The death of Lord Newton of Braintree, at the age of 74, has deprived Parliament of what one blog has described as one of the good guys in politics. Tony Newton served not only as a conscientious MP but also as Social Security Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons. He entered the Lords in 1997 and was an active member of the House. Indeed, he was contributing to proceedings until only a few days ago. He had been in ill-health for some time and attended the House carrying a portable oxygen cylinder, either pulling it along or leaving it by the chamber when he was in to speak. He was regularly on his feet in the chamber, not least in recent months as a critic of Government policy. Despite his illness, he was also keen to be in to support the Campaign for an Effective Second Chamber, arguing the case for reform but against election of the second chamber. His experience in parliamentary business management was extremely valuable to the campaign.
I got to know him as Leader of the Commons and it was as a former Leader that I asked him to be one of my two supporters when I entered the Lords. (The other was former Speaker, Lord Weatherill.) He was well-known for being a chain-smoker and needed a cigarette even before the ceremony. He was utterly trustworthy and dedicated to politics – he admitted he was the archetycal career politician. He was assiduous in his application to public service, basically putting his duty above all else. He will be sadly missed.