HONOURS Kaufman 1...STRICTLY EMBARGOED TO 0001 SATURDAY JUNE 11 File photo dated 20/01/2000 og Gerald Kaufman who has been awarded a Knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours. See PA HONOURS story. PA Photo
Gerald Kaufman at 86 was the oldest serving MP in the Commons © PA

Sir Gerald Kaufman, the oldest serving MP, has died aged 86.

The Father of the House of Commons died on Sunday evening having been ill for several months, his family said.

The Labour politician was first elected as Manchester Ardwick MP in 1970 before becoming Manchester Gorton MP after constituency boundary changes in 1983 until his death.

Jeremy Corbyn led the tributes. The Labour leader described Sir Gerald as an “iconic and irascible” figure with “dandy clothes” who “loved life and politics”.

Sir Gerald’s family announced his death “with great sadness”, saying: “Sir Gerald had been suffering from a long-term illness for several months, but, in that time, remained firmly committed to, and focused on, the activities and wellbeing of his beloved constituency, which he had served since first elected in 1970.

“Sir Gerald dedicated his life to serving those who he believed would benefit most from a Labour government and Labour values in action.

“He believed that policy and principle without power were simply not enough to deliver the better life that he fought for on behalf of his constituents for almost 50 years.

“Though Sir Gerald had many friends and supporters in Manchester and across the world from his work on many campaigns and causes, he was in essence a private man.

“There will be a further opportunity for those who wish to pay tribute to the contribution of this great socialist and parliamentarian in due course.

“For now, his family request that his dignity and integrity be honoured through respectful reflection.”

Sir Gerald was a frontbencher during Labour’s years in opposition in the 1980s and 1990s and would have commanded a senior cabinet post had his party not lost its fourth election in a row in 1992.

But after that defeat and then at the age of 61, Kaufman decided not to stand again for the shadow cabinet and returned to the backbenches to pursue an active career there, as well as becoming chairman of the key National Heritage Select Committee, later to become the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, with the arrival of Labour in power.

The son of a tailor, he was educated at Cowper Street Council School, Leeds, and Leeds Grammar School. Later, he graduated at Queens College, Oxford.

Sir Gerald worked on the political staff of the Daily Mirror and the New Statesman, and also appeared on That Was The Week That Was in the early 1960s, the first satirical anti-establishment programme on TV.

He fought some hopeless seats, including opposing Harold Macmillan at Bromley in 1955, before entering parliament in 1970.

When Labour regained power from Edward Heath in 1974, Sir Gerald became under secretary for environment and a year later was promoted to minister of state for industry, a post he held until Margaret Thatcher swept Labour out of office in 1979.

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