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Last Updated: Friday, 19 May 2006, 04:10 GMT 05:10 UK
Tributes paid to Tory Eric Forth
Eric Forth
Eric Forth was known for his colourful ties and waistcoats
MPs have been paying tribute to ex-Conservative minister Eric Forth after he died from cancer.

The 61-year-old Bromley and Chislehurst MP served as a trade and education minister in the 1990s. In opposition he served as shadow Commons leader.

Tory leader David Cameron praised Mr Forth for his "incisive wit" and said he was a "master of detail".

Tony Blair said he was the kind of colourful character who made the House of Commons what it was.

The prime minister's official spokesman said Mr Blair believed Mr Forth would be sorely missed - even by those who had disagreed with him.

'Masterclass'

Known for his trademark colourful ties and waistcoats, Mr Forth was famous for using intricate parliamentary procedures to thwart government plans.

He used filibusters to kill or delay legislation, especially when he thought it was being rushed through Parliament - a tactic which made him one of the best known performers in the Commons.

Mr Forth died in London's Charing Cross Hospital on Wednesday night. His illness became worse at the end of last week and he was admitted to hospital.

An image of BBC political editor Nick Robinson
He was a free spirit who infuriated and entertained in equal measure
BBC political editor Nick Robinson

Mr Cameron said the death of Mr Forth, a big fan of Elvis Presley, had robbed the Commons of one its stars and his constituency of a great champion.

"My first job as an Opposition spokesman was serving under Eric when he was shadow leader of the House," he said.

"Watching him speak in Parliament as an MP and from the front bench was a masterclass in how you can use the House of Commons to hold governments to account.

"He had a great mastery of detail combined with an incisive wit and an unbeatable sense of timing."

Mr Cameron said they had not agreed about everything.

"The last thing he would want to be described as was a moderniser," he said.

'Magnificent parliamentarian'

Commons Leader Jack Straw expressed "sorrow" at Mr Forth's death.

Mr Straw told the Commons: "The Conservative Party has lost one of its stars. This House has lost a great parliamentarian.

"He brightened this place with his ties, his waistcoats, his love of country and western music, but above all with his personality."

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said Mr Forth would be missed on all sides.

"Eric Forth was a fine and independent spirit who valued Parliament and recognised its obligation to hold Government to account," said Sir Menzies.

"His quick wittedness made him a formidable opponent in debate."

Tory whip Andrew Rosindell said Mr Forth had been a courageous politician who had fought for true Conservative values, particular those of Margaret Thatcher.

"He was outspoken and often said things that people didn't like, but he wasn't afraid to say what he believed in," said Mr Rosindell.

Bob Neill, London Assembly Member for Bexley and Bromley, called Mr Forth's death an "absolute tragedy".

"Eric was a good personal friend and a magnificent parliamentarian," he said.

Ministerial record

Seen as a right-winger, Mr Forth was a strong supporter of David Davis in his contest with David Cameron for the Tory leadership.

He was MEP for Birmingham North to 1984, first being elected as MP for Mid-Worcestershire in 1983.

He later moved to be MP for Bromley, winning a 13,000 majority at last year's general election. His death means a by-election will now be held.

As a middle ranking minister in John Major's government, Mr Forth was praised for his sensitive handling of special education.

He was deeply committed to Parliament and in opposition enjoyed weekly jousts with Robin Cook when he was Commons leader.

The pair occasionally deputised at prime minister's questions when Tony Blair and John Prescott were away.

Mr Forth was married twice and had two daughters and one stepson.

He was educated in Glasgow and before entering politics was a manager at firms such as Xerox, Rank, Ford, Deloitte and Dexion.


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A look at the career of Eric Forth




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