Blair's Britain: Family double act inspired by rebel husband and father

Click to follow
The Independent Online
It is a mother and child reunion which writes a new chapter in the history of the Labour Party. Ann and John Cryer are the first mother and son to have won seats together party in Parliament. Their presence is a potent symbol of the Labour election landslide and also a poignant reminder of the tragic early death of one of the great rebel MPs of the past.

Bob Cryer died at the wheel of his car when it crashed through a barrier on the M1 in April 1994.His wife, who was in the passenger seat, suffered facial injuries. They had been on their way to the Commons for a birthday party for their son.

Mr Cryer had been a thorn in the side of Labour establishment, and had resigned his government seat on a point of principle. He had also been one of the most trenchant and combative critics of the Tories. But there was real grief at the death from all sides.

The loss shattered the family. John, a journalist, vowed that one day he would follow in his father's footsteps and carry on his work in Parliament. He had learnt his politics at his father's knee, and joined the Labour Party at 15.

Two weeks after Mr Cryer was killed his widow was approached by the local party to ask whether she would consider replacing him as the MP for Bradford South. But she was too desolate to contemplate a political career and said she was not ready. "I was in a state of shock at the time. I felt terrible grief. For the first six months I was seriously in depression and for the next six I was very, very down," she recalled.

" We had been married for 31 years, and we were very close. I still remember the accident, I shall never forget it. At the time I started to talk to Bob and I knew straight away he was dead, it is something I still go through most days. We were going down for John's birthday, it is a shame for him his birthday has become associated with Bob's death.

A year later, there was another approach from the neighbouring constituency of Keighley, her husband's first seat, which he had lost to the Tories after boundary changes.

Mrs Cryer, 56, said: "I talked it through with John, and my daughter Jane, and decided to give it a go. I had first met Bob at a Labour Party conference in Blackpool in l961, and we have always been a political family.

"Bob and I always thought he would never have lost Keighley in the first place if the very odd changes had not been brought in. They could not beat him fairly, so they changed the rules.

"There is an added satisfaction to this win, I have won back Keighley from Gary Waller, who beat Bob in l983. My politics are similar to Bob's I shall try to make sure the Labour government do not abandon the basic beliefs of the Labour Party."

John Cryer, 33, wrested Hornchurch from Robin Squire, the Under Secretary for Education and Employment, overturning a 9, 000 majority.

Mr Cryer said: "We fought very hard to win this, but at the end it was still a very pleasant surprise. I still cannot believe the sheer size of the party majority. My father was a born rebel. He was made Under-Secretary for Industry, but he hated being in government ...

"He has been described as a man of principle who always fought for the underdog. He defended the rights of working people, the underprivileged and minorities. I shall do my best to carry on that task."