MP Ashok Kumar found dead

Tributes were paid to the Labour MP Ashok Kumar today after he was found dead at his constituency home. Anxious staff raised the alarm after being unable to contact Dr Kumar, 53, who was only the fifth Asian to be elected to Parliament since the Second World War.



He was discovered sitting in his chair in Marton, Middlesbrough, by officers who were called to the redbrick semi-detached house at lunchtime. He was not known to have been unwell. A post-mortem examination was due to take place tonight and police said they were investigating it as a “sudden accidental death”. Sources indicated that it was not thought to be suspicious at this stage.

Dr Kumar was a parliamentary aide to the Environment Secretary Hilary Benn and had represented Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland since 1997, winning with a majority of 8,000 at the most recent general election in 2005. His death is unlikely to lead to a by-election because of the forthcoming general election which is expected to be held in May.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was “greatly saddened” by the news. “He was a tenacious campaigner for his constituents and a warm and incredibly generous man,” he said.

Mr Benn praised his aide as “a pioneer, a doughty fighter for his constituents and a Labour man through and through who cared deeply for others.” Commons Speaker John Bercow announced news of his death to MPs.

Before becoming an MP, Dr Kumar was a research fellow at Imperial College, London and a research scientist for British Steel. He was regarded as one of the few politicians in Westminster with an expert science background.

Richard Pike, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said he would be missed. “Ashok would have played an important part in raising the profile of science in the next Parliament, especially as so many science-related MPs are leaving the House of Commons at the coming election,” he said.

In recent months he had lobbied hard on behalf of the steel industry on Teesside as plants were mothballed or faced closure. He had also battled to safeguard the future of shipbuilding and was a proponent of nuclear power.

Dr Kumar had also been a strong supporter of the controversial police officer Det Supt Ray Mallon, known as Robocop, who pioneered a popular zero tolerance crime policy before becoming the subject of a £5m corruption investigation into Cleveland Police. Mr Mallon was cleared of any wrongdoing and went on to become the first directly-elected Mayor of Middlesbrough.

In 2006 the MP broke ranks by calling for the then-Prime Minister Tony Blair to make way for Gordon Brown. In an article in the Northern Echo he demonstrated Mr Blair’s waning authority, saying: “If Mr Blair is concerned with securing a lasting and memorable legacy for Britain, then I can think of no better way than to allow a smooth and rapid succession for Mr Brown.” Today however Mr Blair also paid tribute: "As a neighbouring MP I saw first hand his commitment to the north-east where the support he received grew year after year. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time."

Dr Kumar was born in Uttar Pradesh in India but moved to the North East where he served as local councillor in Middlesbrough for 10 years. He was first elected to the Commons in a 1991 by-election but lost the seat at the general election the following year.

Fellow Labour MP Keith Vaz MP, chair of the Ethnic Minority Taskforce, said he was a natural fighter and community leader. "Ashok was a fine politician who served his constituency and his constituents with diligence and unswerving commitment," his office said.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn