Lord Tarsem King sounds like such a grand name. You couldn’t meet a milder, kinder and more pragmatic person. He passed away a few days ago and I just wanted to post a little piece in tribute to him, because if it wasn’t for people like him, perhaps people like me wouldn’t have had the opportunities we had.
He was the first Sikh Leader of a Council in the country. He may even have been the first person of Asian origin to lead a council in the UK. I heard stories about what a decent man he was from an uncle of mine who served with him on Sandwell Council.
But the first time I ever met him was in 1999, at Millbank at a Labour Party BAME event. He was different from the rest, there was no sense of ego. He was pure humility. He gave a softly spoken message to those in attendance from the lectern. In a way it was a controversial message. Give up your desire to be Mayors, he told us. Forget about the bling of civic office, and instead become a leader of a council or a cabinet holder and make a difference at a policy level. Of course he was right in what he said, and he led by example.
We became friends from that day. It was always an honour to be in his presence, whether in his home or over a cup of tea in Westminster. When he came to our wedding I recall introducing him to my in-laws who didn’t believe me when I told them he was a Member of the House of Lords, because there was no sense of fanfare about him.
His achievements are something for the Sikh community in this country to be particularly proud of. He was a moderate Sikh Parliamentarian – which was important when considering the often turbulent issues facing the community.
Lord King was a special man. He’ll be missed by the family he loved and never forgotten by those of us whose lives he touched.