On Monday, the Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Ashok Kumar, died suddenly aged 53 and his funeral will be held today.
Paul Bristow, the Conservative candidate for the seat, released the following statement earlier in the week on hearing the news:
"I was deeply saddened and shocked by the death of Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland MP Ashok Kumar. Although I am standing as the Conservative candidate in his constituency, I have always had the utmost respect for him and his work as a constituency MP.
"I knew Ashok long before my adoption as the Conservative candidate. Several years ago he was part of a delegation with other MPs to Syria and met with President Assad and other Syrian politicians. At the time I was working for the group leader, Richard Spring MP, at Westminster, and joined the MPs, helping with arrangements and keeping a written account of discussions. On one occasion, Richard asked if I would speak and give thanks to our Syrian hosts. Although delighted to do this, I was a little nervous but remember Ashok being very kind and reassuring both before and afterwards.
"He wrote to me when I was selected telling me he remembered me well from the trip, and promised a good clean contest.
"He will be remembered as an extremely good natured and hard working MP. In one way, he was the perfect opponent as you knew he would always fight a clean and decent campaign. In another, he was the least desirable opponent as almost everyone you met said what a pleasant man he was.
"My thoughts are with his friends and family."