Formerly a microbiologist, Jim was first elected in 1997. He served as MP for Heywood and Middleton in Greater Manchester, where he had a majority of 5,971.
He was what has become known as old Labour, namely he believed the Labour Party was there to serve the interests of working people. He rejected the new Labour view of the party as a quasi-lighter shade of blue whose interests always had to coincide with those of the rich and powerful.
Jim was a strong supporter of Jon Cruddas when he stood for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party in 2007.
Jim may have had differences of opinion with Jon over some issues like the life of the unborn child but he could see the importance of supporting a political platform that purported to reconnect Labour with its traditional supporters.
A staunch Catholic Jim was a proud Scot, who shared core beliefs with his fellow Celts across the UK. He was a regular at Irish embassy receptions. The last time I met him was at an Irish in Britain reception in Parliament on St Patricks Day. We went to the Strangers bar afterwards, where talk turned to football. A fervent Celtic supporter, Jim fought off friendly banter from fellow Mp and long time friend David Crausby. Hull Mp Alan Meal was another in the group, discussing all matters football.
Jim was also a regular at the Migrant mass held for the past decade at Westminster Cathedral on May Bank holiday. He recognised the importance of multiculturalism and the fact that we are all migrants coming to the country at some point.
Jim was also a devoted family man, with his wife Pat working in his Parliamentary office for many years. Jim will certainly be missed in the corridors of Westminster where his quiet charm crossed party lines. On one occasion I was walking down a corridor with Jim when we bumped into Anne Widdecombe. A Tory opponent Widdecombe would be at odds with Jim on many areas of policy but there was a common purpose on a number of Catholic matters.
Jim was a principled man, who for the most part worked quietly behind the scenes. He will be a big loss from the Parliamentary scene, public life and the Catholic Church. RIP Jim, we’ll lift a pint of Guiness in your honour.