Obituary: John Blackburn

John Graham Blackburn, policeman, businessman, politician: born Eccles, Lancashire 2 September 1933; Council Member, Wolverhampton Chamber of Commerce 1966-78; Member, Wolverhampton Council 1970-80; MP (Conservative) for Dudley West 1979-94; Member, Home Affairs Select Committee 1980-83; Member, Select Committee for Services 1987-94; National Chairman, Conservative Friends of Israel 1985-89, Vice-President 1989-94; married 1957 Marjorie Thompson (one son, one daughter); died London 12 October 1994.

THE CONSERVATIVE Party conference at Bournemouth stood briefly in silence yesterday in memory of John Blackburn, a staunch party man who had been MP for Dudley West since 1979, the beginning of the present period of Tory government. Blackburn died in the early hours of yesterday morning following a heart attack he suffered while leaving the House of Commons.

When Blackburn won Dudley West, in the West Midlands, from the Labour Party it was with a slim majority of 1,139 votes. By the time of the 1987 election he had increased this to 10,244. The margin was reduced in the 1992 general election to 5,789, a swing to Labour of 3.8 per cent. Dudley West had been lighted on as a pivotal seat in the campaign by pollsters, who predicted that a Labour victory there would have been accompanied by their reaching the 325-seat threshold for taking up Government. As it is, the seat remains a key one, and the coming by-election will be crucial for both Labour and the Tories.

Blackburn was born in Manchester in 1933, attended Liverpool Collegiate School, and took a degree at Liverpool University, and later a PhD in Art at Berlin University. He served as a regular soldier with the Military Police from 1950 to 1954, becoming a staff sergeant in its special investigation branch. He then joined the Liverpool City Police, and became a detective sergeant. He left the police to be regional sales manager with Solway Engineering in 1965, and was also regional sales manager for the Armitage Shanks group. He became involved in local government, and was elected a member of Wolverhampton Council in 1970.

Blackburn was a hard-centre Tory: loyal to the police and the Armed Services; pro-Israel and pro-Europe; in favour of the death penalty, and against abortion. He was a member of the Select Committees on Home Affairs and the Services. Locally, when he became an MP in 1979 the heavy engineering industry in the West Midlands was already in decline, facing fierce competition from the Far East, and he campaigned in vain for the survival of the Round Oak steelworks, which closed with more than 1,200 redundancies. To every one of his many activities, both inside and outside Parliament, he brought unstinting energy and enthusiasm, and this despite the fact that he suffered a serious heart attack in 1983, which for a long period prevented him from speaking in the House. He was National Chairman of the Conservative Friends of Israel for five years and became a Freeman of the City of London in 1980, and of Tel Aviv in 1981. Though he never achieved ministerial office he did have an active interest in business and was chairman of Kudos Inns Ltd.

Blackburn also cared about Britain's relations with Europe and served as a member of the Council of Europe talking shop in 1983-84. He kept pet fish and painted very delicate seascapes, was an avid yachtsman and Commodore of the House of Commons Yacht Club. He studied church history, took a great interest in ecclesiastical matters in the Commons, was a leading figure in the parliamentary Christian Fellowship and often chaired the all-party MPs' prayer meetings.

When I last saw Blackburn he was chairing a speech I gave to the Anglo-Israel Association, in London two years ago. He demonstrated his usual bonhomie, hospitality and acute intelligence. It seems to me a great pity that he did not achieve ministerial office, for he would have greatly enlightened a somewhat dull political landscape. His wife, Marjorie, gave him great support. Her sense of humour mirrored his own, and she willingly bore with him the vast range of his interests.

Not long ago, he repeated the old saw that a man whose desk was clear was a man with a sick mind. Blackburn's desk was never clear, and his house in Dudley was littered with paper - whether letters, memos, or reports. The Conservative Party will find it hard to pick a candidate for Dudley West to match him for energy, enthusiasm, and knowledge.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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 People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat