The MP David Taylor has died after having a heart attack during a walk at a country house with his family on Boxing Day. The 63-year-old Labour parliamentarian was widely respected at Westminster as a champion for his Leicestershire North West constituents and as a member of the House who was prepared ask awkward questions of ministers.
A member of the left-wing Campaign Group, Mr Taylor had an independent mind and was not afraid to rebel against the party line. He was voted Backbencher of the Year in 2007 by fellow MPs.
A statement on Mr Taylor's website said: "David was enjoying a walk with his family at Calke Abbey [a National Trust property in Derbyshire] when he suffered a massive heart attack. He was rushed to Queens Hospital, Burton-on-Trent, but they were unable to save him. His widow Pam has paid tribute to the efforts of the ambulance and hospital staff."
Mr Taylor, a father-of-four, was a keen cyclist, runner and cricketer, and is not thought to have suffered serious heart problems in the past. Elected in 1997, he had announced he was standing down from the Commons at the next general election. He had a majority of just under 4,500 in 2005 and his death presents a potentially tricky by-election test for Labour which is bound to be seen as a bellwether for next year's general election.
Gordon Brown praised Mr Taylor as "one of the most hard working MPs locally and nationally – a great representative who felt and spoke up for the needs of his constituents".
Mr Taylor's friend Denis MacShane, the Labour MP for Rotherham, said: "David was pure Old Labour who loved the fact that New Labour was able to hold power and deliver for his constituents. He was a star of the back benches with a sardonic wit that livened up debates and question times. He was formidably intelligent even if his bluff style hid one of the keenest socialist brains in the Commons."
Tam Dalyell, the former Father of the House of Commons, described Taylor as "exactly what the ideal Commons back-bencher ought to be ... He put pertinent questions, even if they were unpalatable, to ministers."Reuse content