Ian Gibson addresses a Momentum meeting – photos © Julian Swainson
Tributes have been paid to Dr Ian Gibson, former Labour MP for Norwich North, whose death has been confirmed by Norwich Labour Party today.
Ian was born in Dumfries in Scotland and retained his distinctive Scottish accent throughout his career.
He moved to Norwich to join UEA in 1965 and like many involved with the University he never left the city. Initially a scientist he rose to become Dean of the School of Biological Sciences. He worked at UEA until becoming an MP.
Ian was always on the left of Labour, and in younger days had been friendly with activists in other left wing parties. An acquaintance who worked for the then Eastern Counties Newspapers (later Archant) who was an SWP supporter told me that when Ian became an MP he had cleared all the newspaper files of reference to Ian’s SWP activity to prevent them being used against him later. He first tried to win Norwich North in 1992 narrowly failing to defeat the unmemorable MP Patrick Thompson, but succeeded in May 1997 obtaining a majority of 9,470 over the Tory candidate.
In Parliament Ian raised awareness of scientific issues and ultimately chaired the Science and Technology Select Committee. His contribution was valued by many people but Labour Whips appeared less keen on his left wing stance, although he was increasingly popular with his Norwich constituents. When the Telegraph was busy picking off MPs after buying a stolen copy of expenses information Ian Gibson was targeted by them in relation to to a flat that he had later sold to his daughter. The Labour Party seized the opportunity to make an example of an errant MP and barred him from standing for re-election. This led Ian to stand down as an MP, forcing a by-election which Labour lost to a Tory candidate. Many local activists regretted that national Party officials appeared to take no account of Ian’s strong support in his constituency and the seat has yet to be regained by Labour.
Following his retirement Ian would pop up occasionally to add to political debate in Norwich and could also be seen performing with The Common Lot, most recently in their paean to Anglia Square, a wonderful show that mardled its way across Norwich Over the Water and into Anglia Square itself. He took the role of a butcher complete with a string of sausages singing in the choir backing the lead character actors.
The photo above shows him addressing a Momentum meeting in the Angel Gardens pub. A natural Corbyn supporter he renewed his support for the Labour Party under Corbyn’s leadership. Ian would guarantee a good attendance at any meeting advertising his involvement.
As a local councillor and activist I knew Ian for nearly forty years. We often had robust disagreements and lively argument but he was always entertaining and informative and a pleasure to talk to. He spoke plainly and with passion and connected naturally with voters in Norwich who will remember him long after other local MPs have faded from our collective memory.
© Julian Swainson 2021