'A man of great integrity' - tributes paid to long-serving Sheffield MP Bill Michie

Bill Michie making his acceptance speech in 1997 (photo: Sharron Bennett)
Bill Michie making his acceptance speech in 1997 (photo: Sharron Bennett)
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Tributes have been paid to long-serving Sheffield MP Bill Michie, with one friend and former colleague praising him as a 'man of great integrity'.

The Labour politician represented Heeley in parliament from 1983 to 2001, and served as councillor for Brightside ward from 1970 to 1984.

Bill Michie addresses a rate-capping demonstration in Sheffield

Bill Michie addresses a rate-capping demonstration in Sheffield

The staunch trade-unionist was a contemporary of politicians including David Blunkett and Richard Caborn, and shared their fierce opposition to Margaret Thatcher's policies which saw the region dubbed the People's Republic of South Yorkshire.

He died suddenly this morning at Northern General Hospital, aged 81, four days after being admitted with what was believed to be a serious chest infection.

Former Labour MP Richard Caborn, who was first elected to parliament in the same year as Mr Michie, described him as a 'very dear friend'.

"Bill had strong values and was a man of great integrity," he said.

Bill Michie with David Blunkett and Alan Billings in 1980 during a quiz between city councillors and traders from The Moor

Bill Michie with David Blunkett and Alan Billings in 1980 during a quiz between city councillors and traders from The Moor

"He was always on the left of the party, always on the side of the minorities.

"He was a strong Methodist, who was a preacher in his early years, and he was driven by his driven as much by his moral convictions from his religious beliefs as by his ideological ones as a member of the Labour Party.

"He genuinely tried to change the city and the country for the better for ordinary people and he told me many times what an honour it was to represent Heeley in the House of Commons."

Mr Michie worked for the British Steel Corporation and it was as a member of the Amalgamated Engineering Union that he began his political career, said Mr Caborn.

The devoted Sheffield Wednesday fan, who lived for many years in Nether Edge, was never afraid to stand up for his beliefs, even risking prison by refusing on principle to pay his poll tax while an MP.

He also once refused to open a mural on an underpass in Sheffield as he objected to the inclusion of actor John Wayne, whom he considered too right wing. His stand that day led to him receiving death threats from America and even requiring a police escort to the pub.

Mr Michie's time on Sheffield Council included a nine-year spell as chief whip and seven years as chair of planning. He also sat on South Yorkshire County Council from 1973-1986.

Clive Betts, MP for Sheffield South East, served on Sheffield Council with Mr Michie during the 70s and 80s.

"Bill was Labour through and through, and Sheffield through and through. He will be remembered for his enormous commitment and contribution to Sheffield," he said.

"He'd been brought up in the steel industry, knew the industry and had a great commitment to it. It ran through his veins as Labour and socialism did.

"He always had a passion for tackling inequality and injustice, which he retained when he went into parliament.

"But although he had very strong beliefs, he always went about expressing those in a reasoned and appropriate manner. He would never try to bully people or shout them down."

Lord Blunkett described his former party colleague as a 'remarkable man'.

"Bill was not just a political comrade but a friend over many years," he said.

"We could have the most enormous political disagreements, and then give each other a hug. We could disagree on the direction of the Labour party but still respect each other's views. We could, in other words, practice what we were preaching to others.

"Bill was a remarkable man who made a tremendous contribution both on Sheffield City council and as Member of Parliament for Sheffield Healy, the well being of those around him. He will be remembered with both affection and respect, and his death will bring to many of us sadness and sorrow."

Mr Michie was married to Judith, who died last year. He had two sons Simon and Jonathon by a previous marriage.