Nigel Beard, Bexleyheath's first and only Labour MP, has died aged 80
PUBLISHED: 09:29 08 August 2017 | UPDATED: 15:55 08 August 2017
Peers have said Mr Beard was "incredibly proud" to have served the constituency for Labour
A former MP who “upset the odds” to become Bexleyheath’s only Labour MP since 1950 has died after a long battle with illness.
Nigel Beard served Bexleyheath and Crayford from 1997 to 2005, and has been described by his peers as a “committed, dedicated campaigner” following his death last week.
Aside from campaigning on public transport and health issues, the 80-year-old helped transform Crayford’s Thames Road into a dual carriageway.
Bexley’s Labour leader Daniel Francis, who was part of Mr Beard’s first successful election campaign, said: “I knew and worked closely with Nigel and he has a unique place in history, being the only Labour MP for the Bexleyheath area since 1950.
“I can recall campaigning for him on polling day and beginning to think the impossible could happen and that Labour could win Bexleyheath & Crayford.
“Nigel of course upset the odds for a second time, by retaining the seat in 2001. In Parliament, he took a keen interest in finance matters serving on the Treasury Select Committee and continually attempted to introduce his lighter evenings’ bill to introduce British Summer Time all year round. I campaigned with him on this issue, in order to assist in the reduction of casualties on local roads in the winter months.
“I last saw Nigel four years ago and I know he was immensely proud to have served for the Labour Party during the period when we introduced a national minimum wage, invested heavily in education and health and introduced neighbourhood policing and measures such as anti-social behaviour orders to assist residents affected by crime.”
John Austin was Labour MP in the neighbouring Erith and Thamesmead constituency when Mr Beard was elected as part of the Labour landslide 20 years ago.
Following Mr Beard’s death on July 31, his former Labour colleague added: “Nigel was a great champion of all his constituency’s issues. I was first elected in 1993, when Nigel came in it meant Labour held two thirds of the borough, we had great support for each other.”
Mr Austin’s successor, Teresa Pearce, said: “I am so sorry to hear of Nigel’s death, he was a very hard working MP and was committed to public service. He stood up for what he believed in and was a tireless campaigner. We shared a love of art and I recall many a conversation about various aspects of modern art and exhibitions visited. My thoughts are with his wife Jenny at this difficult time.”
Before he was elected in the borough in 1997, Mr Beard, who was living in Woking, had run for constituencies including Woking in 1979, Portsmouth North in 1983 and the now abandoned constituency of Erith and Crayford in 1992.
Labour and Mr Beard lost their grasp on Bexleyheath and Crayford in 2005, when current MP David Evennett won the constituency’s vote.
Mr Evennett said he was “sad to learn of the death of the Labour stalwart and former MP”.
Prior to his time in Westminster, Mr Beard worked as a senior research manager for pharmaceutical companies ICI and Zeneca.