Mr Boyce, who had been waiting for a heart transplant, was 46 and was part of the new 1992 intake after taking over from Stan Crowther. He held the seat with a 17,561 majority.
Although the by-election will make no difference to the Government's 17-strong majority because it is in safe Labour territory, it will be unwelcome to the Tories - struggling in the polls - because it presents the unpleasant possibility of coming third if there is a sizeable swing against them or a particularly low turnout. The Tories were a low second in April 1992 with just over 10,000 votes and the Liberal Democrats third with 5,000.
The spectacle of the Tories coming third - in the midst of the local and European election campaign would be an added blow to the party.
Contrary to some suggestions in Westminster last night, the by-election will not necessarily be a test of Labour's new - and controversial - policy of insisting on women candidates in half the marginal and safe seats. The National Executive has the right to impose candidates on a constituency in a by-election.Reuse content