Labour MP Sir Stuart Bell dies after battle with cancer
SENIOR Labour backbencher Sir Stuart Bell died yesterday after a short battle with pancreatic cancer.
The 74-year-old politician had been MP for Middlesbrough for nearly three decades, and served in key positions in Parliament.
Bell was the son of a Durham miner, and after a grammar school education was briefly a colliery clerk and newspaper reporter before becoming a barrister.
Having lived and worked in Paris for a spell, he returned in 1977 to pursue a career in politics. He unsuccessfully contested Hexham in 1979, and was a member of Newcastle City Council until he won Middlesbrough in 1983. He went on to hold the seat through seven general elections.
While never serving as a minister, Bell was the party’s Northern Ireland spokesman during the 1980s. Later in his career, he was handed a powerful role on the Commons Commission – the body responsible for running the House.
He played a central role during one of Parliament’s most difficult periods as the long-running scandal of MPs’ expenses abuses finally emerged in 2009.
Bell, who was married with one son, was knighted in 2004 for “services to Parliament” and was also awarded the Legion d’Honneur in 2006 for his contributions to British-French relations.
A published novelist as well as the writer of several political works, his role as an MP saw him finally reach the Commons, where as a young man he had dreamed of working for the official record, Hansard.
Among his political missions was to secure voting reform, leading Labour campaigns for a switch to the Alternative Vote – but he was an active opponent of the party’s proposals to replace the Lords with a senate.
Labour’s former Europe minister Chris Bryant paid tribute to the “ardent and intelligent pro-European Labour MP” as parliamentary colleagues registered their sorrow at his death via Twitter.
Ian Swales, Liberal Democrat MP for Redcar, wrote: “Very sad to hear of the death of Stuart Bell MP. Always a total gentleman to me.”
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