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Ed Miliband leads tributes as Lord Bilston dies at 71

Wolverhampton | News | Published:

[gallery] Ed Miliband today led tributes to Lord Bilston, who has died at 71 after a "life of service to the people of Wolverhampton and Bilston".

John Prescott and Harriet Harman were also among those hailing the life and career of Dennis Turner, who was 71.

Lord Bilston, the former Wolverhampton MP Dennis Turner, has died.

The 71-year-old served as Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East from 1987 to 2005 before being made a peer.

He had been suffering from cancer, with tumours on his spine, since November and had spent time in hospital in Oswestry and Wolverhampton's New Cross before spending his final weeks at home surrounded by his family.

For four pages of coverage on the life and legacy of Dennis Turner, see today's Express & Star

A minute's silence will be held at tonight's Bilston Town football match while flags were flying at half mast at Wolverhampton City Council's headquarters today.

Friends and former colleagues today paid tribute to a 'great son' of Wolverhampton and a man who had earned the love and respect of 'all who came to know him'.

The father of two was previously a Wolverhampton councillor for 20 years including seven as deputy leader and had been at the forefront of the campaign to save Bilston Steelworks in the 1970s.

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See also: Dennis Turner - A life in pictures

Politicians took to Twitter as news of his death yesterday spread.

Elected to the council at the age of 22 in 1966, he was one of its youngest ever members.

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He was a member of the West Midlands County Council from 1973 until 1986. In later years he had successfully campaigned to keep Bilston as part of one Parliamentary constituency, fighting plans for it to be carved up between four different MPs as part of a proposed review of boundaries.

His successor as an MP, Labour's Pat McFadden, said: "Our city has lost a great son. Dennis was a true Bilston patriot.

"He was a passionate and committed representative of the local community. Few MPs knew their constituents so well and so closely. He faced his final illness with characteristic spirit and courage. He will be hugely missed.

"Dennis always said you should go through life making friends and not making enemies and that was a real, core part of his political outlook.

"He always tried to find out what united people. "

Labour party leader Ed Miliband today tweeted his sadness. "Very sad to hear about the passing of Dennis Turner. He dedicated his life to public service and the people of Wolverhampton and Bilston," he said.

Former Wolverhampton North East MP Ken Purchase also paid tribute.

Mr Purchase, who retired in 2010, said: "The death of my great friend and political soulmate of 45 years leaves a huge, un-fillable hole in his beloved Bilston and the wider Wolverhampton. In all his years of public service no one raised a mightier voice for our city.

"He sought no thanks from the many he helped but he was loved and respected by all who came to know him."

Leader of the council Roger Lawrence said: "He was a complete one-off, a lovely man who was absolutely loved in his community.

"He was Bilston, he was Bradley and he was Wolverhampton - and he was well respected across the board."

Working class fighter - tributes are paid to Lord Bilston

The life and times of Dennis Turner, a 'mon' of the people

Lord Bilston served as patron of Wolverhampton Interfaith, chaired the Wolverhampton Fairtrade Partnership and was President of the Bilston Community Association. He was granted Freedom of the City of Wolverhampton in 2006.

He was born, raised and lived in Bilston his whole life and leaves a widow, Pat, son Brendon, daughter Jenny and granddaughter Bella.

His brother Bert is a councillor in Bilston and was Mayor of Wolverhampton for 2011/12.

Mr Turner said: "We have done everything together.

"It's been a journey we've both been on and it was a pleasure to be there with him.

"He never lost his way. He never lost where he came from.

"My father said to me once 'he can't be an MP can he?' I said 'he can, he takes everyone along with him'."

Councillor Turner revealed that his brother had come back from London towards the end of last year and had complained of pains in his back.

He went to his doctor and was referred to hospital for treatment.

He underwent an operation in November but it was not enough to save him and he passed away at home in Bilston last night.

The Mayor of Wolverhampton, Councillor Milkinder Jaspal, said: "Dennis Turner was an outstanding councillor, MP and member of the House of Lords. He was one of the rare individuals who was born and grew up in the area that he was to represent with great distinction. He was one of the few politicians who connected with the people. Everyone knew him and he knew everyone."

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