Published: 12:07, 17 January 2018
Long-serving former Ashford MP Sir Keith Speed has died at the age of 83, his family has announced.
Sir Keith, who had been ill for some months, died in the William Harvey Hospital on Friday.
Political friends have paid tribute to the former Tory Navy Minister, who became Ashford MP in 1974 before standing down in favour of Damian Green in 1997.
The grandfather-of-two married his wife, Peggy, in 1961 and is credited with bringing the high-speed rail link to the town.
Lady Speed said: “After 56 years with Keith, I will miss him very much.
“He always worked so hard for everybody.
“Like any couple, we had some ups and downs, but I shall just miss him so much – we got on so well and he worked so hard for his constituents.”
Sir Keith, who was registered blind two years ago, was appointed as Navy Minister under Margaret Thatcher in 1979.
He was sacked from his position in 1981 after he refused to accept reductions in the size of the Royal Navy.
Lady Speed, who thanked staff at the Harvey after her husband was admitted on Boxing Day, added: “I am very proud of what Keith did in the town.
“Many of the things he did were not publicised, but he did so many kind actions.
"He was a model of kindness..." - Damian Green
“People would come and knock on the door of our home in Rolvenden and he would always have time for them. He really did push the boat out.”
Current Ashford MP Damian Green says residents in the town owe Sir Keith “a great debt of gratitude”.
He said: “We will all be saddened by this news, and our thoughts and prayers will go out to Peggy and the rest of the family.
“Keith was a wonderful friend, a hugely successful MP for Ashford, and a minister who took his love of the Royal Navy into high office.
“He was a model of kindness when I took over from him as the MP, and was always available with a word of advice.”
Funeral arrangements are yet to be confirmed.
For a full tribute, see tomorrow's Kentish Express