Labour politician.

Born: April 10, 1933; Died: June 5, 2013.

Helen McElhone, who has died aged 80, was briefly a Labour MP, succeeding her husband Frank in the Glasgow seat of Queen's Park. Although her Parliamentary career was short, she made an impression with her obvious sincerity and emotional bond with her constituency.

When Frank McElhone – an MP since 1969 – died suddenly on 22 September 1982 (while demonstrating in support of NHS workers), Helen, who had long been a key figure in the local Labour Party, was not initially considered a likely candidate. But colleagues urged her to stand and she was narrowly selected on 3 November by 29 votes to 28.

It was a bitter contest but Mrs McElhone threw herself into the by-election campaign, calling for a chronically damp tower block in the constituency to be demolished and replaced with proper council housing, assuring voters she had no desire to aim for the top of the political tree but would instead be a Glasgow housewife determined to look out for her own folk.

Although she had avoided trying to attract a sympathy vote, Mrs McElhone's victory on December 2, 1982 – with a majority of 5,694 over the SNP – was naturally bittersweet. Speaking in the House of Commons Norman Buchan, the Labour MP for Renfrewshire West, said he welcomed the return of a McElhone to the House, adding that her excellent victory gave final judgment on the errors and ineptitudes of Mrs Thatcher's first government.

Helen Margaret McElhone was born in Glasgow on 10 April 1933, growing up in the constituency she would later represent in Parliament. She married Frank in November 1958, producing two sons (who were later members of the band Altered Images) and two daughters. Having taken an active interest in her husband's greengrocer's business in the Gorbals, she was similarly proactive when it came to his Parliamentary career.

She took over management of the shop following Frank's election (also in a by-election) in 1969, and also became an active figure in the local party, taking constituency surgeries on her husband's behalf and even sitting in on Parliamentary committees at Westminster.

Her politics were both socially conservative (she opposed abortion) and left wing (she supported nationalisation and unilateral nuclear disarmament), but she took care to reject the Bennite banner, despite her late husband having served as Tony Benn's Parliamentary Private Secretary.

Her maiden speech in early 1983 was eloquent and angry, attacking system-built housing (1960s tower blocks) as the new slums and lamenting high unemployment. "My children's friends," she told the House, "are spending their 20th and even 21st birthdays without having had a sniff of a real job and without any hope of a real future."

Like her late husband, Mrs McElhone had an unusually close relationship with her constituency. Having been born and raised in the area, she knew only too well "that generations of electors in my part of Glasgow have lived in houses which many people further south would not dignify by calling homes".

Mes McElhone railed against cuts to the Housing Support Grant, recalling the then Prime Minister's quotation from the prayer of St Francis in May 1979 ('where there is discord'). She reminded Mrs Thatcher that St Francis had further prayed: "Grant that I may seek-To understand rather than be understood." "I ask the Prime Minister," she added, "to use that understanding in the appreciation of the misery of many of the constituents of my area."

At Prime Minister's Questions the following month Mrs McElhone called on the Prime Minister to hold a June General Election. Mrs Thatcher did but it would represent the abolition of the Queen's Park constituency and therefore Mrs McElhone's seat in the House of Commons. This was not a surprise, for the boundary changes were under way even before her husband's death.

Mrs McElhone fought hard to win selection for a new Glasgow Central constituency, but she faced competition from Jimmy Wray (once her husband's agent) and Robert McTaggart, the incumbent MP. Wray was deemed ineligible and McTaggart won.

Instead she channelled her considerable energy into local government, winning election to Strathclyde Regional Council in a March 1985 by-election. She became vice-chairman of the Finance Committee in 1987, criticising the Government for reducing the rate support grant paid to councils. In 1989 she persuaded the council, Rangers and the Scottish Development Agency to fund a new sports and community centre on waste ground opposite Ibrox Stadium.

There were suggestions she would succeed Robert McTaggart following his death in March 1989, butMrs McElhone decided not to run. A decade later she was one a five-strong panel who vetted potential Labour candidates in the first elections to the Scottish Parliament.

Later she joined an action group campaigning for the Dixon Community, a voluntary group that helped elderly people to lead independent lives (it was facing closure due to the costs of repairing its HQ). She was also a member of an independent panel appointed by the House of Commons to look at an application from Railtrack to raise the roof of Edinburgh Waverley railway station in 2000.

She is survived by her four children.