MP `died a broken man' after rejection by Blair

THE LATE MP Roger Stott died a broken man after he was denied ministerial status, his widow revealed yesterday.

Mr Stott, whose Wigan seat will be contested in a by-election later this month, lived for the job as Opposition spokesman on Northern Ireland which he held for seven years, said Gillian Pye. He was a key point of liaison between Tony Blair and Sinn Fein before the 1997 election and a driving force behind the move towards a ceasefire. But he was stripped of the Northern Ireland portfolio when Labour came to power. Mr Stott died in August at the age of 57. "He was intending to complete one more term in office, then buy a house in Donegal and retire," said Ms Pye who has always retained her maiden name.

"After losing his job, his plans were shattered. It wrecked him. Our view of Tony Blair was coloured by that decision. Roger always felt that if John Smith had lived his political career may have been ... different." By 1998, the couple's marriage had also begun to falter and by the time of his death they had separated, though Mr Stott saw their children every weekend. He had been in and out of hospital for a year before he died of cancer.

"We miss him very much. The children are full of questions about him and it's very hard for them. I still can't believe he's not here," said Ms Pye, 40. "Right from the beginning we would be out somewhere and people would come up to us and say: `I just need to tell you about the problem with my council house.' He never minded people turning up on the doorstep with their problems." She met Mr Stott in 1983 while she was working for the local Labour Party. His first marriage to the mother of his two elder sons had been dissolved a year earlier. "I did find it hard playing the MP's wife at functions. That was one of the reasons why I never changed my name. I didn't fall into the MP's wife role naturally," she said.

Mr Stott CBE, the son of an asbestos factory manager, entered politics in 1970 when he was elected to Rochdale council. Three years later he entered parliament as MP for Westhoughton and become parliamentary private secretary to the former prime minister James Callaghan from 1976 to 1979 and a frontbench spokesman on transport in 1983. Neil Turner, a former Wigan councillor, will defend his 22,643 majority for Labour in the by- election on 23 September.

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