Tributes have been paid to former Easington MP John Cummings after he died following a long illness, aged 73.
Mr Cummings had been diagnosed with lung cancer and died in St Margaret’s Care Home in Durham last night.
His family have spoken of his dedication to his loved ones, as well as his passion for helping others, which began when he would collect shopping for people on his newspaper round as a 12-year-old.
His interest in politics began when he became a Young Socialist, with meetings with one of his predecessors as Easington MP Manny Shinwell, a British trade union official and Labour politician, helping to spark off a desire to get more involved.
As an electrician at Murton Colliery, he rose to the ranks of branch secretary of Murton Mechanics and was on the executive of Durham Colliery Mechanics Association.
He went on to become a councillor with District of Easington Council and eventually became its leader.
John always helped people and that started right from when he was a boy.Aileen Morton
He first entered the commons in 1987 as a Labour member for Easington and remained a staunch defender of miners’ rights and fought for compensation for those left with ill health.
He and his Jack Russell dog Grit were a familiar sight on the picket lines in East Durham during the miners’ strike.
His time as MP came to a close in 2010, when he stepped down, with his agent Grahame Morris elected to the position to maintain Labour’s long hold on the seat.
Councillor Alan Napier, deputy leader of Durham County Council, followed in his footsteps as a union official and as leader of District of Easington Council and had known him since he was 15.
Coun Napier said: “He said to me always speak to people with the essence of kindness and the man I remember always had the knack of speaking to people, never down to them nor at them.
“He always worked to the best of his ability and he did a lot to improve the quality of life for people, particularly the people of Murton.”
Mr Cummings sister Aileen Morton said he had doted on his four nephews and two nieces.
Aileen, 72, said: “John was very family orientated and very much for his nieces and nephews, they loved him to bits and he loved them to bits.
“The care he was given at St Margaret’s was fantastic, I’ve never seen anything like it.
“The boys in Grahame’s office have also been a great help.
“John always helped people and that started right from when he was a boy.
“He was a man of the people.”
Funeral details are still to be confirmed.