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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 March, 2005, 22:48 GMT
'Tough operator' remembered
Lord Callaghan
Tributes have flooded in for Lord Callaghan, who died on Saturday
Tributes have been flooding in for the former Labour prime minister Lord Callaghan, who died on Saturday, on the eve of his 93rd birthday.

Tony Blair called him "one of the giants of the Labour movement".

He added: "He was one of the generation who fought in the war and came back determined to build a better, fairer and different Britain in peace."

Baroness Thatcher, who defeated Lord Callaghan in the 1979 General Election, called him "a formidable opponent".

She added: "In other circumstances he would have been a successful prime minister.

If one was given a rocket by Jim, one didn't resent it
Tam Dalyell MP

"He was a superb party manager. Despite our disagreements, I always respected him because I knew he was moved by deep patriotism."

Gordon Brown said he would be "mourned throughout the world".

"It was a commitment to public service that brought Jim Callaghan into Parliament in 1945, and while Jim rose to the top he never forgot his roots.

"And in all the positions he held with distinction his lifelong commitment was to help those most in need," he said.

'Extremely sharp'

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said the Queen was sending a private message of sympathy to Lord Callaghan's family, while Conservative leader Michael Howard said he would be "remembered with affection and respect".

Father of the House, Tam Dalyell, said Lord Callaghan was a "most authoritative prime minister" who kept the Labour Party together during the late 1970s.

Despite his reputation as "Sunny Jim", Lord Callaghan was a tough political operator, Labour veteran Mr Dalyell said.

He told BBC News 24: "He wasn't complacent, nor was he 'Sunny Jim', because... he was extremely sharp.

Audrey died just 11 days ago and that would have hit Jim very, very hard - they were utterly devoted to each other
Lord Kinnock

"He was certainly extremely tough when he thought that people were being difficult on items of policy.

"He was at the same time very skilful in not raising personal antagonisms. If one was given a rocket by Jim, one didn't resent it."

Conservative peer Lord Heseltine said that despite their political differences, the two men had become friends.

"You don't get to the premiership unless you have a streak of determination," he said.

"But I saw the other side of Jim Callaghan, he became a personal friend in a way, and my family and I were very fond of him."

Former prime minister Sir Edward Heath also paid tribute. "James Callaghan was a major fixture in the political life of this country during his long and varied career.

Lord Callaghan with Lord Healey
Lord Healey said his death was "a great tragedy"

"When in opposition he never hesitated to put firmly his party's case. When in office he took a smoother approach towards his supporters and opponents alike.

"Although he left the House of Commons in 1987 he continued to follow political life and it was always a pleasure to meet with him. We have lost a major figure from our political landscape," he said.

Labour peer Lord Hattersley called Lord Callaghan "the last of the traditional Labour Party prime ministers" while Tony Benn, who served under him as energy minister, called his death "a loss for the Labour movement".

He added: "I'm rather in favour of people saying what they mean, meaning what they say and doing what they'd said they'd do and that was true of him."

'Impossible period''

He said he attended a function at No 10 where Lord Callaghan told Mr Blair: "Don't forget Tony, looking at all the finery and trappings of No 10, when all this is gone, what really matters is the family."

"I thought it was rather touching," added Mr Benn.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said Lord Callaghan would be remembered for his visits to Londonderry during the height of the troubles.

He added: "Despite the dark and turbulent times in Northern Ireland when he was in office, he will be remembered by many as a well-intentioned and decent man."

We have lost a major figure from our political landscape
Sir Edward Heath

Lord Healey, a former Labour chancellor, said Lord Callaghan's death was a "great tragedy", while ex-Tory party chairman Lord Tebbit called him "extremely tough".

Former Labour leader Lord Kinnock told BBC News 24 the death of Lord Callaghan's wife, Audrey, 11 days ago "would have hit Jim very, very hard", adding: "They were utterly devoted to each other."

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Despite holding all the great offices of state, he never lost touch with his trade union roots."

Tory peer and former cabinet minister Lord Heseltine said his friend had "presided over an impossible period for the Labour Party" during his time as prime minister.

'Role model'

He added: "I think by the time he became prime minister in the mid 1970s, the game was over - the ultimate confrontation that the Conservatives were responsible for in the 80s was inevitable.

"Jim Callaghan presided over the government that made it abundantly clear that that battle had to be fought."

Labour Party chairman Ian McCartney said Lord Callaghan was a "role model of someone who came from a modest background to achieve the highest office in the land".

Lord Tom McNally, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, said he was "immensely sad" while former Conservative leader Sir Edward Heath said: "We have lost a major figure from our political landscape."

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