Michael Cashman, one of Britain’s leading gay politicians, has retired as an MEP.

Mr Cashman represented the West Midlands region since he was first elected to the European Parliament in 1999.

He announced his intention to stand down in October 2012.

On Tuesday, Mr Cashman paid tribute to his Labour successors, but tweeted his concern at the rise of the far-right across Europe.

The National Front has made unprecedented gains in France.

Two Labour candidates, Neena Gill and Sion Simon, have been elected in the West Midlands region.

UKIP topped the poll with three MEPs; the Conservatives were awarded two MEPs.

In May 2012, Mr Cashman became the first member of the European Parliament to join the Out4Marriage campaign.

Mr Cashman co-founded gay rights charity Stonewall in 1989 and in 2010 led the calls for the charity to give its support towards equal marriage.

Before going into politics Michael Cashman had long been a household name.

As a child actor he was cast in the role of Oliver Twist in the original run of Lionel Bart’s musical Oliver!

However, he is possibly best known for his role as Colin Russell in the BBC’s long-running soap Eastenders.

His character is best remembered for taking part in the first ever same-sex kiss in a British soap.