The London gay community is in shock following the announcement that Lambeth Mayor Mark Bennett died suddenly from a suspected heart attack on Tuesday morning, aged 43.
Mr Bennett, who was first elected in 2005, died in hospital in the early hours of Tuesday morning, Lambeth council announced.
The London Evening Standard reports that tributes from Labour politicians flooded in yesterday afternoon to support the Streatham South representative.
Mr Bennett has been Mayor of Lambeth since March last year. In November, he took part in a walk through Vauxhall to reclaim the area after an anti-gay hate crime attack had taken place.
The openly gay councillor was also a member of the Labour Campaign for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Last year, he took part in the 2013 London Gay Pride Parade wearing his mayoral chains.
Chuka Umanna, MP for Streatham, said: “It is with great shock and sadness that I learnt of the death of our Mayor, my constituent and dear friend, Cllr Mark Bennett. His passing is a huge loss for our community, which he had taken to his heart and loved so much.
“Mark was a kind and lovely guy with great intelligence, wit and insight. There is so much to say – words cannot do Mark justice.”
He added: “May you rest in peace Mark and thank you for being a shining light in our community. We will so miss you and our love, thoughts and prayers are with your family at this incredibly difficult time.”
Tessa Jowell, the former Olympics Minister and MP for Dulwich and West Norwood also tweeted the following message of support:
Devastating news about Mark Bennett. Impossible to imagine Lambeth without him. He taught us all so much (cont) http://t.co/5PNcPNpUXD
— Tessa Jowell (@jowellt) February 4, 2014
She continued: “He taught us all so much about civic pride, quiet leadership and precision. So glad we were able to greet the Queen together when she visited Ebony Horse Club before Christmas. We must work hard to honour his memory and the standard he set us.”
Mr Bennett was also an assistant to Alastair Campbell for the first four years of Tony Blair’s Labour government.
Mr Campbell wrote: “Mark, you were a big character, and you left your mark on all of us. I will miss you and so will all who came to know your wit, your passion, your commitment and your determination to do something good for the world.”
Lib Peck, Lambeth Council’s leader, added: “I am devastated to have lost someone who was not only a fantastic representative for the borough, but also a much loved and close personal friend.
“Mark was a very talented individual who went above and beyond for the people of his ward, and for the whole community.
“We will all miss him deeply.”
A book of condolence is set to be opened at Lambeth town hall before details of a memorial service and funeral are announced later.