Del Singh: Activist and prospective Labour MEP who worked in the world's danger zones helping to speed up redevelopment

 

Dharmender Singh Phangurha was a prospective Labour MEP whose promising political career was cut tragically short in a Taliban suicide attack at a restaurant in Kabul. Del Singh, as he was better known, was one of two Britons killed along with 19 others, including senior UN officials, US workers, eight Afghan dignitaries and members of staff of the popular restaurant, La Taverna du Liban, in what was described as the "deadliest violence against foreign civilians" in Afghanistan since the start of the war nearly 13 years ago.

Singh, an international development specialist and a regular visitor to the area over the last six years, was working for the international advisory firm Adam Smith International, supporting the Afghan budget department in Kabul. He was ensuring that rules and procedures were being implemented and were in place in order to speed up construction and redevelopment work.

Although he had had a narrow escape on a previous visit, when the house he was sleeping in was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, Singh remained steadfast in his desire to return to help promote peace. The Labour leader Ed Miliband said of him: "Del had dedicated his life to working with people across the world who needed his support."

Over the last decade Singh had travelled to a number of conflict zones to help with EU and UN project development work because, according to his sister Dishi, "he loved his work and wanted to see a more peaceful world". His experience of managing in post-conflict countries had taken him to such locations as Kosovo, Libya, Sudan, Palestine and Sierra Leone.

Born in Southampton General Hospital in December 1974, Del Singh was the second of four children born to Amrick and Kulvir, Sikh émigrés in the late 1960s-early 1970s from the Punjab. His parents, who worked in local factories, believed that education was of paramount importance for success in life and imparted a strict work ethic to their children; Del proudly worked alongside his mother at the Kipling factory in Eastleigh during his school holidays.

Singh was educated at Cantell Secondary School, where he worked hard to complete a BTEC National Diploma in Business & Finance with distinction. In 1993 he began a Business Studies degree at London Guildhall University, during which time he studied in Belgium as part of the Erasmus exchange programme – an experience that sparked his interest in politics. Completing his degree, he embarked on a Masters in European Studies at the London School of Economics; during this time he worked part-time for the then Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott at the House of Commons.

In 2000 Singh gained first-hand experience of the work of the EU when he completed an internship at the European Parliament in Brussels. This was followed swiftly by work as the Acting Budget Committee Coordinator and work as a European Policy Adviser with British Business Bureau.

From 2002-04 Singh worked as an adviser to the European Mission in Kosovo, where he helped develop the first economic national plan for the country. In 2006 he went to Sudan, where he managed a European Commission aid development programme and also worked on projects in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Libya, Nepal, and Palestine funded by the UN and Department for International Development (DFID). More recently he had worked as an independent election observer for the world's largest security-oriented inter-governmental organisation, The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, on a mission to Macedonia.

Closer to home, Singh, working on a voluntary basis, supported a homeless charity and mentored job seekers at the Careers Development Group with both organisations subsequently benefiting from the EU Social Fund. He also served for a number of years on the board of Care International UK and the Labour Friends of Palestine group.

Passionate about his home town and his local community, Singh campaigned for the Labour party in every election from 1992, helping Southampton MPs John Denham and Alan Whitehead gain their seats. The latter described him as "an extraordinary asset to Labour in Southampton", which included supporting "community campaigns across the city".

Denham added, "Del was an inspirational man and simply one of the nicest people you could meet… Everything he did – delivering development aid in some of the world's most dangerous places or representing the Labour Party – was driven by a passion to make a real difference to people's lives."

Singh had hoped to use his wealth of domestic and international experience to gain selection as a prospective parliamentary candidate for the 2010 or possibly 2015 general elections but was unsuccessful. He was  selected as an MEP candidate for the European Parliament elections in May and had a steely determination to take on UKIP and the Conservatives while connecting with voters and trying to get the best for his region from Europe. His fellow Labour MEP candidate Anneliese Dodds said, "Del was a very generous, warm-hearted man who was passionate about ending injustice and unfairness."

In the free time available, Singh enjoyed squash and cricket, but it was running that allowed him to carry on with his mantra of "putting others first", and he ran marathons in Gaza and Bethlehem to raise funds for children's organisations and the Labour Friends of Palestine group. He is survived by his partner Komal Adris, his mother and his three sisters, Bally, Dishi and Ruby.

Dharmender Singh Phangurha, politician and international consultant: born Southampton 20 December 1974; partner to Komal Idris; died Kabul 17 January 2014.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border