Tributes have been paid by Prime Minister David Cameron after the death of a former regional press journalist who became a well-known MP.
Sir Stuart Bell, left, Labour MP for Middlesbrough since 1983, died on Saturday at the age of 74 after a short battle with cancer.
After leaving school at the age of 16, the miner’s son became a clerk in a colliery office before joining the now-defunct Blaydon Courier as a junior journalist.
Sir Stuart later became a freelance journalist and worked as a copytaker and typist for the Daily Telegraph, carrying out shorthand training in a bit to reach 150 words per minute with the aim of becoming a Hansard reporter.
But he gave up this aim and instead moved to Paris to write novels, teaching himself law and opening his own offices in the French capital, before returning to the UK in 1977 to pursue a full-time career in politics.
Teesside’s Evening Gazette published an exclusive final interview with Sir Stuart on Monday, along with a host of tributes to him.
Mr Cameron said: “Throughout his three decades in the House of Commons, he always stood up for those issues he cared most deeply about.
“A firm advocate of church matters as Second Church Estates Commissioner for 13 years, and a member of the House of Commons Commission over a very challenging decade, he will be remembered for his kindness and his courtesy towards parliamentary colleagues.
“My thoughts go out to Stuart’s wife, Margaret, and his family at this very sad time.”
Labour leader Ed Miliband added: “Sir Stuart’s death will come as a huge blow to his family and many friends and colleagues.
“He spent the long years of opposition fighting for the Labour Party to regain power and championed throughout his life the many causes that were close to his heart.”
Sir Stuart was elected MP for Middlesbrough in 1983 after time as a councillor at Newcastle City Council and has held a number of positions in Parliament since then, while continuing to write books.
He was shadow minister for Trade and Corporate Affairs for five years and chairman of the Finance and Services Select Committee between 1999 and 2010.
Sir Stuart also put his political career on hold for five years to fight for the families involved in the Cleveland child abuse crisis.