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Tribute to Tony Lloyd

Tony Lloyd: 25 February 1950 – 17 January 2024 | Image courtesy of UK Parliament

4 min read

Labour MP, minister, mayor, councillor and police and crime commissioner, Tony Lloyd held many roles in his 45 years in political life. A man of seemingly limitless patience and restraint, he was always very much his own man

Tony Lloyd was both my friend and predecessor-but-one as chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party (Dave Watts, now Lord Watts, served as chair between Tony’s term and my term).

I don’t think it is being indiscreet to say that Tony had a fairly lively time as chair. He took over the role in 2006 during the height of the battle between the followers of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. While Tony was seen as a Brownite he was always very much his own man but he got through those years because he always seemed to have virtually limitless patience. I don’t think I ever saw Tony lose his temper in all the decades I knew him.

He stood down as chair of the PLP and as an MP in 2012 to become the Greater Manchester police and crime commissioner. He also served as the interim mayor of Greater Manchester before returning to the Commons at the 2017 general election.

By the end of his life, he had represented the Manchester region in the Commons for 40 years, serving under Neil Kinnock, John Smith, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband, Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer.

Tony was born in Stretford on 25 February 1950 to Sydney, a printer, and Cecily, a very staunch Labour supporter. It is said, although I never heard this from Tony, that at the age of 14 he walked into the local Labour campaign offices in Manchester to offer his services.

Tony’s family largely came from Ireland during his grandparents’ time and he often used to quote his Irish grandfather.

Tony attended Stretford Grammar school for Boys, and then went to the University of Nottingham before returning to the University of Salford to become a lecturer in business studies. He became a Trafford councillor in 1979 and became deputy leader of the Labour group.

He was first elected an MP in 1983 at the age of only 33. He then became the MP for Manchester Central in 1997 when the boundaries changed.

The Labour Party ran through Tony's DNA

Tony held a number of roles during Labour’s opposition years including that of a whip before covering the transport, employment, environment and foreign affairs portfolios. Following Labour’s victory at the 1997 election, he then became a government minister at the Foreign Office.

While the Labour Party ran through Tony’s DNA, he nevertheless found himself in opposition to some Labour policies including the Iraq War and the introduction of tuition fees.

He returned to the shadow cabinet in 2018 as shadow Northern Ireland secretary but stepped down in 2020 due to poor health.

He suffered a very bad bout of Covid and was on life support for 10 days. In 2021 he was then diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer from which he went into remission after chemotherapy. When I last saw Tony, just before Christmas, he seemed to be on fine form but he announced last week that the cancer had returned and was untreatable.

A statement from Tony’s family said that he “was working until a few days before his death as his passion was helping others. He devoted his life to serving and making a difference to the lives he met including his constituents, colleagues, friends and family”.

Keir Starmer commented: “We will always be grateful for his dedication to public life, his devotion to his country and his desire to make the world a better, fairer place.”

He is survived by his wife, Judith, whom he married in 1974, their four children and two granddaughters.

I know that I will miss Tony. The House of Commons will not seem the same and many of us would do well to follow his example of patience and restraint.

John Cryer is Labour MP for Leyton and Wanstead

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