Funeral for Lord King of West Bromwich, UK's first Sikh peer

Lifelong friend Harmohinder Upashak and West Bromwich East Labour MP Tom Watson have paid tribute to Lord King

Hundreds of people have attended the funeral of Lord King of West Bromwich, the UK's first Sikh peer who has died aged 75.

Tarsem King, a former leader of Sandwell Council, died on 9 January.

Paying tribute, West Bromwich East MP Tom Watson wrote: "He remained active to the last, never squandering a single day of his 27,654."

Lord King led the council for 10 years until 2007 and was created a life peer in 1999.

His funeral took place at Sandwell Valley Crematorium.

The service also had to be shown on screens outside, because of the number of mourners.

Labour MP Keith Vaz said Lord King was "the role model for every Asian politician" and represented "the end of the great pioneers who came with nothing and left with much".

Paying tribute at the funeral, current Sandwell Council leader Darren Cooper said: "I hope I do the job half as well."

Writing on his website, Labour MP Mr Watson said he knew the politician "as my gentle friend who has given wise counsel since I became an MP".

'Very calm person'
Mourners at funeral of Tarsem King Mourners gathered outside Sandwell Valley Crematorium

Many other tributes have been paid to the Labour peer, with Sandwell's deputy council leader Mahboob Hussain saying he "always had time to listen".

Mr Hussain, a long-time friend of Lord King, said he was extremely popular and respected by people of many different backgrounds and faiths.

The Labour councillor said: "He was a very calm type of person and would talk to and help all different groups.

"He always had the best interests of the people of Sandwell at heart."

Mr Hussain said Lord King brought unique experience to his political roles, having come to the UK from India when he was in his early 20s. He was elected as a local councillor in 1979.

He said Lord King's commitment continued as a Labour peer and he never missed a vote in the Lords.

"I think the funeral will mainly celebrate his life, but it will be a very sad day to say goodbye to a good friend," he added.

The peer was patron of the Universal Peace Federation, hosting the UN International Women's Day for several years and human rights conferences.

Robin Marsh, UK secretary general of the Federation, spoke of the "innate sense of fairness and decency" that informed Lord King's decisions and his support for persecuted groups and disadvantaged minorities.

Sandwell Council has warned of delays until 12:00 GMT from Roebuck Lane, West Bromwich, to the crematorium.

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