Labour stalwart Michael Meacher dies after short illness
Veteran left-wing Labour MP Michael Meacher has died after a short illness, the party said.
The 75-year old former minister, who also served for a long period in the shadow cabinet, died yesterday.
He has represented Oldham since 1970.
Former Labour leader Ed Miliband was among MPs paying tribute to Mr Meacher who he said was "principled, kind, thoughtful and deeply committed to a fairer, more just world".
Green MP Caroline Lucas said Mr Meacher - who served as environment minister for six years under Tony Blair - was a "great politician, championing climate action".
"A really good person, he'll be much missed," she said.
Peter Dean, Mr Meacher's PA and office manager, told the Oldham Evening Chronicle: "We are extremely sad and it has been quite a short illness he has had and we just don't know the details at present.
"He was such a well respected person and we will just try to deal with any problems people in the area have ongoing. We will still try to assist in any way we can.
"We are extremely sad for his family but all of his staff here at his office have worked with him for 20 years so it is almost like a family bereavement for us.
"Our office usually deals with around 5,000 cases every year so he has impacted on an enormous amount of people's lives."
Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, said: "It is with great sadness that we learn of Michael's death. He was a tremendous figure in the Labour movement, devoting his life to the advancement of working people and for that he will always be remembered with deep fondness.
"As a personal friend I always welcomed his views and guidance as well as his optimism and commitment to improving ordinary people's lives. He was a true friend of the trade union movement."
The death means a first by-election for Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, though Mr Meacher increased his majority in May to a very comfortable 14,738.
After leaving a career as a university lecturer to enter national politics, the Oxford classics graduate was a junior minister under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan and elected by MPs to the shadow cabinet every year from 1983 until Labour's return to power under Mr Blair in 1997.
Denied a cabinet position under the new leadership, the left-wing stalwart took on the environment brief where he gave strong support for renewable energy, organic agriculture and steered through Right to Roam legislation.
In 2007 - with 29 years of front bench experience - he c hallenged Gordon Brown for the party leadership when Mr Blair left office but withdrew to allow John McDonnell a clear run.
The author of several books on socialist politics, Mr Meacher - who had two sons and two daughters from his first marriage, to crossbench peer Baroness Meacher - leaves a widow.
Tory MP and London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith - a prominent environmental campaigner - mourned the loss of "a n independent thinker, Parliamentary reformer, committed campaigner and environmental champion".
Friends of the Earth CEO Craig Bennett said: "We're very saddened to hear Michael Meacher has died.
"He was a real champion of green issues who played a significant role in securing better protection for our environment and wildlife.
"As environment minister he really understood the issues, and fought hard for them - often in challenging political circumstances.
"He made a particularly important contribution to finally bringing peat cutting to an end at Thorne and Hatfield Moors, in South Yorkshire, when plenty of other politicians considered it too difficult.
"He will be much missed."