Rudi Vis -2010

Rudi Vis, former MP for Finchley passed away in July 2010 aged 69.

Rudi Jan Vis was born in Alkmaar on April 4 1941. Educated locally, he spent four years doing Dutch military service, then worked on a US Air Force base in Spain and at a hotel in Amsterdam.

In 1967 he went to the United States to perfect his knowledge of English, enrolling at the University of Maryland, graduating in Economics in 1970. He had an impressive set of academic which included an MSc from the LSE and a PhD fro Brunel University.

Moving to Britain, he took up a lectureship at the Polytechnic of East London, which is now called the University of East London. Rudi worked there for 26 years.

A committed member of the Labour Party, Rudi had no interest in a political career, unless it was as MP for Finchley. During the Tory years of Government with a comfortable majority it obviously seemed highly unlikely that Labour would take the seat held by Margaret Thatcher. Nevertheless In 1997 he went for the seat and was selected.

In Labour’s 1997 victory Rudi won by 3,189 votes on a 13 per cent swing. His win in what had previously been a Tory stronghold was one of the highlights of the election. Rudi’s hard work in the constituency meant he increased his majority four years later, and held his seat again in 2005 by 741 votes.

In the Commons Rudi mainly worked on local issues. A major campaign he undertook was to prevent trains carrying flasks of nuclear fuel from being routed through his constituency.

He was a strong supporter of closer European integration, a cause he pursued passionately as a delegate to the Council of Europe.

At the Council of Europe his work was recognised by colleagues at home and abroad. At Rudi’s funeral John Prescott paid tribute to Rudi as a “formidable campaigner”. He wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. Rudi once took on Italy prime minister Silvio Berlusconi in a debate and criticised the Turkish PM over Cyprus. He was also a strong supporter of Iranian refugees.

Away from politics Rudi loved football. Local Councillor Kath McGuirk, who knew Rudi for more than 25 years and worked for him, recalled abandoning a canvassing session around the constituency to find a pub to watch an FA cup semi-final. He was also once on the books with Ajax and played for the Dutch school boys team. Even in later life he still liked a kickabout.

Rudi Vis married first, in 1968, Dr Joan Hanin and they had a son; the marriage was dissolved in 1984. In 2001 he married his long-term partner Jacqueline Suffling, with whom he had twin sons.