I'm very sad to hear that the veteran Labour MP Paul Flynn has died at the age of 84. He was one of my favourite Labour MPs. We didn't really agree on an awful lot, but he was a brave politician and wasn't afraid to adopt causes which at the time were unpopular but later became mainstream.
I first got to know him in 1998 when I published his book DRAGONS LED BY POODLES. It tore a strip off the Welsh Labour Party's leadership and was subtitled "The Inside Story of a New Labour Stitch-Up". That probably tells you all you need to know about his attitude to Tony Blair. Not a fan.
In the 1990s he had written a book called COMMONS KNOWLEDGE, all about how to be a good MP, so about ten years ago I suggested he updated it, and we published it as a brand new book called HOW TO BE AN MP. Its success rather astonished us all, and it sold thousands of copies. Why? Because it wasn't dry and was full of amusing anecdotes and his famously dry wit. It remains the most borrowed book in the House of Commons library, a fact which ticked Paul.
I also published Paul's autobiography entitled UNUSUAL SUSPECT. Again, it was highly readable, although I always felt it didn't sell as well as it should have. He also wrote a very good biography of his friend and former parliamentary colleague David Taylor, called THE CLOCKWINDER WHO WOULDN'T SAY NO.
Paul was a great Parliamentarian, willing to take risks to make his voice heard. He was a good orator and MPs would come into the chamber if they saw he was speaking on the monitors. He took few prisoners and could be very caustic towards his political opponents - sometimes a little too caustic for his own good. However, he was quite popular among some Conservatives for his outspokenness.
I think he was tickled in 2016 to become the oldest ever Shadow Cabinet member when for a brief time he served as Shadow Secretary of State for Wales and Shadow Leader of the House. It is thought he was the oldest person to speak from the front bench since Gladstone. He joked that his appointment would improve the diversity of a Parliament whose front benches suffered from a "a total absence of octogenerians". When he was replaced a few months later, he said...
Our glorious leader, in an act of pioneering diversity, courageously decided to give opportunities for geriatrics on the front bench and this was so successful that he decided to create opportunities for geriatrics on the back bench. I'm double blessed.
Latterly, his debilitating illness had frustrated him beyond belief and he hated not being able to fulfil all his parliamentary duties. I think he had considered standing down at the 2017 election but was persuaded not to do so because Labour feared losing the seat. As it turned out they needn't have worried, but at the time, it was understandable.
In October 2018, Flynn announced that he would stand down as an MP at some point because of his arthritis. He had become bedbound and committed to stand down "as soon as possible" but that he was "keen to carry on to represent the city as long as I can. The cost of a by-election is enormous. I want to avoid that if I can."
I was proud to call Paul a friend, and although we disagreed politically, he had my total respect. I will miss him.