Former Great Grimsby MP and Calendar presenter Austin Mitchell dies aged 86

  • Video report by Jon Hill

Former Great Grimsby Labour MP and Calendar presenter Austin Mitchell has died in hospital this morning at the age of 86.

Mr Mitchell worked as a journalist for Yorkshire Television from 1969-1977 and presented ITV Calendar before becoming an MP in 1977.

During his time at Calendar, he chaired the famous exchange between Brian Clough and Don Revie, following Clough's sacking as manager of Leeds United in 1974.

An interview that has been recalled by people paying tribute to him on social media.

He represented Grimsby in the House of Commons until 2015 and passed away at Leeds General Infirmary.

He was elected in a by-election with pundits predicting he would lose, but the ex-lecturer held on to the seat for Labour, narrowly defeating Tory rival Robert Blair by 520 votes and giving Jim Callaghan’s beleaguered government hope it could cling on at the next general election.

His successor Melanie Onn said: "Austin will be greatly missed by many in Grimsby's Labour family and across the town where he was taken from the TV screen into the hearts of local people, always ready with a camera and amusing anecdote.

"He was a larger than life character, secured lost pensions compensation for the last generation of Grimsby's fishermen and a vociferous opponent of council housing stock transfers to arms-length management organisations." She added: "Austin was unfailingly supportive to me as a new MP, still a bruising advocate of the Labour Party and gave his time, advice and expertise generously.

"It was a pleasure to get to know him and I send my heartfelt condolences to Linda, his family and close friends for their loss."

Labour leader Sir Keir Stamer also paid tribute saying: "I am saddened by the death of Austin Mitchell.

"Austin served his constituency of Great Grimsby with remarkable commitment for 38 years. There are few MPs whose dedication to their constituents would translate into changing their surname to ‘Haddock’ to promote local industry.

"His big sense of humour was matched by his deep Labour values. My thoughts are with his wife Linda and his children."

Great Grimsby Labour Party said: "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."

The current MP for Great Grimsby, the Conservative Lia Nici, said that he "adored" Grimsby and worked so hard for the people of the town.

She added that he was "genuine, forthright and a great person to know".

She said that he also remarked upon her selection that she would be a great MP but that it was a shame she had chosen to join the Conservatives.

Former Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said: "Austin was a larger than life figure – immense fun, a jovial manner often concealing an acute mind, a challenging colleague at times for sure but always warm-hearted and decent, and above totally committed to Grimsby!

"I never had a conversation with him without coming away with a new insight or perspective which is why even when disagreeing, I had to listen. Our deepest condolences to Linda and all his family."

Other tributes paid to Austin

Martin Boyers, who is the chief executive of Grimsby Fish Market and a close friend, said that the town couldn't have had a better local MP.

He praised Austin for "saying it as it is" and for getting straight to the point.

Other tributes have been paid to Mr Mitchell on social media by people from politics and the media.

Austin was also remembered by former Calendar presenter, Geoff Druett, who joined the team following Austin's election as an MP.

He said that Austin "had it all" and that for most people in this part of the world he was simply "Calendar".

He added: "I joined the Calendar team when Austin became a member of Parliament and it really meant that for the next 40 years basically I was terrified that he was going to lose his seat and want his job back.

"But I needn't have worried, no one was going to take Grimsby off Austin until he was ready to go."

Mr Mitchell was named the High Steward of North East Lincolnshire when he stepped down as an MP.

He was born in Bradford and worked as a lecturer in politics in New Zealand and at the University of Canterbury before becoming a journalist.

He temporarily changed his name to Haddock in 2002 to promote the rights of the fishing industry in Grimsby.