John McWilliam, who died on 14 November 2009 at the age of 68 following complications from pneumonia, was Labour MP for the Blaydon constituency for 26 years before standing down at the last election. A telephone engineer by profession, he was one of Westminister’s more knowledgeable authorities on matters of technology.
He was a long-serving member of the Scottish Council for Technical Education. Robin Cook, George Foulkes and Jim Boyack were among those who, along with McWilliam, emerged as the “class of 1970”, ousting the Tories and appointing Jack Kane as Labour’s first-ever Lord Provost of Edinburgh. With local government reform pending, McWilliam became City Treasurer. Between 1974-78, he held the post of commissioner of Local Authority Accounts in Scotland, reflecting his reputation as a competent manager of local government finances.
Through his union connections, McWilliam was selected to fight the safe seat of Blaydon in 1979. He served as deputy shadow leader of the house and as a whip in the 1980s. Increasingly, he embraced the procedures of the house and brought authority to the introduction of new technologies to Westminster. He joined the Speaker’s panel of chairmen in 1987 and continued to occupy that role until his retirement. McWilliam was also a member of the select committee on defence (1987-99). He spoke knowledgeably on issues involving telephone intercepts.
McWilliam was thrice-married. He is survived by two daughters from his first marriage and by his third wife, Helen Lovegreen.