Gary Waller, former MP

Gary Waller
Gary Waller
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Gary Waller, who has died at 72, was not only a Yorkshire MP twice over but also a leading light in the movement to take the Yorkshire Society down south.

A former journalist and public relations executive, he had first contested a county seat for the Conservatives, at Rother Valley, in both elections of 1974.

But it was the 1979 campaign which swept Margaret Thatcher to power that finally sent him to Westminster. He took the old Brighouse and Spenborough constituency from Labour with a majority of 1,734.

His predecessor as the Tory candidate there had been the former MP Wilf Proudfoot, the flamboyant businessman behind the Proudfoot supermarket chain as well as a pirate radio station off the coast of Scarborough. He left politics to become a hypnotist and hypnotherapist.

Mr Waller, meanwhile, had to contend with boundary changes in his constituency, and at the 1983 poll he stood instead in Keighley, defeating the popular Labour man, Bob Cryer.

He held Keighley at the next two elections and when he was eventually unseated, in 1997, it was by Mr Cryer’s widow, Ann.

He maintained a philosophical perspective on the defeat, colleagues said. There was no bitterness.

The town’s current MP, Labour’s John Grogan, noted that he had been the first to represent both Keighley and Ilkley, following more boundary changes, and that his contribution to both communities would be remembered “for many years to come”.

Kris Hopkins, who held the seat until last month, added that he was “a genuinely nice person who left a lasting impact on Keighley”.

During his 18 years in parliament, Mr Waller served as chairman of the Commons committee which oversaw the House library and IT systems.

His time was not without controversy, though. Kirklees Council threatened him with legal action over the council tax bill on an unoccupied house in Cleckheaton, and at the time of John Major’s “back to basics” morality campaign, he revealed that he had a child with the secretary of a Conservative colleague.

He remained active at Westminster after leaving the Commons, and in 2004 launched a London branch of the Yorkshire Society, which, he said, was aimed at giving expatriates from the county a link to life back home.

Renowned for his love of history and cars and especially Jaguars, of which he owned several, including an E-type, he became in later years active in grass roots politics, and was still serving on Epping Forest District Council at the time of his death.