Image source, PA Media

Image caption,

Sir Richard, pictured on right with Tory “rebels” in 1995, died after a short illness aged 79

Tributes have been paid to “true gentleman”, former MP Sir Richard Shepherd who has died aged 79.

Walsall councillors paid tribute to the ex-Conservative Aldridge-Brownhills MP, who served the constituency constantly for 36 years between 1979 to 2015.

He died earlier this month after a short illness.

Authority leader Mike Bird said he was “a man of great principle”. On Monday, his brother, John, said “our hearts are broken.”

He added that the family took great reassurance from the fact that “his was a life well lived and that he was a real gold medal winner in so many ways.”

Image source, LDRS

Image caption,

Tributes were paid to Sir Richard at Walsall Council on Monday

As an MP, Sir Richard was known as a Euro-sceptic and had the whip removed from him by then Prime Minister John Major following his opposition to the Maastricht Treaty. He was knighted in 2013.

His former Conservative colleagues and opposition members paid tribute to him at a full council meeting on Monday where they held a minute’s silence.

Councillor Garry Perry said Sir Richard influenced him to get into politics.

“True believer”

“He was fiercely loyal to Aldridge-Brownhills and never one to toe the party line,” he said.

“He was loyal to the things he was passionate about. Brexit being one of them. It’s a sad fact as we achieved Brexit, Richard’s health had deteriorated.”

Mr Bird added: “It’s very sad, when people have been at the pinnacle of their career retire and then find themselves decline very quickly.

“Richard was well accepted by the people of Aldridge Brownhills and he is still revered as a great MP.”

Councillor John Murray, who joined the Aldridge-Brownhills Conservative Association in 1979 and worked on Sir Richard’s first election campaign, said his belief in democracy made him a leading Euro-sceptic and at times a parliamentary rebel.

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