Tom Megahy, who has died aged 79 in October 2008, was born in a Lanarkshire mining village. He left school at 14 to become a railway signalman and rose to be a Labour MEP and, from 1987 until 1989, vice-president of the European parliament.
In 1953, Tom won a trade union scholarship to Ruskin College, Oxford, and moved to Mirfield, Yorkshire, and with the reorganisation of local government in 1972 was elected as the first leader of Kirklees council. He succeeded in the difficult task of welding together a new council comprising Huddersfield and Dewsbury, when neither wanted to work together. For this he was appointed MBE.
In 1979, Tom was elected in the first direct elections to the European parliament, staying until retirement in 1999, and becoming chairman of the British Labour group. He was respected for his fairness and ability to see both sides of any argument. Meetings were always greatly enlivened by his sense of humour and sharp wit.
Elected on the Labour party policy of “withdrawal from the Common Market”, he always supported this policy and campaigned vehemently against Neil Kinnock’s move to change it. In spite of that, he worked hard to help construct a social side to the economic community, being instrumental in the drafting of the 1993 European working time directive. His walking disability (having had polio) inspired him to work hard to establish a disability card that was accepted throughout the EU.
Tom spent many years as a member of the legal affairs committee, and when he retired as an MEP in 1999, he was awarded an honorary doctorate of civil law from Huddersfield University.
He always kept his desire to work for people in the Dewsbury area, where he had lived for most of his adult life, never losing his common touch or forgetting his working-class roots. He is survived by his wife Jean, and three sons, Ian, Robin and Alastair.