Look back at career of departing MP David Hamilton

David Hamilton outside his constituency office. Picture: Julie Bull
David Hamilton outside his constituency office. Picture: Julie Bull
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David Hamilton’s decision to retire from the House of Commons marks the end of an era.

Midlothian has been represented at Westminster since the Second World War by a long line of MPs from a mining background. But with all the pits closed and the industry fast receding into history, Mr Hamilton will be the last of his kind.

He has been Labour MP for the area for the past 14 years, but announced in January that with his 65th birthday looming he was standing down to make way for someone younger.

Before entering parliament, he had spent 20 years as miner, then worked as a training supervisor and eventually chief executive of Craigmillar Opportunities for eight years.

His Commons career saw him serve as an aide to Ed Miliband and then take on the key role as the party whip for Labour’s Scottish MPs.

He says he enjoyed his time as an MP and feels privileged to have represented his own community at Westminster.

Mr Hamilton grew up in Woodburn, Dalkeith, and still lives there, in the same house he has been in for more than 40 years. He has a sister who lives at the end of the road, a brother in the next street and his mother, now 90, is two streets away.

One daughter and her family live in Dalkeith, the other in Mayfield. And he has five grandchildren aged between 12 and 19.

Mr Hamilton left school in 1965 and started down the pit on his 16th birthday. That was at Easthouses colliery, “just down the road” from Woodburn. When Easthouses closed in 1969, he transferred briefly to Bilston Glen and then moved down to Nottingham for a year.

“I couldn’t understand the language,” he jokes. “So I came back up.”

He started work at Monktonhall in 1970 and was there until his employment ended “unceremoniously” in 1985 during the year-long miners’ strike.

He was arrested for alleged assault and spent two months in prison before his case eventually came to trial. The jury took all of 25 minutes to find him not guilty – and he found out later they had spent 15 of those 25 minutes electing a chairman.

After his release he was blacklisted, like many other miners who took part in the strike, and did not work for two-and-a-half years.

He got a job as an employment training supervisor with Midlothian District Council in 1987, then as a placement officer for the Craigmillar Festival Society in 1989, and was chief executive of Craigmillar Opportunities from 1992 to 2000.

He was elected to Midlothian Council, representing Woodburn, in 1995.

And when former NUM Scottish secretary Eric Clarke retired as Midlothian MP, Mr Hamilton was elected to replace him at the 2001 general election.

At Westminster, he served on various committees including Scottish affairs, work and pensions, defence and European legislation.

Then in 2008 he was asked to become parliamentary private secretary to Ed Miliband for two years when he was energy secretary. “It was a good combination – a hardnose like me with a young thinker like Ed. I think that’s why we were put together and it worked well.

“I saw in Ed what I hope other people will see during this election – someone with a bit of vision and a bit of drive.

“I don’t recognise the caricatures we get of him. He has a strength about him which was quite unnerving in such a young man. I hope people see that.”

After the 2010 election, Mr Hamilton moved on to a new job as the party’s Scottish whip, tasked with keeping all the Labour MPs from north of the Border in line.

“The job of the whip is to carry out the wishes of the leader of the party, trying to encourage people to vote the right way.” he says. “But there is another side to the job I found much more satisfying.

“In spite of what people might think, MPs are human beings like everyone else. And just like any other human being they have problems, issues, families and crises now and again. I found that part of the job more satisfying – helping people out through difficult times.”

Mr Hamilton made his last appearance as an MP alongside fellow retiring politician Gordon Brown at the campaign launch for Kenny Young, Labour’s new candidate in Midlothian.

Now he says he is looking forward to having more time with his family and doing things at his own pace.

He says: “It’s been a long journey, and not the easiest at times, but I have been extremely privileged, both representing the men at the pit and then the wider community of Woodburn on the council and Midlothian in parliament.

“I’m not retiring as such, I’m retiring from parliament.

“I’ll still be looking to help the local party, the Scottish party and do what I can for people who need assistance.”

And he thinks he might have time for a hobby.

“I might take up bowls,” he says. “My father used to do it and I played with him. A lot of the old miners play it – and I’m an old miner so I’d better join the club.”