Lord Randall of St Budeaux: MP who put his industrial experience to good use

 

When Stuart Randall spoke on matters relating to industrial affairs, he really knew what he was talking about. It was Randall's misfortune that his 14 years in the House of Commons coincided with the Tories in power and Labour in opposition. He had a constructive outlook and would have thrived in ministerial office; alas, he was never to get the opportunity. Over many years, we would sit on the second row of the Labour Benches above the gangway. He would whisper out of the side of his mouth to me, "Cant", "Rubbish", "Posturing", or "Bloody nonsense" – the speakers, to whom he referred, might have been one of our own esteemed Labour colleagues as easily as a Tory opposite. But his most disdainful asides were reserved for the speeches of Mrs Thatcher and her industry minister, Sir Keith Joseph.

Stuart Randall was born into a naval family. At 10 he was struck down by peritonitis, which meant that he spent a year in hospital and lost the chance of getting a place at grammar school. His experience in secondary moderns resulted in his becoming a passionate supporter of the comprehensive system – like his devoted wife, Gillian Michael, a grammar school girl who became a teacher.

A five-year apprentice electrical fitter in Devonport dockyard, he went to night school to gain "A" levels in maths, physics and chemistry. Starting at 7am in the dockyard then achieving success in his night-school challenges appealed to the discriminating and vigorous electrical engineering faculty of the University of Cardiff. It was in the university rowing club that he was to meet Gillian, who was to be his wife in a most happy marriage for 49 years and nursing him at home for the last eight years, as he suffered increasingly from a form of Alzheimer's Disease.

Graduating with a BSc in electrical engineering, Randall joined English Electric Computers. Soon, he and his wife found work in Philadelphia with the Radio Corporation of America. Gillian Randall told me, "Although I came from a staunchly Labour family in south Wales, Stuart was not really 'into politics'. But in Philadelphia, he was shocked by the discrepancies between wealth and poverty. And on our return to England, he saw that it was not very different here, so he joined the Labour Party."

He put together a solid industrial career as a project leader at Marconi Automation (1966-68); consultant to the InterBank Research Organisation (1968-71); a manager in the British Steel Corporation (1971-76); a manager with British Leyland (1976-80); a manager/consultant with Nexos Office Systems (1980-82); and a manager with Plessey Communication Systems (1982-83).

In October 1974 he stood for Labour in South Worcestershire, gaining 10,838 votes to Michael Spicer's 26,790 votes, and the Liberals' 17,738. Spicer, later chairman of the 1922 Committee. recalled to me that Randall was a highly competent candidate who fought a totally clean campaign and became a friend of his in the House of Commons.

Any socialist revolution was not going to start in the Vale of Evesham. Randall did learn a great deal about agriculture and horticulture, which stood him in good stead in 1985, when Neil Kinnock made him a junior opposition spokesman on agriculture and food. On the strength of his cheerful performance in South Worcestershire, he was asked to stand in the elections to the European parliament in 1979, covering eight Labour-held House of Commons constituencies. That he lost by 1,000 votes he regarded as a blessing in dfisguise, though it continued to anger him that several of the constituency Labour parties allowed his literature to go undistributed, languishing in corners of their offices, since they disapproved of the European Comnmunity.

A chance meeting in Birmingham with a party member led to his being selected with the support of the EETPU electricians' trade union for Hull West. His successor, Alan Johnson, the former Home Secretary, told me: "He was very hard-working and his dedication to the disadvantaged made him one of those MPs who earned the genuine respect of those he represented." Though Johnson liked him, Randall did not get on with many of those who were running the Labour Party, though in 1992 the swing to Labour over the Conservatives in Hull West was 3.5 per cent, indicating that Johnson's approval was justified.

The then Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Roy Hattersley, chose Randall as his PPS in 1984 and told me: "Stuart was a member of the Opposition Treasury team for about four years. He was always willing, always well-informed and always willing to take the fight to his opponents. Just as important in difficult days, he was always cheerful."

In 1987 Randall became a junior opposition spokesman at the Home Office, dealing with the Immigration Bill. Anne Widdecombe, who took an active interest in every session of the Bill, and later became a Home Office minister, told me: "Getting to know him over the long hours of the Immigration Bill, I found Stuart a very kind man, a very humorous man, and considerate of other peoples' opinions. Asd you go through political life, you meet people on the other side whom you admire – and Stuart Randall was one of them."

I also recall a true story which created much mirth at the time. Widdecombe rang up Randall in relation to the Bill. He explained that it was difficult to give her the information she was asking for, since he was under a neighbours' kitchen sink fixing the waste pipe. This tells us that Randall was ever a practical fellow, and never forgot the skills that he learnt as a fitter.

Stuart Jeffrey Randall, electrical engineer and politician: born Plymouth 22 June 1938; MP for Hull West 1983-97, Opposition Spokesman on Agriculture 1985-87, Home Affairs 1987-92; cr. 1997 Lord Randall of St Budeaux; married 1963 Gillian Michael (three daughters); died Woking 10 August 2012.

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
News
people
News
i100
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
tv
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data/ MI Analyst

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

Project Manager with some Agile experience

£45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...

Biology Teacher

£100 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Urgently required teacher of Bi...

PPA Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments