'A war horse for Norwich' - Tributes continue to flood in for MP Ian Gibson

Communications union workers in Norwich opposing the Royal Mail sell-off. Ian Gibson.
Photo: Bill S

Dr Ian Gibson, protesting the sell-off of the Royal Mail in 2013 - Credit: Bill Smith - Archant

Tributes have continued to flood in for former Norwich North MP Ian Gibson, who has died at the age of 82.

Dr Gibson represented the constituency as MP for the Labour Party for more than a decade, being elected in 1997 before resigning in 2009.

Born in Dumfries, Scotland, Dr Gibson moved to Norfolk in 1965 and went on to become a passionate champion of city life, before, after and during his political career.

One cause he cared passionately about was the future of Anglia Square and was one of the spearheading campaigners against the proposals to revamp it.

Dr Ian Gibson speaking at the rally in support of the NHS and against the Bill, held in Hay Hill, No

Dr Ian Gibson speaking at the rally in support of the NHS and against the Bill, held in Hay Hill, Norwich, on Saturday. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2012

Gail Mayhew, who campaigned alongside him on the issue, described him as "a man of principles" who would always have the concerns of Norwich at the very heart of all he did.

She said: "He was a great war horse for the people of Norwich. He was a fighter to the very end and always had everyone's best interests at heart.

Ian Gibson, is encouraging more people to watch women's football. Picture: David Hannant

Ian Gibson, hands in a petition at City Hall alongside Gail Mayhew and two fellow campaigners - Credit: David Hannant

"He was so caring, had a wicked sense of humour and had such a personal touch to the way he supported things - but saw the world through quite sceptical eyes. He was always keen to deflate grandiosity. 

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"He was a dear, dear man and really appreciated the qualities Norwich has and everything the city has to offer."

Karen Davis, who ran for the Labour Party in the constituency in 2019, said: "I last saw him was just before the general election when we were singing with the Common Lot.

"We went for a walk afterwards and burst into tears, gave me a massive hug and said 'you better bloody win'.

"He knew my dad was really ill at the time and I was telling him how guilty I felt spending so much time out on the campaign trail.

"He had been through the same with his mum and she didn't get to see him become an MP and was still cut up about it. He told me to go out and win it for my dad, but I didn't."

Former MPs Martin Bell and Ian Gibson at The Forum. Photo: Bill Smith

Former MPs Martin Bell and Ian Gibson at The Forum. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also added his voice to the tributes, posting on Twitter to say: "Ian Gibson was a lovely man and [I'm] so sad at his passing."

And respects have also been paid from opposing sides of the political spectrum, with Conservative MP George Freeman paying tribute on social media.

Mr Freeman, who represents Mid Norfolk, wrote: "I remember him fondly as a great champion of Norwich and Norfolk and particularly of science, and a great combination of fiery campaigner on the platform and a gentleman offstage. RIP."

Alongside his devotions to Norwich and politics, he was also hugely passionate about football. He was a keen amateur, representing Wymondham Town at left-back, but white at university between 1960 and 1962 also turned out for professional Scottish sides Airdrie, St Mirren and Queen of the South.

Dr Ian Gibson speaking at the anti-war rally in Norwich on Saturday.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Dr Ian Gibson speaking at the anti-war rally in Norwich on Saturday. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

In 2016 he was appointed president of Wymondham Town Football Club, having previously been its captain, and was a champion of the women's game.

Craig Wright, director of football at Wymondham, said: "When we took over the club and appointed him as president it had its difficulties but he helped us through a lot of stuff, both financially by helping us find funding and through his own support.

"He loved his football and to have had a man of his stature at a club of our size was a really special thing.

"He was an absolutely lovely bloke, gave so much to our football club and we all hold him in very high regard."

He leaves behind his wife, Elizabeth, who he married in 1976 and their daughter Helen. He also had two daughters with his first wife Verity - Dominique, who he leaves behind, and Ruth, who died in 1993.

Ian Gibson, Labour MP for Norwich North, circa 2008

Former Norwich North MP, Ian Gibson, has died at the age of 82 - Credit: Denise Bradley / Archant 2008

Ian Gibson: 1938-2021

Dr Gibson was born in Dumfries, Scotland on September 26, 1938.

He studied a science degree in genetics and a doctorate at the University of Edinburgh before continuing his studies in the United States of America.

He was passionate about football and while studying at university turned out for three Scottish teams, Airdrie, St Mirren and Queen of the South.

His first involvement with Wymondham Town Football Club also came in the 1960s, when he captained the club.

His life in Norfolk began in 1965, when he moved to the region to take up a post at the Universtiy of East Anglia, where he spent more than three decades.

His first role at the university was as a scientist before he was appointed a senior lecturer of biology in 1971.

In 1991, he then became the dean of the School of Biological Scientists and was named an honorary professor in 2003.

In 1983 he became a member of the Labour Party and in 1992 stood for the party in Norwich North for the first time. However, on this occasion he missed out on election by just 266 votes, edged out by Conservative candidate Patrick Thompson.

Five years later though, he claimed a comprehensive victory in the 1997 election, claiming the seat with a majority of more than 9,000.

While the Labour Party was in power, Dr Gibson held a range of roles, including being chairman of the government's scientific and technology committee.

He went on to be re-elected in 2001 and 2005, but his time as an MP came to an end in 2009 when he became embroiled in the expenses scandal.

Dr Gibson opted to resign from his post after he was said to have claimed for a flat which his daughter and her partner lived in rent-free.

Of the controversy, Labour heavyweight Ed Balls said: "I thought it was a tragedy that we lost Ian Gibson as an MP. I think he probably made a mistake, but there's no point in going back and picking over who made what decision when."

His resignation triggered a by-election which was won by current Conservative MP Chloe Smith.

Despite no longer being an MP, he continued to campaign on a wide range of local issues throughout his retirement, ranging from the redevelopment of Anglia Square, NHS funding and helped save the Silver Road Community Centre in Norwich.

Silver Rooms supporters Julie Brociek-Coulton and Dr Ian Gibson, who are delighted to see it serving

Silver Rooms supporters Julie Brociek-Coulton and Dr Ian Gibson, who are delighted to see it serving the community one year after it was saved. Picture by SIMON FINLAY. - Credit: Archant Norfolk