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Tributes paid to former Aberdeen MP and anti-apartheid campaigner Bob Hughes who has died aged 90

Robert Hughes. Photo: UK Parliament, Photographer Chris McAndrew

Tributes have been paid to a former Aberdeen MP, shadow cabinet minister and anti-apartheid campaigner who has died aged 90.

Bob Hughes represented Aberdeen North for 25 years as a Labour MP and has been described as a man who “really stood up for issues he believed in.”

The 90-year-old died after a long illness.

He served as the Member of Parliament for Aberdeen North from 1970 till 1997. During that time, he was the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland.

Functioning within that role from March 1974 until July 1975, he eventually resigned after disagreeing with the government’s incomes policy.

Described as a working class politician, he served on the Shadow Cabinet as the Shadow Secretary of State for Transport.

And, in 1997, he was named as a life peer, as Baron Hughes of Woodside, owing to the Woodside area of Aberdeen.

From 1976 he was the chairman of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) until it was dissolved in 1995 after the ending of apartheid in South Africa.

Former Downing Street director of communications and strategy, Alastair Campbell, took to Twitter to pay tribute to Mr Hughes.

He said: “So sad to hear that Bob Hughes has died.

“‘Former MP and Labour peer’ doesn’t get close. He was chair of the Anti Apartheid Movement for two decades and with Mike Terry led the most influential AAM anywhere in the world.

“He never sought credit but plenty was his due.”

‘Impact stuck with me long after he left Aberdeen’

Having served as a politician in Aberdeen for over two decades, countless councillors were able to work alongside Mr Hughes.

One of which was former Aberdeen City Council leader, Len Ironside, who said: “We worked together for many years trying to help implement changes in Aberdeen.

“One that I remember was our attempts in the early nineties to try and get the heads of oil firms to make their base here in the city.

“He was a very laid back politician but one who was passionate about what he believed – he really understood his constituents and was very popular.

“He was also a good friend of the late Desmond Tutu through his anti-apartheid work, he moved to London around the turn of the millennium, and the impact he made has stuck with me.”

Lord Provost’s tribute

Aberdeen Lord Provost Barney Crockett, who was secretary of Aberdeen Trades Council when Bob Hughes was an MP, said he did a huge amount for Aberdeen and the north-east.

“Of course, he also had a worldwide reputation for his work in opposing apartheid,” said Mr Crockett.

“He had lived in South Africa as a young man but he never accepted the apartheid system.

“As a consequence of being head of the anti-apartheid movement in the UK, there is a page on the website of the president of South Africa dedicated to Bob Hughes.

“He was well respected across the political spectrum and very active on the floor of the House of Commons.”

Work to help end apartheid

For nearly 20 years, Mr Hughes served as the chairman for the AAM, a group at the centre of opposing South African apartheid.

During his tenure, the group campaigned against Margaret Thatcher’s government’s refusal to impose sanctions against the nation.

Peter Hain, a prominent anti-apartheid campaigner and former Labour cabinet minister, said: “So sorry that Bob Hughes has died after a long illness. A giant in the freedom struggle, he led the AAM in a key period to help secure Nelson Mandela’s freedom and defeat apartheid.”

They also helped organise the 1988 ‘Free Mandela’ concert that was broadcast around the world.

After Nelson Mandela was freed from prison in 1990, the group continued to oversee lasting change in South Africa.

Former prime minister Tony Blair posted a tribute on Twitter.

He said: “Very sad to hear that Bob Hughes has died.

“He was a lovely, kind and exceptional man and embodied all that is best in public service.

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