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
  • 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

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
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing