Scot sacrificed priesthood for politics

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David Cairns, who has died aged 44 from acute pancreatitis, was a Scottish Labour MP who was sacked from his ministerial job in 2008 after declining to express confidence in Gordon Brown's leadership.

According to The Guardian's obituary, this was widely regarded as "a principled decision by a principled politician".

From a working-class background, he attended Notre Dame high school in Greenock before training for the Catholic priesthood. His education continued at the Gregorian University in Rome and the Franciscan Study Centre in Canterbury before Cairns emerged as an ordained priest in 1991.

After three years of pastoral work, he became director of the Christian Socialist Movement and also of the federal body representing Labour's affiliated societies.

His opportunity to enter the Commons arose when the MP for the Greenock constituency, Norman Godman, announced his intention to retire. However, the fact that he was still an ordained Catholic priest remained an impediment to him taking his seat when elected.

Siobahn McDonagh MP – with whom Cairns had worked as a researcher – had already tried unsuccessfully to have the Clerical Disqualification Act of 1801 repealed via a private member's bill.

He subsequently decided he could achieve more through politics.

FULL OBITUARY: David Cairns obituary (The Guardian)

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