London, Jan. 5 (Reuters): Roy Jenkins, a former Labour Party minister who had helped shape modern British politics and a former president of the European Commission, died at home aged 82, the government said today.
Prime Minister Tony Blair led tributes to Lord Jenkins, describing him as “one of the most remarkable people ever to grace British politics”.
“His influence... was as great as many who held the office of Prime Minister,” Blair said.
In a career spanning more than 50 years, Jenkins held some of the most senior positions in government, but never became Prime Minister, once saying he lacked the “obsessive ruthlessness” needed.
He founded the breakaway Social Democratic Party after defe-cting from Labour in 1981.
“Probably no person outside the rank of Prime Minister has done more for British politics in our time,” a spokesman for former Liberal Democrat party leader Paddy Ashdown said.
Jenkins served twice as a Labour Party home secretary (interior minister) in the 1960s and 1970s, introducing historic social reforms on homosexuality and abortion, and had a spell as finance minister.
A passionate pro-European, he was the only Briton to have led the European Commission in Brussels as president from 1977 to 1981. “Roy Jenkins was an outstanding British statesman and a great European. His life and work greatly enriched the politics of his country and continent,” European Commission president Romano Prodi said in a statement from Brussels. “He will be remembered with great esteem and affection.”