Tributes are pouring in after the death of former MP Austin Mitchell, who served Great Grimsby for nearly 40 years between 1977 and 2015.
The former Labour MP passed away at the age of 86 in the coronary care unit at Leeds General Infirmary during the morning of Wednesday, August 18.
Mitchell was born in Bradford in 1934 and moved to New Zealand in the late 1950s to lecture at the University of Otago. He returned to the UK in the late 1960s and worked as a TV journalist for the nightly Calendar news programme between 1969 and 1977. He also had a brief spell at the BBC in 1972.
Mitchell was elected to the Great Grimsby constituency in 1977. He was elected in a by-election with pundits predicting he would lose, but the former lecturer held on to the seat for Labour, narrowly defeating his Tory rival Robert Blair by 520 votes.
He held the seat until 2015 before stepping down. In the same year, he was appointed High Steward of North East Lincolnshire by full council at its meeting on September 24, 2015. The role of High Steward is the highest honour North East Lincolnshire Council can award.
Mitchell even temporarily changed his name by deed poll to Austin Haddock in 2002 in a bid to promote the fishing industry in the North East Lincolnshire port. He also wrote his own blog between 2015 and 2018.
During his time at Calendar, Mitchell chaired the famous exchange between Don Revie and Brian Clough after the latter’s sacking as manager of Leeds United in 1974.
Lia Nici, Conservative MP for Great Grimsby, was among those to pay tribute: “I am very sad to hear about the loss of my friend and predecessor, Austin Mitchell.
“I learnt an awful lot from him. He worked incredibly hard for Great Grimsby and will be sadly missed. My deep condolences to Linda and the family at this time.”
Councillor Philip Jackson, Leader of North East Lincolnshire Council, said: “Austin was the Member of Parliament for Great Grimsby for nearly 40 years.
“During that time he served the area with conviction and passion, and was respected by many, not just those in local politics.
“He was a familiar face in the area, and definitely found unique ways to speak up for local people!”
Councillor David Hasthorpe, Mayor of North East Lincolnshire, said: “From gracing our screens on Calendar to representing our town in Parliament, or attending one of many functions in Great Grimsby, Austin certainly made his presence felt and always had a ready quip or word of encouragement for all.”
Leader of the Labour Party Keir Starmer said: “I’m saddened by the death of Austin Mitchell who served Great Grimsby with remarkable commitment for 38 years – even changing his surname to ‘Haddock’ to promote local industry. His sense of humour was matched by his deep Labour values. My thoughts are with his wife and children.”
BBC Look North’s Peter Levy said: “So very sad hearing about the death of Austin Mitchell. A friend since 1975 when he offered me a job and I moved to Bradford.
“He was born in the city and was a popular TV presenter, he went on to be the Grimsby MP for many years. Fun, modest and very clever. My thoughts (are) with Linda.”
Immensely sad to hear about the death of Austin Mitchell. A big figure in the Yorkshire of my youth; and he gave me my break into broadcasting at Pennine Radio. He was kind, funny – and generous and loyal. He’s pictured here at an event at Selwyn, when I saw him last. pic.twitter.com/3VHCasN8Y2
— Roger Mosey (@rogermosey) August 18, 2021
We are sad to learn of the death of our former MP Austin Mitchell. He represented our town from 1977 – 2015 after the death of Tony Crosland. his passion for Grimsby knew no bounds. His good humour, kind nature and booming laugh will never be forgotten in our town or our party.
— Great Grimsby CLP (@GrimsbyClp) August 18, 2021
Sorry to hear of the death of Austin Mitchell. Great contact when I was a journo and great company when I was with Labour -even when we disagreed. Best known of course as an MP but a place in history as TV Interviewer who did the ‘real life’ Brian Clough-Don Revie interview 1/2
— ALASTAIR CAMPBELL (@campbellclaret) August 18, 2021
— Alastair Stewart (@AlStewartOBE) August 18, 2021
Saddened to hear of the passing of Austin Mitchell
— Chief Constable Lee Freeman (@CCLeeFreeman) August 18, 2021