP he had been for the town.
He was principal of the Glacier Institute of Management (1976-80) and, from 1981 to 1988, was general manager of training services at British Caledonian Airways. He is survived by his wife Janet, whom he married in 1951, and his son and daughter.