Obituary: Paul Sood

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The Independent Online
Paul Sood was a man who attracted affection and controversy in equal measure, who was as well-known by the poorest Hindu as by the most notable politician. Despite rising to become one of Leicester's most senior political figures, he never ceased also being one of the Hindu community's most energetic representatives, as vice-president of the Hindu Council of Leicestershire, as founding secretary of the Indian Passport Holders Association, as a founder of the Leicester Asian Business Association and of the British Indian Councillors Association.

Sood was one of the first Asians in Britain to become a councillor, and recruited many other British Indians to become Labour Party members, inspiring some of them to follow his example by being elected to public office. He had been a councillor in Leicester for 12 years, first on Leicestershire County Council, then, a year ago, on Leicester City Council, and most recently, just six days before he died, on Leicester's new unitary authority.

He was born in the Indian Punjab in 1942, the son of a leading Congress politician, and never forgot his background. Throughout his political life he insisted that the Punjab was an integral part of India, and fell out with some Sikhs as a result. But he was also one of the Indian High Commission's closest allies in British politics, and it was his influence with the Commission that established visa surgeries in Leicester - a facility that thousands in the city will continue to thank him for.

After graduating as an engineer at Trent Polytechnic, he became an active trade unionist as a member of the ASTMS (the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs), before leaving engineering to start his own business, first as an insurance broker and then as a travel agent.

Paul Sood was never a man to be quiet, and seldom considered political strategies. Instead, he shouted when he was sure he was right, and persisted when he was ignored. Although he never achieved the political heights that his talents deserved (though he did chair Leicestershire council's powerful urban policies committee for some years), Sood had a major impact on Leicester's politics for over a decade.

On several occasions he attempted to become an MP, and never doubted that he should have been selected as Labour's parliamentary candidate for Leicester East in 1987. But his bitter 10-year feud with the successful candidate, Keith Vaz, owed more to political disagreements than Sood's disappointment.

Shortly before his death Paul Sood announced that he was seeking Labour's nomination for the Leicester West parliamentary seat. Although he had only an outside chance of success, Sood was never a person to give up a fight just because the odds were against him. He told his friends that he had to stand to make sure that there was an Asian in the contest, and that the left of the party had a candidate to vote for.

Paul Sood never spared himself, despite problems with heart disease. He would have wanted to be judged against his final words: "I am only here to serve the community."

Paul Gosling

Vijay Paul Sood, politician and community activist: born Punjab, India 7 July 1942; married (two sons); died Leicester 8 May 1996.