A tribute to Alan Keen

Alan Keen, Labour and Co-operative Party MP for Feltham and Heston since 1992, died on 10th November at the age of 73. He was a fine man: a...

Alan Keen, Labour and Co-operative Party MP for Feltham and Heston since 1992, died on 10th November at the age of 73. He was a fine man: a Labour man, a co-operator, a trade unionist, a family man, a music lover and a passionate advocate for the power of football and sport in changing lives.

Alan was born in London but when just a few weeks old his mother moved back to the North East and Alan was brought up in the Grangetown and Redcar area. He served in the British Army for three years before joining the Fire Protection Industry.

A very tidy footballer himself, Alan loved the game and became a scout for his beloved Middlesbrough for almost 20 years. Working with Jack Charlton, the footballers he spotted included Graeme Souness, and he remained friends with both throughout his life.

Having served as a Hounslow Councilor from 1986–90, Alan unseated the sitting Conservative MP in 1992 and in Parliament served on both the Education and later on the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committees.

Alan was joined in parliament by his wonderful wife, Ann, in 1997. I worked for Ann at the time and they were a great team – their passions of social justice, sport, health, family and fun intertwined and they were always a joy to work with and to be with.

Alan’s enthusiasm for the principles of co-operation reflected the man he was and the life he led. Always seeking to work with people not against them, always looking for mutual solutions – whether getting things done for his constituents or promoting the involvement of fans within and across football clubs.

Alan’s funeral in his beloved Middlesbrough reflected the great passions of his life. But as speaker after amazing speaker spoke with such love about Alan, it was noticeable that – whether the subject was family, politics, football, music or anything else – certain words cropped up again and again. Kind. Patient. Generous. Lovely. A gentleman.

For a co-operator who believed in the power of politics and sport to transform the life chances of young people it is fitting that Ann has chosen Grangetown Youth Football Club as the good cause for the donations that will follow. Football – and its power to transform lives – meant so much to Alan, and he never forgot his roots. And what a wonderful tribute that a struggling children’s football club, and hundreds of young people, in Alan’s old patch can now thrive in his memory.

One of the many glorious tributes paid to Alan at his funeral was from his cousin and friend, Graham Sivills. Graham told us of their lifetime of happiness – it seemed to involve a lot of fun, a lot of music and a few glasses of wine. Graham finished by singing, beautifully, some lines from a song by Tom Paxton, whose music he and Alan loved. The wonder of the lyrics will be lost on no-one who knew Alan and had the honour of his friendship.

So, thank you for the honour of your company;
The music was as sweet as the good red wine.
Thanks for the company,
And thanks for the harmony,
I'm here to say the honour was all mine.

• To arrange a donation to Grangetown Youth Football Club please send a cheque (payable to Grangetown Youth Football Club) to: Remembering Alan Keen, c/o Parliamentary Labour Party, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.

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