Former Prime Minster Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband yesterday (Sun) paid tribute to a Labour council leader who died suddenly over the weekend.

Tragic Councillor Darren Cooper, 52, who was the leader of Sandwell Council, passed away on Saturday night (26/3).

The married dad-of-three had represented the Soho and Victoria ward in Smethwick, West Mids., since May 1991 and became leader of the authority in December 2009.

Yesterday (Sun), senior Labour figures paid tribute to the “funny and humorous” councillor who was well-respected in politics.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “Like many I am shocked at the sudden death of Councillor Darren Cooper.

“He had an outstanding record of public service which was recognised across the country and his work for the people of Sandwell will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with his family.”

Tom Watson, MP for West Bromwich East and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, added: “There will be many members of the Labour Party who will wish to pay their tributes to Darren as a civic and political leader.

“I would like to remember the funny and humorous friend who loved the Albion and bank holiday fishing. We shall all miss Darren, a true son of Sandwell.

“My thoughts. prayers and love are with Karen and Darren’s family.”

Former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband also paid tribute, saying: “I am deeply shocked to hear that Darren Cooper has died. He was a great leader of his council and one of the most decent people in our movement.

“He was charismatic, innovative, in touch with the people he represented and a deeply loyal person.

“His death at such an early age is a terrible tragedy most of all for his family and friends and for the whole Labour Party.”

In a statement announcing the tragic death, Sandwell Council confirmed Deputy Leader Councillor Steve Eling will assume the role as leader.

Cllr Eling added: “It is with great sadness that we confirm the death of the leader of Sandwell Council, Councillor Darren Cooper who died last night.

“This is of course a terrible shock to everyone who knew Darren.

“He was hugely liked and respected by both his colleagues at the council and the constituents who he was dedicated to serving.

“Our thoughts and condolences are with his wife and family and we ask on their behalf that their privacy be respected at this extremely sad and difficult time.”

Cllr Cooper was a huge West Bromwich Albion fan and yesterday the Premier League club tweeted: “All at #wba are saddened to hear of the death of Sandwell leader and huge Baggies fan Darren Cooper. Condolences to his wife and family.”

West Midlands Labour ?also tweeted: “Darren Cooper was a passionate and gifted Labour leader. He will be sorely missed by all in the West Midlands Labour movement.”

The council leader was well thought of in the Labour Party and was expected to try and run as the party’s candidate for an elected Mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority next year.

Adrian Bailey, Labour MP for West Bromwich West, said: “I am shocked and deeply saddened by this news. I have known Darren for over 25 years, as a friend, council colleague and latterly, council leader.

“He had a passion for public service and demonstrated great skill as a politician.

“Labour’s strength on Sandwell Council is a reflection of his qualities as leader. I am sure he would have gone on to serve in even higher positions.

“He will be greatly missed as a warm, caring individual who could have achieved even more for the Black Country community he loved.

“My heartfelt condolences go to his family at what must be an incredibly difficult time for them.”

John Spellar, Labour MP for Warley, added: “He was a good friend and a stalwart of the Labour Party.

“He had not only made a big contribution as Leader of Sandwell but was starting to be a major figure in local government nationally.

“It is shocking that he has died so young.”

And Councillor John Clancy, Leader of nearby Birmingham City Council, said: “I was heartbroken to hear this morning about Darren’s passing away.

“I deeply valued his personal friendship and his steadfast personal support over many years. He was someone who I could go to for advice about anything and he’d give it with wisdom, humour and realism.

“I have lost a great friend. Sandwell has lost one its great sons, and Birmingham has lost one of its great allies. We all feel lost today.

“The political and economic life of the West Midlands are also much the poorer for his passing. My thoughts and prayers are with Karen and the family, my heart goes out to them this Easter.”

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