Ron Brown -2007

The former Labour MP for Leith, Edinburgh, Ron Brown, has died in August 2007 aged 69.

Before being elected as an MP, Ron was a councillor, first for Edinburgh Town Council and then Lothian Regional Council, both in the 1970s, where he fell foul of his party bosses.

The incident for which he is still best known – seizing the House of Commons mace in 1988 during a debate on supplementary benefit appeals, dropping it and causing £1,500 in damage (which he paid for) – provoked outrage at Westminster, though some appreciation among the hard left in Scotland and in his constituency. His fellow Labour MPs registered their disapproval by removing the party whip from him for three months, though his reaction probably summed up better the feelings of his supporters back home: “If that bauble or ornament is more important than all the struggle, there is something wrong with this party.”

Another issue that chimed with his constituents’ views was his extreme opposition to the poll tax, introduced in Scotland in 1989. When he and his wife May refused to pay it, he was threatened with bankruptcy, and he appeared before a sheriff court.

Ron Brown was deselected as Labour’s candidate but carried on as MP until the general election in 1992, when he was defeated as an independent Labour candidate by Labour’s new nominee, Malcolm Chisholm, though he still gained 4,000 votes.

Although Ron slipped into relative anonymity, working as a taxi driver and as a helpdesk hotline adviser, he never wavered in his political views. At the first Scottish Parliament elections in 1999 he stood as a Scottish Socialist candidate, unsuccessfully.

May Brown predeceased him, and he is survived by two sons.