Ron Brown (Scottish politician)

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For other people named Ronald Brown, see Ronald Brown (disambiguation).

Ronald Duncan McLaren Brown (29 June 1938 – 3 August 2007) was a Scottish Labour Party Member of Parliament (MP) in the United Kingdom for the Edinburgh Leith constituency, from the 1979 general election to the 1992 general election. Brown was suspended from the House of Commons on several occasions. In a 1988 incident he damaged the Mace.

Early life[edit]

Brown was born into a working-class family at West Pilton in Edinburgh. His father worked in engineering. He was educated at Pennywell Primary School, Ainslie Park High School and the Bristo Technical Institute. He undertook National Service in the Royal Signals, and then served five years as an apprentice fitter. He worked as an electrician with Bruce Peebles & Co. Ltd. Prior to that, possibly when he was working for the electricity company The South of Scotland Electricity Board, he had had an accident which left him with partial facial paralysis and facial scarring despite plastic surgery. He became an active member wof the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers (AUEW). In 1963 he married May Smart; the couple had two sons.

In the 1970s he was elected a member of Edinburgh Town Council for Central Leith, and then a member of Lothian Regional Council from 1974. He visited Colonel Gaddafi in Libya several times in the 1970s, and tried to develop trade links between Scotland and Libya. He also made statements supporting the Communist regimes in Afghanistan, Albania and North Korea.

Parliamentary career[edit]

Brown was selected to stand for Edinburgh Leith in 1979, following the decision of Labour MP and Lord Advocate Ronald King Murray to become a Senator of the College of Justice. Brown won the seat at the 1979 general election with a majority of 3,000 votes. Although controversial, he was a popular and diligent constituency MP, increasing his majority to over 11,000 in the 1987 general election.

He was suspended from the House of Commons three times by the Speaker and once by the Parliamentary Labour Party. He was suspended twice in 1981: first, for five days in April 1981, for using unparliamentary language, after calling Conservative MP Nicholas Fairbairn a liar, and then for 20 days in July 1981 after he placed a protest banner on the Commons Table.

In 1988, he grabbed the House of Commons mace and threw it to the floor during a debate on the poll tax. He agreed to read out a pre-written apology in the Commons, but then attempted to add comments of his own (e.g. saying he was 'grovelling' and that the apology was 'rubbish'), causing him to be suspended for 20 days. He also had to pay a £1,500 repair bill, and was suspended from the Labour Party for three months. During the poll tax protests he refused to pay his community charge, eventually appearing before a sheriff court.

He was expelled from the Labour Party in 1991 after being fined £1,000 for criminal damage for destroying the contents and fittings of the flat of Nonna Longden, his ex-lover, in Sussex (although he claimed a moral victory, having been acquitted on charges of theft) and deselected as the Labour candidate for Leith at the 1992 general election. He contested his seat as an Independent Labour candidate in 1992 but lost to the official Labour candidate Malcolm Chisholm, coming fifth with 10.3% of the vote.

Later life[edit]

After leaving the House of Commons he remained active in public life, acting as president of the Edinburgh Trade Union Council.

Brown stood as a candidate for the Scottish Socialist Party in the inaugural election for the Scottish Parliament in 1999, but was not elected. He stayed with the SSP after the split with Tommy Sheridan and his breakaway Solidarity group.

Brown's wife died in 1995, and he himself died after a long illness caused by liver failure. He was survived by his two sons. A statement released by his family said: "He will be greatly missed not only by family and friends but by the many socialists and ordinary people whose lives he touched."[1]


Further reading[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Ronald King Murray
Member of Parliament for Edinburgh Leith
Succeeded by
Malcolm Chisholm