Obituary: John Blackburn
Thursday 13 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.
- 1 Tidal launch: The most pretentious lines from Alicia Keys' valedictory speech
- 2 Trevor Noah: Jon Stewart's replacement faces online criticism over 'anti-Semitic' tweets
- 3 I might be an MP, but that doesn't stop me fighting sexism with my breasts
- 4 Martha Stewart accuses Snoop Dogg of 'smoking for four hours' during Justin Bieber Roast
- 5 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
Prince Charles ‘burns 1.3 tons of carbon’ in private helicopter after urging public to turn off lights for Earth Hour
Martha Stewart accuses Snoop Dogg of 'smoking for four hours' during Justin Bieber Roast
April Fools' Day 2015 live: The best pranks and fake stories from around the world
University of Cambridge: Remains of 1,300 scholars are found under building
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...
£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...
£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...
£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...