Veteran Labour MP Paul Flynn was a man of “real courage and integrity” who was respected across the political divide, fellow politicians have said following his death at the age of 84.
The MP for Newport West died on Sunday after representing his constituency for 32 years.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was among the first to pay tribute to a man he described as an “independent thinker”.
Mr Flynn held several shadow cabinet posts during his parliamentary career, including a brief stint as shadow secretary of state for Wales in 2016, but had not been active in the Commons in recent months.
Jayne Bryant, Welsh Labour Assembly Member for Newport West, described Mr Flynn as a “wonderful friend and mentor”, and shared some poignant memories of first meeting the politician at the age of nine.
“He brought politics alive to me then and has done so ever since”, she said.
“Never bland or boring, Paul proved that politics was about people and wanted young people to be as passionate about it as he was all his life. He was forever optimistic.”
Describing him as a politician who was “respected across the political divide”, she added: “Undoubtedly, Paul spoke truth to power.
“He was far ahead of his time on issues which others found too controversial. He was proved right on so many of them.”
First Minister of Wales and Welsh Labour leader Mark Drakeford said Mr Flynn was a “giant of the Welsh Labour movement”.
He added: “Today’s news will be a source of great sadness to all those who knew him.
“He was one of the most effective communicators of his generation – inside the House of Commons and outside. But it was Paul’s willingness to speak up for causes beyond the political mainstream which marked him out as a politician of real courage and integrity.
“I first met him more than 35 years ago, and it has been a privilege to have worked with him, in the run-up to the devolution era and beyond.”
Ealing Central and Acton MP Rupa Huq shared a photograph on Twitter of herself with Mr Flynn, and said they had served on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee together.
She added: “He was fearless promoter of cannabis legalisation private members bill – pictured here with @THTCCLOTHING hemp t-shirt. Thoughts and prayers with his family at this time”.
Shadow foreign minister Liz McInnes said Mr Flynn’s book, How to be an MP, published in 2012, was “the definitive text for any newbie”.
“He leaves behind him a great legacy,” she added.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said Mr Flynn “will be missed”, tweeting: “Very sad to hear about the passing of Paul Flynn. Sending deepest condolences to his family and friends.”
Conservative MP Alun Cairns, Secretary of State for Wales, also shared his thoughts, saying: “Very sorry to hear of Paul Flynn’s passing. My thoughts & prayers are with his family.
“He was an exceptional constituency MP & it was a privilege to work with him taking the Wales Bill through Parliament when he was Shadow SoS for Wales. We always had a warm & friendly relationship”.
Conservative Party Chairman Brandon Lewis said he was sad to hear of the death of someone “who gave so many years of public service”.
And Conor Burns, Tory MP for Bournemouth West, added: “Very sorry to learn of the death of @PaulFlynnMP I got to know him when we were both on the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. Unlike so many current politicians he had real convictions. I disagreed with him on almost everything but respected him”.
Mr Flynn was a strong advocate for the medicinal use of cannabis, and in 2017 urged people to “break the law” by using cannabis at the Houses of Parliament.
Speaking during a debate on drugs policy in the Commons, Mr Flynn said: “I would call on people, and I know we’re not supposed to do this as members, to break the law.
“To come here and use cannabis here and see what happens and challenge the Government, the authorities, to arrest them and take them in.
“That’s the only way we can get through the common mind of the Government, which is set in concrete and the whole laws are evidence free and prejudice rich – let’s see them do that.”
Later the same year, he also called for a second referendum on Brexit.
Speaking in the Commons he asked: “Isn’t it right that three years after the referendum, when we’re thinking of taking this step, we allow the public to have a second opinion on this in the knowledge that second thoughts are always superior to first thoughts?”
He announced in October that he intended to stand down as an MP due to health reasons, saying he would “wait for a convenient time to go” and had “loved every minute” of his time in Westminster.
He said at the time: “It’s been a great, wonderful, rich experience. I lasted 31 years.”