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Labour MP Jack Dromey died suddenly in his flat in his Birmingham constituency on Friday, the shadow minister’s family said.
MPs from across the political spectrum paid tribute to the 73-year-old former leading trade unionist and sent their condolences to his wife, the party grandee Harriet Harman.
The father-of-three, who had represented Birmingham Erdington since 2010, is understood to have died from natural causes, having contributed to a Parliament debate as recently as Thursday.
Sir Keir Starmer remembered Mr Dromey, who was the deputy general secretary of the Unite union before becoming an MP, as having “dedicated his life to standing up for working people”.
“From supporting the strike at the Grunwick film processing laboratory, when he met Harriet, through to being elected to represent Birmingham Erdington in 2010, Jack lived his commitment to social justice every day,” the Labour leader said.
“Jack was recognised for his determination to stand up for his constituents and he was highly respected and warmly regarded across Parliament.
Former prime minister Sir Tony Blair said the MP had “dedicated his life to the service of others” as a “complete stalwart of the Labour and trade union movement”.
The former Labour leader said: “He was also hugely likeable, a very popular colleague and well respected by all who worked with him. Cherie joins me in sending profound condolences to Harriet and all the family.”
Our dad – Jack – died suddenly today.
We loved him so, so much.
Rest in peace big man x pic.twitter.com/g8S6I4jBHy
— Joe Dromey (@Joe_Dromey) January 7, 2022
One of Mr Dromey and Ms Harman’s sons, Joe Dromey, shared pictures of his father on Twitter as he mourned his death.
“We loved him so, so much,” he wrote. “Rest in peace big man x.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “Deeply saddened to hear of the death of Jack Dromey MP. My thoughts are with Harriet and the family, and all those who knew him as a friend. May he rest in peace.”
Westminster was stunned by the announcement of Mr Dromey’s death, in a statement issued on behalf of his family.
“Jack Dromey MP died suddenly this morning aged 73 in his flat in Erdington,” it read. “He was a much loved husband, father and grandfather, and he will be greatly missed.”
On Thursday, Mr Dromey contributed to a Westminster Hall debate on Afghan refugees in his role as a shadow Home Office minister, to which he was appointed last month.
Born in London in 1948, he had three children with Ms Harman, the former deputy Labour leader who announced last month she will stand down as an MP after the next general election.
They married in 1982.
Former prime minister Gordon Brown paid tribute to Mr Dromey as a “great humanitarian who never stopped fighting for social justice” and said he will be “sorely missed”.
Mr Dromey joined the Labour frontbench as shadow housing minister in 2010 under then-leader Ed Miliband.
Mr Miliband described him as a “heroic fighter for working people”, adding: “He was fearless in the face of the most powerful and tireless in the pursuit of the causes that mattered.”
Mr Dromey also served on the frontbench under Jeremy Corbyn despite supporting Owen Smith in his attempt to replace the then-Labour leader.
Mr Corbyn said he was “shocked at the sad loss” of Mr Dromey, remembering his work for the Transport and General Workers’ Union and on the Grunwick dispute for workers’ rights in the 1970s.
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: “We are all in disbelief that the life-force that was Jack Dromey has died – this is another sad day for the House and a bad start to the year.
“He was a great guy, down to Earth, always positive and always looking to support and save jobs.
“At his heart he was a devoted husband, father and grandfather – so all our thoughts go to Harriet and the rest of the family at this very sad time.”
Tributes also came from trade unions, with Unite general secretary Sharon Graham saying: “Jack dedicated his life to fighting for workers and against injustice. His dedication to the Labour movement should inspire us in today’s struggles.”
At the 2019 general election, Mr Dromey defended his seat by 3,601 over the Conservatives in second place. His death means there will be a by-election to select the constituency’s next MP.