East Ham MP Stephen Timms fondly remembers Alec Kellaway


- Credit: Archant

I joined the Labour Party when I left college, got a job and moved to Newham in 1978. I found myself a member of the Little Ilford branch, and attended my first meeting soon after the 1979 General Election.

There I met Alec Kellaway, who has died aged 61. The meeting was in Dersingham Infants School, which Alec had attended from his childhood home in Dersingham Avenue. He had returned after studying at Oxford University, rejoining St Barnabas Church in Browning Road.

Alec left Labour to join the SDP in the early 1980s, and was elected a Councillor. He was a formidable Councillor and worked tirelessly. Once elected, there was no chance of ousting him. Although committed to the SDP he was uncomfortable with the Liberal Party with which it formed a pact.

In 1994 Alec was selected as Liberal Democrat candidate against me – the Labour candidate – in the by-election following the death of Ron Leighton, MP for Newham North East.

During the campaign, Alec sensationally defected to Labour. His picture appeared on The Times front page.

He said later that the last straw was the daily visit of a hectoring official from party headquarters giving him ill-considered campaign orders. His defection caused me some anxiety. Voters arriving for the poll asked “Now we have two Labour candidates, which do we vote for?” But it all worked out fine. Alec soon became chairman of East Ham Labour Party, a position he held until his death.

Alec had idiosyncrasies. He often arrived at political meetings with a superb fruit cake. He had learned cooking skills from his father, a chef on ocean liners. But his enthusiasm for Newham was infectious. Across the borough there are people and institutions who will long have very good reason to remember Alec with gratitude.