FORMER Prime Minister Tony Blair tonight paid tribute to his “remarkable” father Leo who died earlier today (November 16).

Mr Blair, who was with his father when he passed away, said he was "privileged to have him as a Dad".

The former Sedgefield MP cancelled a string of engagements in the North-East to be at his father’s side – including the fifth anniversary celebrations of the Tony Blair Sports Foundation. He was also unable to attend a local Labour Party dinner in Newton Aycliffe which was to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his Sedgefield constituency.

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Mr Blair said of his father: “He was a remarkable man.

“Raised in a poor part of Glasgow, he worked his way up from nothing, with great ambitions dashed by serious illness on the very brink of their fulfilment.

"He lost my mother, whom he adored, when she was still young.

“Yet despite it all he remained animated by an extraordinary spirit that was in him until the end.

"I was privileged to have him as a Dad."

Mr Blair senior, who was 89, was born in Filey, North Yorkshire, to travelling entertainers who gave him up for adoption to a Glasgow shipyard worker.

As a young man he was Secretary of the Scottish Young Communist League and went on to study law, eventually becoming a university lecturer.

After briefly living in Australia, the family moved to County Durham when Mr Blair took up a post at Durham University Law School and was a member of The St Cuthbert’s Society.

The family lived for a while in Providence Row in Durham City and his son, Tony, went to Durham Choristers School.

While in the city, the former Communist Party member became active in Conservative politics and was chairman of the Durham Conservative Association.

But his ambitions to stand as a Tory Parliamentary candidate were thwarted when he suffered a stroke at the age of 40.

Tragedy struck once more when his wife Hazel - Tony's mother - died of throat cancer in 1975.

Mr Blair Snr remarried and moved to Shropshire with his second wife, Olwyn. He joined the Labour Party in his 70s, when his son became leader.

Tony Blair named his fourth child after him in 2000.

Labour's Phil Wilson, who succeeded him as MP for Sedgefield, said: “Leo was a really genuine, nice gentle man.
"He was really proud of his son and what he achieved even though they had differing political views. It’s very sad news”.

Paulina Lubacz, Acting Registrar of Durham University, said: "We are extremely saddened to hear of the death of Leo Blair, who made a valuable contribution to the study of law at Durham University.

“Our thoughts are with Tony Blair and his family, to whom the university will be sending a note of condolence."