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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 January 2006, 14:06 GMT
Banks family hold private funeral
Tony Banks
Tony Banks suffered a stroke while on holiday in Florida
The funeral of former sports minister Tony Banks has taken place in London, with mourners paying tribute to a "lord of misrule" and "a loveable rogue".

Among those at the private ceremony were cabinet ministers John Prescott, Tessa Jowell and Margaret Beckett.

The ex-Labour MP for West Ham and later Lord Stratford died on 8 January aged 62 after suffering a stroke in Florida.

His widow Sally has launched a campaign in his memory to stop the killing of baby seals in the Canadian Arctic.

"He was passionate about animal welfare, and passionate about this issue, to bring it back to UK public notice because the UK public in the 1970s were very instrumental in lobbying," she told BBC News.

The couple had previously campaigned to halt the killing of the seal pups in Canada and succeeded in having the practice partially banned.

Animal rights

He was also known for his love of Chelsea football team.

Former Tory cabinet minister and fellow fan, David Mellor, told mourners at the City of London Crematorium: "Tony ate, slept and breathed Chelsea, not one of life's softest options when you think that for more than two decades he represented West Ham.

"Tony was a diehard and occasionally an embittered partisan, impassioned, not to say inflammatory, in his opinions.

He added: "A lord of misrule, a cheeky chappy, call him what you will - he can be defined, but he cannot be replaced."

Mrs Beckett, one of Lord Stratford's political allies, said his opponents "wore their Tony Banks insults like a badge of honour".

"If ever a phrase was coined to describe one person it's the words loveable rogue. That is how I will remember him," she said.

Family snap of Tony Banks with a seal pup
Tony Banks with a seal pup in Canada

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

He caused surprise by taking the title Lord Stratford when made a working peer in summer 2005. But he called it a "nom de politics", saying he still expected to be largely known as Tony Banks.

As an MP, Tony Banks' office was based in Stratford, east London, for 20 years, an area where he also lived. He was known for his forthright views, and his popularity with the public gave him a "man of the people" image.

He took his ministerial role in Tony Blair's first administration but resigned in 1999 to concentrate on the unsuccessful bid to host the 2006 World Cup at Wembley.

The vegetarian MP continued to pursue his passion for animal welfare from the backbenches, contributing to the Hunting Bill debate.

His widow said the couple had been working on plans to put pressure on the Canadians to ban the culling of baby seals before his death.

"Tony's death is a terrible loss to me and to the campaign. I am determined to try to fill the gap."

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