Ernie Ross, who has died aged 79, was a compassionate and respected Left-winger who was Labour MP for Dundee West between 1979 and 2005.
Slight and bushy-haired, Ross was rated by Anas Sarwar of Scottish Labour as a "passionate voice against injustice". Part of Labour's parliamentary bedrock in opposition, after Tony Blair led the party to power in 1997 he became one of his government's most loyal supporters.
"For eight years he never stopped smiling as he voted through legislation time and again that helped his constituents and the country," one colleague recalled. If anyone started complaining about having to vote late at night, said another, Ross would tell them that having a Labour government to vote for had been worth waiting 18 years for.
Having been a trenchant opponent of military action to recover the Falklands, Ross broke with many former comrades in 2003 to support the decision to go to war in Iraq.
Ross was an active constituency MP, widely credited with having saved Dundee University's school of dentistry from closure. Previously a senior quality controller at Timex, he stayed on in his council house after being elected to Parliament.
His political passion was the Middle East. Throughout his career Ross campaigned for a settlement with Israel involving the Palestinians, chairing the Trade Union Friends of Palestine and the Labour Middle East Council. The Conservative minister William Waldegrave praised Ross's "fine record in trying to bring the parties together". Another Tory, Andrew MacKay, was forced to withdraw the allegation that Ross was a "friend of hijackers and a closet Shiite".
The point of contact for Ross was Dundee's twinning with the West Bank city of Nablus. The relationship, inspired by the young George Galloway, culminated in a moment of farce when Nablus's visiting mayor was presented with a bottle of whisky, which as a Muslim he could not drink, and a kilt he was unable to wear, having lost his legs in an explosion.
Ross protested at the "near-hysterical" response of Zionists to the council flying the PLO flag over City Hall, and in 1981 took part in a goodwill delegation to Nablus and Kuwait City.
In June 1988 he urged direct talks between Israel and the PLO without outside participants, provided Israel accepted the Palestinians' right to self-determination. "The Palestinians want peace," he said, "and they want to sit down with the only people with whom peace is possible." That December, he pressed Margaret Thatcher to let Sir Geoffrey Howe meet the PLO.
Ross joined the Labour Party in 1973, and with his friend and equally long-serving future MP Willie McKelvey , won his spurs in the Left's takeover of Dundee Labour Party soon after – orchestrated by Galloway, 12 years his junior.
The upheaval precipitated Ross's election to the Commons. When Peter Doig, the sitting MP for Dundee West, announced his retirement, McKelvey was disqualified as a candidate because he was a paid official of the local party, and Ross took his place; McKelvey was elected for Kilmarnock.
In 1987, Ross sued Channel 4 and The Sunday Times for libel after they reported that Tayside police were investigating him over shenanigans involving Dundee's Labour clubs while Galloway was running the city party.
Ernest Ross was born in Dundee on July 27 1942, the son of Ernest Ross, a production controller, and the former Catherine Glancy. He left St John's junior secondary school at 15 to become an apprentice marine engineer at the Caledon shipyard, and from 1962 to 1964 was an engineer with the Ben Line.
After that he worked at Timex until his election to Parliament, being active in the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers and later the MSF technical union.
Ross was elected for Dundee West in 1979 with a majority of 10,457 over the SNP. In his maiden speech he deplored the Thatcher government's intention to repeal the Act giving Scotland devolution. He went on to claim that Russia's invasion of Afghanistan had saved the country from feudal despotism.
Ross supported Tony Benn in his bids to "democratise" the party – urging the Parliamentary Labour Party to subject itself to party conference decisions – and oust Denis Healey from the deputy leadership. During the contest in September 1981 he urged fellow members of the Tribune Group to let Benn's campaign see their ballot papers to make sure they had voted the right way.
Ross opposed Labour's expulsion of the leaders of the Trotskyist Militant Tendency, but when Benn's supporters seceded from Tribune to form the Socialist Campaign Group he stayed put.
His life very nearly ended in 1985 when he underwent pioneering keyhole surgery in a Dundee hospital for a cancer in his abdomen. The procedure was successful, but adhesions resulted, which prevented normal digestion, and for six months he had to be fed 12 hours a night through a catheter connected to a vein near his heart.
Ross recovered to register a record majority in 1987 of 16,526, over a Conservative, and to chair the Scottish Labour MPs and the PLP's foreign affairs committee.
With Labour in power, he served on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee from 1997 to 1999, and until his retirement from the House in 2005 chaired the all-party poverty group. Labour held Dundee West in that election, but lost it in 2015 to the SNP.
Ross chaired the Westminster Foundation for Democracy from 1997 to 2002, and was a council member of Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education in Dundee.
Ernie Ross married Joan Moad in 1964. She survives him with their two sons and one daughter.
Ernest Ross, born July 27 1942, died October 17 2021
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