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
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor