Sheffield MP '˜stood up for the underdog'
Sheffield MP Harry Harpham will be laid to rest this week following his death less than a year since he was elected to Parliament - with a byelection to choose his successor planned for next month.
Mr Harpham, who took over from David Blunkett as MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough last May, died aged 61 after a short battle with cancer. He had only been diagnosed at the end of September.
In an interview with the Sheffield Telegraph in December, he said he was determined to meet his commitments as an MP and did not want to ‘make a big song and dance’ about his illness.
True to his word, in recent weeks he challenged Prime Minister David Cameron over job losses at Forgemasters in Sheffield, and the future of the steel industry.
Following his death last Thursday, the flag over Sheffield Town Hall was flown at half mast, and a book of condolence was opened there for people to pay their respects.
The funeral service is at Sheffield Cathedral on Tuesday at 12.15pm, followed by a private cremation.
A byelection in his constituency is planned to take place in mid-March, although a precise date has yet to be announced.
Mr Harpham was born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, and went down the pit as a miner immediately after leaving school. However, he returned to education when he moved to Sheffield following the miners’ strike. He studied at Northern College, Barnsley, and then graduated from Sheffield University.
Mr Harpham was elected to the city council in 2000, serving as councillor for Manor and Darnall. He was in touch with the realities of life in the areas he represented, working as a night warehouseman and a volunteer in an advice centre.
In Sheffield he fought for better housing and education, becoming the council’s cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods. He was elected deputy leader in 2012 and served as election agent for David Blunkett as MP from 2001, which stood him in good stead for when Mr Blunkett announced his retirement.
Mr Harpham is survived by his second wife, Gill Furniss, the two children from his first marriage, Annie and Kieron, and the three children from Gill’s first marriage, Dan, Emily and Victoria.
His younger brother Rick said: “He always stood up for the underdog and what he felt was right.”