THE funeral of former Bishop Auckland MP Derek Foster was attended by a legion of Labour luminaries, including party leader Jeremy Corbyn, and it was led by a 30-piece Salvation Army band.

It was held in Lord Foster’s native Sunderland, where he joined the Salvation Army at the age of 11, after he was “promoted to glory”, as the Salvationists say, on January 6 at the age of 81.

As well as Mr Corbyn, the ceremony was attended by former deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, plus Labour lords, baronesses, MPs and police and crime commissioners. Regional figures like the Durham Lord Lieutenant Sue Snowden, the Durham Chief Constable Mike Barton and the former owner of Newcastle United Sir John Hall were also present.

Lord Foster was MP for Bishop Auckland from 1979 to 2005 and for ten years and he was Labour chief whip for a decade, keeping party order on behalf of the then leader Neil Kinnock and ensuring MPs turned up to vote.

“As a former chief whip, he would have been delighted to get such a good turn out on a Friday,” said Billy Neilson, who was his agent.

Commissioner William Cochrane said: “It is an enormous privilege to conduct this service of thanksgiving for a great man. It is an additional pleasure to welcome so many people, which is a testimony to Derek’s life,” said Commissioner William Cochrane. “He was a good man, a warm man. “

Lord Foster was born in Sunderland in 1937 and his father, a shipyard fitter, endured long spells of unemployment.

“Derek knew what it was to be poor and he knew the value of community,” said Mr Cochrane. “He believed so much in education and the dignity of labour and the right of everyone to have a job and support their family and contribute to the community. Right to his last breath that remained a passion of his.

“His beliefs were not dogmatic or doctrinaire but in his politics and his faith he was pragmatic and practical. He would work with anybody to make things better.

“Salvationism and socialism made him what he was.”

Bandmaster Paul Adams said that Lord Foster had learned to play the cornet and later the tromobone. “He also harboured a desire to become a euphonium player,” he said. “Who knows, that ambition might be being fulfilled now in the heavenly band.”

The principal mourner was Lord Foster’s wife, Anne, and in attendance were Baroness Hilary Armstrong, Dame Margaret Hodge and Baroness Joyce Quin. Many current and former North-East MPs were present, including his successor in Bishop, Helen Goodman, and the current Labour chief whip, Nick Brown.

Donations were collected for the 700 Club homeless charity of Darlington.

The service ended with a rousing hymn, Guide me O thou great Jehovah, and Commissioner Cochrane said: “He lived with integrity and with a passion to make things better. The best tribute we can make is to work together to make these things he believed in a reality in this present age.

“Let’s not leave it too long. Let’s do it now in tribute to Derek, for the sake of the common good, for the many, not the few.”