UK Politics

Tributes paid to veteran Labour MP Michael Meacher

Michael Meacher

Veteran Labour MP and former minister Michael Meacher has died after a short illness at the age of 75.

Mr Meacher had been MP for Oldham West and Royton since 1970, retaining the seat with a 14,738 majority in May.

Mr Meacher, seen as being on the left of the party, spent 29 years on Labour's frontbench including six as an environment minister under Tony Blair.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he was a "man of enormous breadth and intellectual vision".

He served in junior ministerial roles in the Wilson and Callaghan governments in the 1970s and at one time was spoken of as a future Labour leader.

Mr Meacher, an Oxford University classics graduate who had been a lecturer before becoming an MP, stood as the left's candidate against Roy Hattersley for the deputy leadership of the party in 1983, but was defeated.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Michael Meacher, left, pictured with Tony Benn in 1983
Image copyright PA
Image caption Michael Meacher, pictured here in 1998, was a campaigning environment minister
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Michael Meacher pledged to test the Blackpool waters in 2002 if the resort met European water standards
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Michael Meacher, pictured here in 1976, was a health minister in the Labour government

He quit Tony Blair's government as a minister in June 2003 reshuffle, saying he planned to speak out on a range of issues from the back benches.

In 2007, he attempted to challenge Gordon Brown for the Labour leadership before standing aside to allow John McDonnell, now the shadow chancellor, to stand as the candidate from the party's left wing.

Green MP Caroline Lucas said Mr Meacher was a "great politician, championing climate action".

Mr Meacher had two sons and two daughters from his first marriage in 1962 to Molly, now cross-bench peer Baroness Meacher, who has been leading attempts to block the government's controversial tax credit cuts. He wed again in 1988 to Lucianne, a charity director, who survives him.

Michael Meacher

  • Born in 1939
  • Elected to Parliament in 1970, representing Oldham West
  • Served as a minister under Harold Wilson, James Callaghan and Tony Blair
  • Sat in the shadow cabinet for 14 years

Michael Meacher's life and career

Mr Corbyn released a lengthy statement paying tribute to Mr Meacher, who he first met in the early 1970s.

The Labour leader said Mr Meacher had urged him to stand in the leadership contest and given him "huge support".

"He was a valued friend and commentator utterly committed to democracy in our party and movement, as well as in the wider community," he added.

Prime Minister David Cameron described Mr Meacher as a "dedicated Parliamentarian who worked tirelessly on behalf of his constituents".

Peter Dean, Mr Meacher's PA and office manager, told the Oldham Evening Chronicle: "We are extremely sad and it has been quite a short illness he has had and we just don't know the details at present.

"He was such a well respected person and we will just try to deal with any problems people in the area have ongoing. We will still try to assist in any way we can.

"We are extremely sad for his family but all of his staff here at his office have worked with him for 20 years so it is almost like a family bereavement for us. Our office usually deals with around 5,000 cases every year so he has impacted on an enormous amount of people's lives."

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Media captionTributes from John McDonnell and Margaret Beckett to Labour MP Michael Meacher, who has died aged 75

Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, said: "He was a tremendous figure in the Labour movement, devoting his life to the advancement of working people and for that he will always be remembered with deep fondness.

"As a personal friend I always welcomed his views and guidance as well as his optimism and commitment to improving ordinary people's lives. He was a true friend of the trade union movement."

Ex-Labour leader Ed Miliband called him "principled, kind... committed to a fairer, more just world".

The death means a first by-election for Labour under Jeremy Corbyn.

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