Obituary: Ossie O'Brien

Ossie O'Brien was an MP for 11 weeks and one day. Yet, during the Darlington by-election, the curtain-raiser to the 1983 general election, and in his fleeting days as an MP he won the affection of his colleagues. Roy Hattersley described him as the best by-election candidate of the decade.

He was born Oswald O'Brien into a family of teachers in 1928, in Darlington. From St Mary's Grammar School he went to Faircroft College and Durham University before National Service in the Navy.

After experience in a number of heavy industries in the north of England he became a Workers' Educational Association tutor and an immensely popular staff tutor at Durham University. In 1966 he had the ill luck to lose by one vote at the selection conference of the Labour Party in Darlington. In his maiden and only speech, on 14 April 1983, he said with a chuckle,

My entry to the House at this time however is inevitably tinged with sadness and regret, as it results from the death of my much-loved and respected colleague and predecessor, Ted Fletcher. Many honourable members will not know, although some Labour members know, that in 1962 I was beaten by Ted Fletcher for the Darlington nomination by the narrowest possible margin. Legend has it that it was a majority of one. Nevertheless, we worked amicably together over successive elections.

Ted Fletcher's record speaks for

itself. He served the people of Darlington for more than 18 years and was working on constituents' problems until shortly before his death. I recall him telephoning me just a few days before he died and insisting that even if he could not go to London and to the House he could at least write letters to ministers and to government departments.

Ossie O'Brien put all personal disappointments to the back of his mind for the sake of the cause of the Labour Party.

Those who took part in the campaign will never forget the bitterly cold by-election of 24 March 1983 among the warm-hearted people of Darlington. O'Brien scored 20,544 to the 18,132 of Michael Fallon and the 12,735 of Alan Cook standing for the Social Democrat Party. However 78 days later the situation was to be reversed and Fallon went on to a ministerial career, staving off challenges from O'Brien in 1987.

After he left Parliament O'Brien worked for Alcohol Concern and contributed to the literature considering the increasing problem of drugs in society. But for the verdict of the electorate and the ill luck 18 years earlier of such a close selection conference result, he would undoubtedly have made a serious contribution to Parliament in the field of education and training.

Tam Dalyell

Oswald O'Brien, politician and teacher: born Darlington 6 April 1928; Staff Tutor, Durham University 1964-78; Director of Studies and Vice-Principal, Co-operative College 1978-83; Chairman, Society of Industrial Tutors 1978-82; MP (Labour) for Darlington 1983; Director, Education Division, Alcohol Concern 1984-86, Director, Workplace Advisory Service 1986-97; married 1950 Freda Pascoe (one son); died Darlington 10 March 1997.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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 Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum