Described as a legend, Sir Alan Beith marked 40 years’ service as an MP with a special appearance by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
In a private event at Alnwick’s Northumberland Hall, more than 100 people turned up to pay tribute to Sir Alan’s hard work over the last four decades.
Supporters and colleagues who have helped Sir Alan since he gained his seat at the 1973 by-election were in attendance along with Mr Clegg and other politicians including the former Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore, Sir Alan’s wife Baroness Diana Maddox and other members of the House of Lords.
At the event Sir Alan said: “It has been a wonderful privilege to represent this constituency as I will continue to do for another 18 months.
“I am delighted to see so many of the people that have helped me to get here, to stay here and those that have helped me to do the job.
“There are a few things I am proud of. We have moved from a party of 13 MPs, and I was the 13th, to a party which is in Government with 57 MPs securing that we have economic stability in a fairer society than it would otherwise have been.”
Praising Sir Alan for his work, Mr Clegg said: “We are not really saying goodbye to any old MP, we are saying farewell to an era, to a legend and to Beith-esque liberalism.”
He added that Sir Alan’s legacy places him in the ‘pantheon of great Liberals and Liberal Democrats which he rightly occupies as a prominent part of our family, of our thinking’.
“There are two things I admire most about Alan,” he said. “First is his bloody-minded tenacity. Alan, more than almost any other member of the Liberal Democrats, has proved to be an extraordinary fighter. To think that he was elected in November 1973 and had to fight two more elections in a year, fighting three elections in a year, the whole prospect fills me with utter exhaustion, but Alan clearly enjoyed it. What a way to start your parliamentary career.
“Combined with that is his absolute devotion to this constituency, his absolute devotion to his role as a constituency MP.
“He is inexhaustible in his apetite and enthusiasm for local campaigns, whether it is dualling the A1, whether it is keeping maternity services open in Berwick or RAF Boulmer, all of these campaigns and more.”
Margaret Edmonson, 85, from Chatton Park Bank, helped Alan to canvas in his very first election. She said: “He is a marvellous man. He will help anyone and that is what I like about him. I canvassed with his mother in his first election and she was very proud.”
Coun David Faulkner, of Newcastle City Council, was first elected at the same time as Sir Alan.
He said: “Throughout his time as an MP, and before, he has been exceptional. He has managed to get the balance right between his responsibilities to the party and his responsibilities to his constituency.”