BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK Politics
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Paul Boateng, Home Office minister and friend
"That was Bernie, he loved parliament"
 real 28k

The BBC's Kurt Barling
"He continued to champion the rights of minority groups"
 real 28k

Saturday, 8 April, 2000, 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK
Labour MP Bernie Grant dies

Grant campaigned against racism
One of Britain's first black MPs, Bernie Grant, has died aged 56.

The controversial, Guyana-born MP was famous for his left-wing views and campaigned against all forms of racism.

Bernie was an inspiration to black people throughout the country

Prime Minister Tony Blair
When, in 1985, rioting broke out in his constituency, Mr Grant appeared to defend some of the rioters' actions.

The remarks led to him being dubbed "Barmy Bernie" - a nickname he found difficult to shake off.

Mr Grant's office said he died at the Middlesex Hospital in London at 7.30am on Saturday, following a heart attack.

He had had a long-standing kidney complaint and had been in hospital overnight. But his familiy believed he had been recovering well.
Tottenham riots
Rioting broke out in Mr Grant's constituency
Mr Grant, who had been MP for Tottenham in north London since 1987, was particularly close to his constituents.

Political observers say he was criticised for his vehement views, but felt a duty to speak up for ethnic minorities.

He had a reputation for being anti-police, believing that they treated blacks unfairly.

Last year, he called for Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Condon, to take early retirement following a damning report into the inquiry on the Stephen Lawrence murder.

After the row over the rioting, he always protested that he was only summing up people's point of view, and had made the remarks while attempting to persuade crowds of youths not to provoke further trouble.

Blair's tribute

Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "He was someone for whom I had immense respect and affection.
Mr Grant at the opening of Parliament in 1996
"He was a dedicated and diligent constituency MP who worked tirelessly for the less well-off, whose commitment to social justice was unwavering and who also made a powerful contribution to development issues.

"He advised me regularly on issues relating to development and on our relations with Caribbean countries.

"He was someone who always made efforts to understand and respect other people's point of view.

"Bernie was also an inspiration to black people throughout the country. One day I hope it will be commonplace to have black and Asian MPs at Westminster.

"When that happens, it will in no small measure be a tribute to Bernie Grant and the inspirational lead he gave."

Widow mourns

Mr Grant leaves a wife, Sharon, who was also his personal assistant, and three sons.

He had a huge heart and I guess that he just wore it out

Widow Sharon Grant
Mrs Grant said: "Bernie touched the lives of so many people in a lifetime's work as both a national and local politician, and there will be great sadness today.

"We have lost a great fighter and a champion of justice for oppressed people everywhere.

"He had a huge heart and I guess that he just wore it out."

Home Office Minister Paul Boateng said: "A tireless fighter in the struggle for racial justice, his was an authentic and fearless voice in the black cause.

"He will leave a gaping chasm in the political firmament."

Conservative Party chairman Michael Ancram said: "Bernie Grant brought a special style to politics and was a respected member of the House of Commons. "He will be missed. We send our thoughts and condolences to his family."

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

08 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Bernie Grant: A controversial figure
Links to other UK Politics stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK Politics stories