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Last Updated: Monday, 9 January 2006, 16:09 GMT
Tributes paid to ex-MP Tony Banks
West Ham MP
Tony Banks was taken ill on holiday in the US

Many friends and colleagues have paid tribute to the former sports minister Tony Banks who died after suffering a massive stroke, aged 62.

The ex-Labour MP for West Ham and latterly Lord Stratford, was taken ill on holiday in Sanibel Island, Florida.

Tony Blair paid tribute to "one of the most charismatic politicians in Britain, a true man of the people".

Banks' friend, ex-Tory minister David Mellor, said he was a "man of passion" and had a "sharp and witty tongue".

'Immensely popular'

Fellow Chelsea fan, Mr Mellor added: "But he exuded such joie de vivre that no-one could seriously take offence to his opinions.

"He was immensely popular on both sides of the House."

As MPs sat in the Commons for the first time after their recess, colleagues paid tribute.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain called him "my friend and fellow Chelsea supporter" and said how "his sparkle lit up public life".

There was earlier praise from Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton, who said Tony Banks had been an outstanding member of Parliament, and would be missed "very much indeed".

Lord Stratford became an MP in 1983 but did not stand in last year's election.

He was known for his forthright views while an MP. His popularity with the public gave him a "man of the people" image.

His death will be a real loss to animal welfare worldwide
Phyllis Campbell-McRae
IFAW director

As an MP, his office was based in Stratford, east London, for 20 years, an area where he also lived.

He took his ministerial role in Tony Blair's first administration but resigned in 1999 to concentrate on the World Cup bid.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said Lord Stratford's experience in bidding for the 2006 competition had helped the successful 2012 Olympic campaign.

"Tony, with complete frankness and candour and in many self-deprecating moments, shared a lot of what he felt went wrong with the World Cup bid to help us do better with the Olympics," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

'Articulate and inspiring'

From the backbenches he pursued his passion for animal welfare, contributing to the Hunting Bill debate.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) director Phyllis Campbell-McRae said he had worked with the charity for many years.

"He was deeply committed, articulate and inspiring to work with, and he never lost his sense of humour. His death will be a real loss to animal welfare worldwide," she said.

I am so sad to hear of the death of Tony Banks. He is another colourful character who will be sadly missed for his forthright views.
Garry, Portsmouth

"Tony played a pivotal role in banning the cruel sport of hunting with dogs in England and Wales, an achievement he will always be remembered for."

RSPCA Director Jackie Ballard described the peer as "a true friend to the RSPCA".

"He was passionate in his campaigns to help animals and people," she said.

Lyn Brown, who took over from him as MP for West Ham last May said he was her mentor and a "really effective voice" for his constituents.

"Tony was a warm, generous, humorous man and it is a tragedy that he has died so young," she said.

Chelsea Football Club, of which the peer was an avid fan, said in a statement that everybody at the club was "terribly saddened" by the news of his sudden death.

"Chelsea Football Club, and all its fans, have lost a great friend and fanatical supporter," it said.

"Tony's knowledge and love of Chelsea was unparalleled. He always had the club close to his heart and in recent years worked with us on many projects."

The club will decide over the next few days on an "appropriate tribute" for him.

Obituary: Tony Banks
07 Jan 06 |  UK

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