Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is leading tributes to Sheffield MP Harry Harpham who lost a battle with cancer yesterday at the age of 61.
Mr Harpham, who was elected as the Labour MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough in May last year, was diagnosed with cancer just a few months later.
Today tributes from the political world are pouring in, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn describing the city MP as a ‘decent man’ who fought for working people until the end.
Only recently he challenged Prime Minister David Cameron over job losses at Forgemasters in Sheffield and the future of the steel industry.
Mr Harpham was a former miner who went out on strike for a year during the national miners’ strike in the mid 1980s.
A book of condolence has been opened at Sheffield Town Hall for members of the public to pay their respects.
Labour leader Mr Corbyn said: “The news of the death of Harry Harpham is extremely sad and I send my deepest condolences to his family.
“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. “Harry was able to use his background and experience in energy to serve Labour in the Shadow Department for Energy and Climate Change and I was proud that he agreed to serve in our team.
“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.”
Mr Harpham, a father-of-five and a grandfather, disclosed that he was battling cancer in December and that he was undergoing chemotherapy at Sheffield’s Weston Park Hospital, but playing down the condition he said: “I don’t want to make a big song and dance about it.”
Julie Dore, Leader of Sheffield City Council, said: “It’s difficult to express in words how sad this news is. I feel privileged to have known and worked alongside Harry, he was not only a loyal colleague but a valued friend, who dedicated his life to fighting for what he believed in..”
John Mothersole, Chief Executive of Sheffield City Council, said: “We are extremely sad to learn of the death of Harry Harpham MP and former deputy leader of Sheffield City Council. Harry was a very well-liked and respected colleague and friend, and a true fighter for Sheffield people. Our thoughts go out to his family at this very sad time.”
Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott used Twitter to pay tribute to Mr Harpham.
He said: “The people of Sheffield have lost a real champion in Harry Harpham. From Darnall to Westminster he spoke for them. A voice silenced too soon.”
South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, said the speed of Mr Harpham’s decline had been a shock.
“I was very distressed to hear that Harry had died. We knew he was ill, but the suddenness of his death has been a great shock,” he said
“Although Harry had only been MP for Brightside and Hillsborough for a very short period, he had already been incredibly busy on behalf of constituents. He was in touch quite recently to arrange for us both to walk the beat of some city centre Police Community Support Officers, whose work he championed.
“Harry, as a former miner at Clipstone Colliery, was one of that very rare breed - a genuinely working class MP.
“Harry always had a friendly and cheerful smile. He will be greatly missed by his many friends both in the Labour Party and the city.”
“Harry was a very well-liked and respected colleague and friend, and a true fighter for Sheffield people. Our thoughts go out to his family at this very sad time.”
Using Twitter to pay his respects, Barnsley MP Dan Jarvis said: “Very sad to hear Harry Harpham has died. Sheffield has lost a decent man and a fine MP. Thoughts are with his family.”
Also paying tribute on social media, Bassetlaw MP John Mann, said: “Harry Harpham MP a big loss. Brilliant comrade, always cheerful. A coal miner is the finest traditions of this country. Very many will mourn.”
Barnsley East MP Michael Dugher said: “So sorry to hear the news about Harry Harpham. Thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Former Labour frontbencher Yvette Cooper, who served in the cabinet during Gordon Brown’s reign as Prime Minister, said: “Terribly sorry to hear the sad news about Harry Harpham, a big loss to Sheffield. Thoughts with all family and friends.”
Also using Twitter, Doncaster Council’s chief executive, Jo Miller, described Mr Harpham as a ‘lovely man’ who was ‘committed to the people of Sheffield’.
Labour MP for Wentworth and Dearne, John Healey, added: “So sad to learn of Harry Harpham’s death; it robs his family and us all of a very good man...a totally dedicated MP who wanted only to serve.”
South Yorkshire Police also paid tribute to the MP, with Superintendent Paul McCurry, describing Mr Harpham as ‘a lovely person’.
“My thoughts are with his friends and family,” he added.
Posting on Twitter today, Angela Rayner, Ashton-under-Lyne MP, said: “So sorry to hear of the death of my parliamentary colleague Harry Harpham MP, my thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time.”
Oldham MP Jim McMahon added: “Thoughts with family and friends of Harry Harpham. Very sad news.”
West Bromwich East MP Tom Watson said: “Deeply upset to learn of Harry Harpham’s death. Sheffield has lost a wonderful MP. My thoughts are with his family.”
Chester MP Chris Matheson said Mr Harpham’s House of Commons debate with Prime Minster David Cameron two weeks ago, showed he was ‘always fighting for Sheffield’.
“My friend Harry Harpham MP has died. A truly decent man, proud socialist and as he showed in PMQs 2 weeks ago, always fighting for Sheffield,” he posted on Twitter.
Oliver Coppard, who stood for election for Labour against Nick Clegg in the Hallam ward last year, said on Twitter: “So sorry to hear the news about Harry Harpham. He was a rare gentleman in politics, the best of the Labour Party and a fighter for Sheffield.”
A constituent said: “There are no words to offer at the shock of the death of Harry Harpham, only our condolences.
“He was one of us as we queued at Firth Park to meet Mr Blunkett over the years of time. Rain snow or blow Harry gave his all for the public and was a familiar figure to us as we waited patiently to meet Mr Blunkett.”
Rest In Peace Harry for you will be missed in Sheffield far more than many politicians from West Minster.
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 became an MP after David Blunkett announced he was standing down, and won the seat with a majority of 13,807.
His political career began as a 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.