Obituary: Kenneth Stewart

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The Independent Online
Kenneth Stewart was a proud and brave representative of the people of Merseyside. He was steeped in the working-class politics of Liverpool and carried those politics into the European Parliament, where he never wavered in his convictions nor in his determination to defend and enhance the lives of those he represented.

In his younger days, as a joiner carpenter, he was an active member of his trade union, UCATT (Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians), and a long-standing Liverpool city councillor. As chair of the council's housing committee he fought hard, and with a large measure of success, to improve the quality of the city's housing and to pave the way for a complete urban regeneration strategy.

During the Second World War, as a Sergeant in the Parachute Regiment, he saw active service in Italy and northern Europe, and it was his first- hand experience of Fascism which made him an implacable opponent of the far right and a true internationalist.

Stewart took this commitment to the European Parliament when he won the Euro constituency of Merseyside West from the Conservatives in 1984, and it remained one of his hallmarks throughout his time as a Labour MEP.

In the European Parliament, Stewart's efforts were focused primarily on the transport committee, on which he served for many years. He was the author of a number of influential reports, including one on maritime safety, which convincingly argued for improved health and safety standards for all seafarers.

In addition, he contributed to the successful efforts to secure European Objective 1 classification for Merseyside, and with it pounds 800m of European regional assistance. Stewart saw this support as essential; he knew better then anyone else that the poverty and unemployment of his home city could only be tackled successfully through European Union support, alongside government intervention.

During the last two years of his life, he increasingly suffered ill-health, but continued to attend the European Parliament in both Brussels and Strasbourg and never failed to champion the cause of his constituents at every opportunity.

I respected him as an honest socialist and as a committed internationalist. I well remember, immediately after the 1994 European Parliamentary Elections, the way as the doyen d'age of the parliament's Socialist Group he presided over the first meeting of the new group. In typical Ken Stewart fashion he conducted that meeting with fairness, dignity and with his own distinctive dry wit. No one was left in any doubt that he was a man of principle and forthright honesty.

Ken Stewart was true to his beliefs and never lost touch with his roots. He will be an inspiration to those who will continue his work.

Wayne David

Kenneth Albert Stewart, politician: born Liverpool 28 June 1925; MEP (Labour) for Merseyside West 1984-96; married 1946 Margaret Robertson Vass (one son, two daughters); died Liverpool 2 September 1996.