FELLOW peer Tom Pendry led the tributes to Robert Sheldon who died on Sunday, February 2 aged 96.
Lord Sheldon was MP for Ashton for almost 37 years and a former financial secretary to the treasury in the Labour Governments of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan.
Lord Pendry, the former MP for Stalybridge and Hyde and a friend for more than 50 years, was invited by Lord Sheldon’s family to deliver the eulogy at his funeral which takes place at Golders Green, London, on Sunday, February 9.
He said: “I last visited Bob four months ago and we shared a bottle of champagne and shared some great memories.
“He was a great guy and we got on extremely well. He will be sadly missed.”
Lord Pendry continued: “We worked together and in my 31 years in Parliament we never had a cross word.
“He went before me to the House of Lords where we later met up.”
Lord Pendry said at the eulogy he will be recalling one incident from 1981 that indicated how strong their friendship was.
It was the Chemstar explosion in Carrbrook which killed one person and forced many villagers to be evacuated from their homes.
Lord Pendry said: “I received a call at 2am informing me about the explosion. I went to the scene and was helping people into a church just in case there was another explosion.
“Somebody said to me it was good to see you Mr Pendry but where is our MP as we voted for Robert Sheldon.
“I didn’t realise Bob’s constituency was on the other side of the stream.
“It was sacrilege to go into somebody else’s constituency and, terrified, I rang Bob to say sorry for being in his constituency. It was the only possible hiccup but it didn’t worry him in the slightest.”
Current Ashton MP Angela Rayner said: “Lord Sheldon is a treasured part of our town’s history and he was so proud to have represented the people of Ashton for 37 years.
“He cut his political teeth as a councillor in Manchester and he still had fire in his belly when he retired from the House of Lords five years ago.
“Lord Sheldon was extremely passionate about making things better for his constituents and fighting for the best deal for Ashton. He has always been a huge inspiration to me and he is still talked about so fondly by the people he served and worked with.
“His death is a huge loss to the Labour family. My thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time.”
Andrew Gwynne, MP for Denton and Reddish, said: “It was with great sadness that I heard the news of Bob Sheldon’s passing.
“I first met him when he came to Tameside College in 1991 to do a Q&A with the students on my course and he left a lasting impression on me.
“He was a remarkable public servant over a long and distinguished career as both an MP and then a Peer, including stints as a treasury minister and chair of the Public Accounts Committee for 14 years.
“His contribution to Tameside was recognised when he became a freeman of the borough in December 1989 and he is still fondly remembered by his former constituents.
“Lord Sheldon Way and the Sheldon Arms – both in my constituency – serve as a reminder of this and his commitment to the communities of Tameside. My thoughts are with Bob’s friends and family.”
Lord Sheldon, who died peacefully in his sleep, came from a family of Jewish immigrants from Iraq. His father was Meir Jack Shamash and his mother was Betty Shamash. He changed his name by deed poll in 1943.
He first stood for Parliament at Manchester Withington in 1959. Subsequently, he was elected MP for Ashton at the 1964 general election, serving until the 2001 general election when he was replaced by David Heyes. He served on the Public Accounts Committee, holding the chairmanship between 1983 and 1997.
He was also financial secretary to the treasury 1975-1979 and made a privy counsellor in 1977. He was created a life peer as Baron Sheldon in June 2001. He retired from the House of Lords in May 2015.
He leaves wife Mary, children Gill and Terry and grandchildren David and Helen.
Terry said: “My dad loved building such a wonderful relationship with the people of Ashton and the people there talk about him with such fondness. He was so proud to serve as MP, it was so important to him.
“He loved helping people and he was so proud to have a road and a pub named after him in the constituency. He enjoyed a long and distinguished career and he will be sorely missed by his family and friends.”
Gill added: “My dad and fellow Northern MPs Joel Barnett and Edmund Dell became known as the Three Musketeers thanks to their strength in the finance committees and always pushing for fairer economic policy.
“My dad was the last surviving Musketeer. We are so very proud of everything he achieved and how loved and respected he was.”