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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 January 2006, 20:15 GMT
Ex-minister Tony Banks dies in US
West Ham MP
Tony Banks was taken ill on holiday in the US

Former sports minister Tony Banks has died after suffering a massive stroke on holiday in the US at the age of 62.

The ex-Labour MP for West Ham and latterly Lord Stratford, was at lunch on Sanibel Island, Florida, on Thursday when he collapsed.

Prime Minister Tony Blair paid tribute to "one of the most charismatic politicians in Britain".

An avid Chelsea football club fan, in 1999 he led an unsuccessful UK bid to host the World Cup at Wembley.

Fellow Chelsea fan and friend, former Tory minister David Mellor, said he was a "man of passion" who possessed a "sharp and witty tongue".

"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."

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.

Tony Banks was not just a figurehead for millions of animal welfare supporters across Britain, but a determined street fighter in the corridors of Westminster
John Cooper
League Against Cruel Sports

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.

The Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, said that he played a crucial role in winning big sporting events for the UK:

"He was heavily involved in the bid for England to host the 2006 World Cup. We lost that.

"We won the Olympic bid, and 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."

Personal conviction

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

John Cooper, chairman of the League Against Cruel Sports said of Lord Stratford, the League's vice-president: "In his firm belief that people have a moral responsibility in respect of how they treat animals, Tony Banks was not just a figurehead for millions of animal welfare supporters across Britain, but a determined street fighter in the corridors of Westminster."

HAVE YOUR SAY
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

He sought to be selected as Labour's candidate for the 2003 London Mayoral election, but was defeated by Nicky Gavron.

He caused surprise by taking the title Lord Stratford when made a working peer last year. But he called it a "nom de politics", saying he still expected to be largely known as Tony Banks.

The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson described the peer as "one of the great characters of Westminster" who cared passionately about politics.

The current sports minister, Richard Caborn, said his friend and former colleague had "left his mark in sport, football in particular", and was a "man of conviction who got his very serious point across", but was "never bitter and never personal".


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Hear Sir Bobby Charlton pay tribute to Tony Banks



SEE ALSO:
Obituary: Tony Banks
07 Jan 06 |  UK


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