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Labour MP Harry Harpham dies of cancer

Published 05/02/2016

Harry Harpham, a former miner who became a Labour MP, has died of cancer
Harry Harpham, a former miner who became a Labour MP, has died of cancer

Tributes have been paid to Labour MP Harry Harpham, a "proud" former miner who has died after a fight with cancer.

The 61-year-old, who represented Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, was described by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as a "decent man" who was "dedicated to justice for working people".

Mr Harpham entered Parliament at the general election last year after a long career in local public service, including a stint as deputy leader of Sheffield Council.

He was asked for fight for election after former home secretary David Blunkett announced he was standing down, and won the seat with a majority of 13,807.

His political career began as a committed trade unionist member of the NUM who stood firm on the picket line during the miners' strike at the Nottinghamshire pit he worked at.

After becoming an MP he was appointed a parliamentary aide to shadow energy secretary Lisa Nandy.

Mr Corbyn described the loss of the married father-of-five as "extremely sad" and expressed his condolences to his family.

He said: "Harry was a proud socialist who had also been a proud miner.

"He was dedicated to justice for working people and despite the undoubted hardship that his support for the miners' strike would have caused him, as it did many thousands of miners, Harry recently told me he would have done it all again.

"To the very end he was fighting for working people in Parliament. What a decent man he was and he will be sadly missed by all his friends in the Labour Party."

As news of his death emerged on Thursday tributes from the Labour leadership and his parliamentary colleagues quickly followed on Twitter.

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said: "Deeply upset to learn of Harry Harpham's death. Sheffield has lost a wonderful MP. My thoughts are with his family.

Barnsley East MP Michael Dugher said: " So sorry to hear the news about Harry Harpham. Thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Bassetlaw MP John Mann tweeted: " Harry Harpham MP a big loss. Brilliant comrade, always cheerful. A coal miner is the finest traditions of this country. Very many will mourn."

Mr Harpham was diagnosed with cancer after his party's autumn conference last year and was treated in hospital a short time later.

He described himself as an "ordinary bloke who used to work down for the pit for a living" and spoke about how he spent a year on strike at Clipstone Colliery.

Born in Mansfield, he moved to Sheffield in 1985 where he "got a second chance" and studied at Northern college before graduating from the University of Sheffield.

He said joining the Labour party "was a given" and was first elected as a Sheffield City Councillor in 2004.

He championed local schools and community issues and said he was "incredibly proud" of his involvement in expanding council housing.

Mr Harpham leaves behind his wife Gill and children Annie, Kieron, Dan, Emily and Victoria.

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