Labour MP Alan Keen dies aged 73


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Labour MP Alan Keen has died at the age of 73 after a battle with cancer, it was announced today.

MP for Feltham and Heston in west London since 1992, Mr Keen was known for his passion for football, having acted as a scout for Middlesbrough before entering politics.

He made up half of one of Parliament's husband-and-wife teams, with wife Ann serving as Labour's MP for Brentford and Isleworth from 1997 until her defeat in last year's general election and as a health minister from 2007-10.

Mr Keen was chairman of the all-party parliamentary groups on football and athletics and a member of the Commons Culture, Media and Sports Committee. He spoke up for grassroots football and fans in Parliament and conducted two inquiries into English football governance.

As a football scout, he tipped former 'Boro manager Jackie Charlton off about up-and-coming talent and claimed credit for helping bring Graeme Souness to the club.

Former prime minister Gordon Brown led tributes to the long-serving MP, following his death last Thursday.

"Alan was a great MP locally popular, diligent London MP, and a great fighter for local causes," said Mr Brown.

"As Alan always said, serving the people of all his communities - Heston, Cranford, Hounslow West, Bedfont, Feltham and Hanworth - was his primary duty, supporting all the different and diverse groups in his constituency. He held regular advice surgeries and was assiduous and conscientious at all times in speaking up for local needs.

"I salute his bravery in facing cancer - fighting it as long as he could - and he will be remembered as someone who taught us how to fight illness.

"As he acknowledged, the NHS could not have done more to be of help and support."

Born in London, Mr Keen was brought up in the Grangetown and Redcar area of the North East of England, attending Sir William Turners Grammar School in Redcar.

He served in the British Army for three years before joining the fire protection industry.

He was a member of Hounslow Borough Council from 1986-90 before entering Parliament in 1992. He is survived by wife Ann, two sons and a daughter.

Mr Keen had a majority of 4,658 in the 2010 election.

Former Southampton manager Lawrie McMenemy paid tribute to "a warm, natural and likeable man with a real love of football".

Mr McMenemy got to know the MP when he was managing the informal parliamentary football team, and Mr Keen was playing as a defender.

"He had been a good player when he was younger, but even in his later days he was still putting the tracksuit on and wanting to be on the bench whenever the team played," said Mr McMenemy.

"Even if he just went on for the last five minutes, he was absolutely delighted to get on the field.

"He asked me to do a couple of things to do with sport in his constituency over the years, and it was obvious how close he was to the people who voted him in and how much work he was doing behind the scenes.

"Sport was a fantastic part of his life, and the all-party group he founded got more and more involved at a high level. People in the sport like Jackie Charlton and (former England managers) Steve McClaren and Sven Goran Eriksson had a lot of time for him."

Sir Stuart Bell, Labour MP for Middlesbrough, said: "He was a scout for Middlesbrough Football Club for 17 years before becoming an MP.

"He was a regular attender at the Riverside Stadium and never lost his loyalty towards The Boro.

"He took a strong interest in footballing matters in the House of Commons and brought many a famous sportsman to Parliament.

"His death at a relatively early age is a great sadness to all his fellow MPs and our heartfelt commiserations go out to his wife Ann."

Labour leader Ed Miliband said Mr Keen had been a "great friend" who was "Labour to his core".

"Alan Keen was a decent, generous man and his death is a great loss to the House of Commons and the people of Feltham and Heston," he said.

"Alan was Labour to his core - loyal, passionate about social justice and deeply committed to a fairer society.

"A dedicated football fan, Alan continued to play for the parliamentary football team until his illness took hold. He was a great believer in the power of sport to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds make the best of their lives.

"Alan was great friend to me and he will be sorely missed by all."

Former prime minister Tony Blair said: "It is with great sadness that I heard of Alan's passing. He was a hard-working Member of Parliament and a dedicated constituency campaigner.

"In the North East he will be remembered for his time as a scout with Middlesbrough.

"He brought that passion for football with him to Westminster and was a fantastic advocate for sport as a force for good in society through all his years in the Commons.

"I know he will be much missed. My thoughts and prayers are with Ann and all the family at this time."

Speaker John Bercow led Parliamentary tributes to Mr Keen, opening today's Commons' sitting saying: "I regret to have to inform the House of the death of Alan Keen, Member for Feltham and Heston.

"For a number of years Alan was the chairman of the all-party group on football and, before entering this House in 1992, Alan had been for 18 years a scout for Middlesbrough FC.

"I am sure Members in all parts of the House will join me in mourning the loss of a colleague and in extending our sympathy to his wife Ann and to his family and friends."