Former Milton Keynes MP and veteran Labour councillor Brian White has lost his battle against cancer just weeks after he was diagnosed.
Popular Brian, who was always known as the “people’s councillor”, died peacefully on Tuesday morning at Milton Keynes hospital with his wife Leena at his side. He was 59.
He was diagnosed with incurable cancer at the end of last month - on the same day that he and Leena planned to exchange contracts to buy their dream retirement villa in Spain.
But the plans were cancelled when tests revealed Brian had a tumour on the oesophagus and the cancer had spread to his liver and bones.
He bravely announced the fact in the Citizen, urging other people not to ignore their symptoms as he did and delay visiting the GP.
He said at the time: “I accept that it can’t be cured and that it’s an inoperable cancer. But that doesn’t mean I’m dying because I intend to fight this with all I’m worth.”
He vowed to “stick around” to help fight against Brexit and battle against the Tories privatising the NHS,
“The cancer is what it is. I can’t change it so I refuse to worry about it. Only one thing is for sure - none of us get out of this world alive.”
Belfast-born Brian was inundated with messages of support and sympathy from former constituents, councillors and political rivals, many of whom were his friends outside the council chamber.
He spent almost 20 years as a Milton Keynes councillor, interrupted by a term as MP between 1997 and 2005. He was also one of the city’s most popular Mayors between 2013 and 2014.
Chair of planning for many years, one of his most famous council battles was arguing successfully against John Prescott to get planning permission granted for stadium:mk to be built.
Brian, who is pictured by the Citizen at his home on July 1, had been suffering health problems since Christmas. He announced in February that he would stand down from his seat as councillor for Stantonbury at the May elections.
He planned to sell his Bradville house and enjoy a life of retirement with Leena in the Spanish sunshine.
Throughout his short illness, Brian was full of praise for the treatment he was receiving from the NHS and Willen Hospice nurses.
“The NHS has been superb. I could not have wished for better treatment and I simply can’t praise and thank everybody enough for all they have done for me,” he told the Citizen.
One sympathiser summed up the city’s view about Brian: “The world will be a sadder, less genuine and less honest place without Brian White,” he said.
The council is flying the flag at half mast at the civic offices today in Brian’s honour and tributes to him have flooded in on social media.
Mayor Steve Coventry, on behalf of the council, said: “Brian was a true gentleman, who had Milton Keynes at heart in everything he did.
“He has represented Milton Keynes at all levels, from being a Councillor, Mayor and an MP, all representing the City in his unique way, Brian was a political genius who bought everyone together regardless of their political views. He was strong minded and strong willed in everything he did, but always put Milton Keynes first.”
He added: “My thoughts are with his family and friends. Milton Keynes has lost a good friend with his passing.”