Another sad death in the political world today, with the news of the passing of the Labour MP for Feltham and Heston, Alan Keen.
I first got to know Alan when he and his wife Ann, also an MP, were part of the close circle of friends around Neil and Glenys Kinnock when Neil was leader of the Labour Party. This was a highly political group of people, but I would reckon – indeed I know – that Alan and I had far more conversations about football than we did about politics.
Unlike many politicians who like to talk about football, Alan knew what he was on about. He always knew the score of Burnley’s last game, which should of course be common knowledge amongst all humanity but alas tends to be confined to a minority. He had been a scout with Middlesbrough, the team he supported all his life. In fact the last time I saw him, he came up to me and said the single word ‘jealous’ – because a while ago I had played in a charity match at the club’s Riverside stadium.
It is not unknown for MPs to switch football allegiance when they get a seat away from their home base, but Alan never lost the Boro blood coursing through his veins. He went to Brentford not just because they were his local team when he moved to London, but more because he could watch football all day long.
It is for those two things above all – the friendship he showed Neil when politically times were hardgoing for Labour, and his love of football – that I will remember him for most. That, and his cheery smile even when he was undergoing treatment which led to the loss of all his hair.
Death has been a great deal on my mind in recent days, with the passing of my closest friend in politics, Philip Gould, whose funeral takes place tomorrow. I have to say that spending the weekend in Tiree, the Hebridean island where my father was born – and apologies to twitter followers if I was overdoing the twitpix yesterday – was about the best place on earth for a bit of reflection and spiritual refreshment ahead of the funeral.
Now Ann Keen will be going through what Philip’s wife Gail has been going through in recent days. It is never easy, no matter how ill people may have been. But both have many friends and I hope will gain some comfort from all the messages of love and support.