Hundreds gather to honour Anthony Bevins

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Leading figures from politics and journalism gathered in Westminster yesterday for a memorial service to Anthony Bevins, the first political editor of The Independent.

More than 300 people attended the service at St John's, Smith Square. Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mo Mowlam, the BBC political editor and former Independent editor, Andrew Marr, backbench MPs Robert Marshall-Andrews and Richard Shepherd, the historian Professor Peter Hennessy, and The Times feature writer Ann Treneman spoke and gave readings, along with Bevins' children, Rabi and Nandini.

Bevins died in March, aged 59, just three days after the equally sudden death of his wife Mishtu, whom he met while doing voluntary service in India.

Ms Mowlam said she trusted Bevins as a friend and consulted him before deciding to leave Parliament. She said his dedication and tenacity led to exclusives, such as the news that the last Tory government had begun secret talks with the IRA, which she said had helped the peace process.

"That did not please the establishment at the time one little bit, but in the end it did make a difference in Northern Ireland," she said.

Mr Prescott praised Bevins' independence, thirst for facts, and "insatiable appetite for mischief". He recalled how when he was in trouble politically, his friend would telephone with encouragement, although he added that Bevins would not hesitate to ask difficult questions.

Mr Marr described Bevins as "one of the century's most remarkable political journalists", while Mr Marshall-Andrews said his professional courage was blended with "humanity and astonishing generosity". Mr Shepherd said he would puncture pretension with his blunt questioning.