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Tributes are paid as former Bradford MP Marsha Singh dies
Heartfelt tributes flooded in last night after former Bradford West MP Marsha Singh, a “man of the people”, died aged 57.
He stood down from Parliament four months ago for medical reasons after representing the constituency since 1997, winning his seat at four successive General Elections. Bucking Labour’s trend nationally he won 45 per cent of the Bradford West vote in 2010.
Party colleagues, friends and family reacted with shock and sadness after he died yesterday, while on holiday in the Dominican Republic.
Deputy leader of Bradford Council Imran Hussain said he had known Mr Singh for more than 20 years and counted him as a “very dear friend”.
He said: “He was a political ally, a mentor who has had a great influence on my political life.
“Above all he was a very dear friend who shall be greatly missed. He is someone who I know always fought for equality, fairness and justice for all, put his principles before anything else.
“He will be greatly missed by people in Labour and other political spheres, missed by his constituents, who loved him and who he passionately stood for. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Councillor David Green , leader of Bradford Council and the district’s Labour party group, said: “I will remember his fights for justice and how he led the fight against the racism that was around in the district in the 80s and early 90s.”
He said Mr Singh had shown “incredible commitment” to Bradford and its communities. “He loved life but he was committed to the people of the district, particularly those who were less fortunate than he was,” he said.
“He spent his life fighting for justice for everybody, not just in Bradford but throughout the country and internationally. He will be sorely missed.”
Former leader of Bradford Council Ian Greenwood said he had known Mr Singh for 30 years.
He said: “Marsha Singh was an understanding local MP and a proud Bradfordian who always served his constituency well. Unfortunately he has suffered ill health, which he has fought with fortitude and courage, and he will be missed by all who knew him.”
Gerry Sutcliffe, Labour MP for Bradford South, said: “I know he has had a troubled time with illness but it is a shock, someone relatively young who has worked so hard for people.”
Asked why he thought Mr Singh’s constituents had voted for him he said: “I think his charm and attention to detail in terms of what he wanted to do on behalf of people who he represented. He was a strong voice for people in Bradford West and he was a nice guy. He will be sadly missed by lots of people, people were sad to see him step down and they will be even more shocked now he has gone. I cannot speak too highly of him.”
Paul Meszaros, parliamentary election agent to Mr Singh in 2010, said: “He was from a minority background in Bradford West, being a Sikh candidate, but people loved him. People came out to vote for Marsha. It was the measure of the man. Marsha cared about people, he cared about Bradford and the people in Bradford and how people lived.
“He didn’t go glory hunting down in Parliament, he wasn’t trying to look after himself down there. He was a man of the people, he could sit and chat with anybody.”
Idris Bashir was a campaign co-ordinator and a former schoolmate of Mr Singh. He said: “We are all going to miss him, the people of Bradford will miss him, he used to get people from all over the country asking for his assistance. “ Mr Bashir was with members of Mr Singh’s family after they learned of his death yesterday.
The former MP is survived by his wife, daughter Hardev and son Ravinder, and four grandchildren.
Mr Singh’s daughter said the family was very proud of his legacy. “It has been a terrible shock, he is going to be sorely missed, we loved him,” she said. “He was a huge man for Bradford, a huge man in our lives too. He was a great grandad, a great dad to myself and my brother. He had four grandaughters who were crushed, we all were.
“We are very proud of his achievements and proud of the man he was. He was a man of utter principles to the end, he wanted to fight for his beliefs. He believed in the Labour Party and the political movement and he fought for it all his life.”
She said Mr Singh’s family would be at 2, Hallfield Road, off Lumb Lane, today, a community building, where they would welcome anyone who wanted to pay their respects.
Former Labour MP Ann Cryer said: “I was very fond of him, he was one of the nicer people in Parliament. He was extremely pleasant and did his best under frequently difficult circumstances.”
Bradford restaurateur Omar Khan was a close friend of Mr Singh. He said: “He was a gentlemen who went out of his way to help anybody and everybody.”
Mr Khan, who said he received a text message from Mr Singh shortly before he died asking him to say goodbye to everybody for him, described his friend as “a gem”.
“He was the most decent MP you could ever come across,” he said.
Dr Abdul Bary Malik, of Bradford's Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, said: “We were all very saddened. I personally had known him for almost 30 years. He was a true Bradfordian who was completely dedicated to Bradford and its citizens.”
A statement on behalf of the Respect Party, whose leader George Galloway took the Bradford West seat in a by-election in March, expressed its “heartfelt condolences”.
Speaking to the Telegraph & Argus when he stepped down earlier this year, Mr Singh said one of the highlights of his career was steering through private member’s legislation, restricting the amount of capital a local authority can take into account when deciding whether someone is entitled to residential accommodation. He had been a member of the Labour party since 1974.