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Paul Boateng, Home Office minister and friend
"That was Bernie, he loved parliament"
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Saturday, 8 April, 2000, 22:58 GMT 23:58 UK
PM leads Bernie Grant tributes
Bernie grant
Bernie Grant was a respected campaigner
Prime Minister Tony Blair has led the tributes to Bernie Grant, one of the country's first black MPs, who has died of a heart attack, aged 56.

His contribution to race relations in this country has been huge.

Jack Straw
Home Secretary
Mr Blair said the controversial MP for Tottenham had been an inspiration to black people, and described news of his death as "a dreadful shock".

Mr Grant rose to national attention in the mid-1980s for controversial remarks which appeared to defend some of the rioters' actions during the Broadwater Farm riots in his constituency.

But fellow MPs have paid tribute to him as a fighter who never stopped championing of the rights of oppressed minorities.

The MP's office said he died at the Middlesex Hospital in London at 0730 BST on Saturday, prompting a flood of cross-party tributes to his determination and kindness.

'Powerful contribution'

The Prime Minister said: "He was someone for whom I had immense respect and affection.

Tony Blair
Tony Blair: "Dreadful shock"
"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 added: "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."

Home Secretary Jack Straw said: "I am deeply shocked by Bernie Grant's death and I send my sincere condolences to Sharon, his wife, and his family.

"I had the privilege of becoming a good friend of Bernie's in recent years. He was a man of great courage, a fighter for the causes in which he believed.

"His contribution to race relations in this country has been huge."

'Loved and respected'

As Haringey council leader in 1985 Mr Grant observed in the aftermath of the Tottenham riots: "The youths around here believe the police were to blame for what happened on Sunday and what they got was a bloody good hiding."

A champion of the opressed
He always protested he was only summing up the rioters' views, as he was trying to persuade crowds of youths not to provoke further trouble.

In recent years, he remained a strong advocate of black and ethnic minority rights, but was perceived to have mellowed in his views.

Labour former minister Harriet Harman said: "Black people in my constituency loved and respected Bernie because he was the authentic voice of both their concerns and their hopes for a better future.

"To me he was a true friend and I will miss him dearly."

Harriet Harman: "Bernie was authentic voice"
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."

Mr Grant had had a long-standing kidney complaint and had been in hospital overnight. But his family believed he had been recovering well.

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See also:

08 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Labour MP Bernie Grant dies
08 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Bernie Grant: A controversial figure
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