Jesse Dickson Mabon (1 November 1925 – 10 April 2008), sometimes known as Dick Mabon, was a Scottish politician, physician and business executive. He was the founder of The Manifesto Group of Labour MPs, an alliance of moderate MPs who fought the perceived leftward drift of the Labour Party in the 1970s. He was a Labour Co-operative MP until October 1981, when he defected to the SDP. He lost his seat in 1983, and rejoined the Labour Party in 1991.

Early life

Mabon was born on 1 November 1925 in Glasgow, the son of Jesse Dickson Mabon, a butcher; and his wife, Isabel Simpson (née Montgomery). He was educated at Possilpark Primary School, Cumbrae Primary School and North Kelvinside Academy. He worked as a Bevin Boy in the coal mining industry in Lanarkshire during the Second World War, before doing his National Service (1944–48). He studied medicine at Glasgow University after he was demobilised. Mabon was Chairman of the Glasgow University Labour Club (1948–50), then served as Chairman of the National Association of Labour Students in 1949–50, and finally as President of Glasgow University Union in 1951–52, and of the Scottish Union of Students, 1954–55. In 1955, he won ''The Observer'' Mace, speaking with A. A. Kennedy and representing Glasgow University. In 1995, the competition was renamed the John Smith Memorial Mace and is now run by the English-Speaking Union. He was political columnist for the Scottish ''Daily Record'' from 1955 to 1964, and studied under Henry Kissinger at Harvard University in 1963. He was also a visiting physician at Manor House Hospital, London, 1958–64.

Parliamentary career

Mabon was the unsuccessful Labour candidate for Bute and North Ayrshire in 1951, and Labour Co-operative candidate for Renfrewshire West in 1955. He was elected as a Labour Co-operative Member of Parliament for Greenock at a by-election in December 1955, replacing Tony Benn as Labour's youngest MP. He held that seat (from 1974 Greenock and Port Glasgow) until 1983. He became a frontbench Spokesman on Health in 1962. He was a junior minister as joint Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (1964–67) and was promoted to Minister of State for Scotland, 1967–70. After Labour lost the 1970 general election, he became Deputy Opposition Spokesman on Scotland, but resigned in April 1972 over Labour's position on the Common Market. Although he supported Roy Jenkins at the Labour Party leadership election in 1976, Jim Callaghan appointed him as Minister of State in the Department of Energy (1976–79), where he took charge of North Sea oil. He was appointed a Privy Counsellor in 1977. Mabon was also a Member of the Council of Europe and of the Assembly of the Western European Union, 1970–72 and 1974–76, and of the North Atlantic Assembly, 1980–82. He was Chairman of the European Movement, 1975–76 (and deputy Chairman, 1979–83), and Founder Chairman of the Manifesto Group in the Parliamentary Labour Party (1974–76), set up to counter the left-wing Tribune group. Following Labour's defeat in the 1979 general election Mabon was tipped by ''The Glasgow Herald'' as the front-runner to succeed Bruce Millan as Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, if the latter chose to move to another portfolio. However the vacancy did not arise as Millan ultimately remained in the post until 1983. Mabon defected to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in October 1981. The party was founded by the so-called "Gang of Four" in March 1981, which consisted of right-wing Labour MPs discontent with the direction of the Labour Party at the time; but Mabon later called himself a founder member of the party. He unsuccessfully contested Renfrew West and Inverclyde for the SDP in 1983 after the local Liberals refused to stand their candidate down for him in his previous seat, and fought Renfrew West again for the SDP/Alliance in 1987, and also the Lothians seat in the 1984 election for the European Parliament. Mabon was one of the SDP's negotiators in their merger attempts with the Liberals. However, Mabon concluded that the merged party was not to his liking, and he remained loyal to David Owen's continuing SDP project, which collapsed after a couple of years in 1990. After that, Mabon rejoined Labour in 1991 and became an enthusiastic supporter of Tony Blair's "New Labour" agenda.

Later life

He was chairman of SOS Children's Villages UK until 1993 and tried to get an SOS Children's Village built in Scotland first near Glasgow and then at Stirling; he was foiled by local councils who did not want the stigma of charitable help. He rejoined the Labour Party in 1991, and subsequently became a member of the executive committee of Eastbourne Labour Party until 2004. Mabon, whose first directorship had been at Radio Clyde in the 1970s, added a non-executive directorship with East Midlands Electricity to his place at Cairn; in 1992 he urged John Major's government to privatise British Coal in two halves with one going to an East Midland-led consortium including himself. He kept up his interest in medicine, in 1990 becoming president of the Faculty of the History of Medicine. Mabon was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) and a Freeman of the City of London.


He married Elizabeth Zinn, an actress, in 1970. They had one son.


Mabon died on 10 April 2008, aged 82, at his home in Eastbourne. He was survived by his wife and their son.


External links

Obituary, ''The Daily Telegraph'', 14 April 2008

Obituary, ''The Times'', 15 April 2008

Obituary, ''The Guardian'', 15 April 2008
{{DEFAULTSORT:Mabon, Dickson Category:1925 births Category:2008 deaths Category:20th-century Scottish medical doctors Category:Alumni of the University of Glasgow Category:Bevin Boys Category:Harvard University alumni Category:Labour Co-operative MPs for Scottish constituencies Category:Members of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom Category:Ministers in the Wilson governments, 1964–1970 Category:People from Possilpark Category:Politicians from Glasgow Category:Social Democratic Party (UK) MPs for Scottish constituencies Category:UK MPs 1955–1959 Category:UK MPs 1959–1964 Category:UK MPs 1964–1966 Category:UK MPs 1966–1970 Category:UK MPs 1970–1974 Category:UK MPs 1974 Category:UK MPs 1974–1979 Category:UK MPs 1979–1983