There was devastating news for Labour Party supporters across the North East, and for people living in the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland constituency in particular, with the news of the untimely death of local MP Ashok Kumar.
I came across Ashok several times over the years, but got to know him well during my stint as one of Labour's 3 European candidates last year. When you met him for the first time, he presented as a modest and courteous man - not everyone's model of a self-promoting MP at all. That belied his passion for representing the people of his constituency and their interests, however - a combination of the 2 factors explains how he turned his highly marginal seat into a safe one for Labour.
Being third on a list of three, as I was for the European elections, does not make you a high priority when it comes to election time - realistically, the push was on to win the second seat for Labour. Ashok went out of his way, however, to show me personal kindness, and gave me a speaking slot at his annual dinner to bang the party drum for the European poll. He also agreed to take time out of his schedule and join Graham and I on the sofa for our last Northern Decision Makers.
I spent a lot of my time in his constituency during the run-up to the European polls. As you will recall, it was a time when MP expenses were on everyone's lips, and members of the public were in a lynching mood. Yet in the scattered communities across his constituency, never once did I hear any personal criticism of Ashok from a resident - his work rate and character seemed to set him apart in the minds of the public from "that lot down in Westminster".
Ashok inspired loyalty, and had a close-knit team of campaigners and helpers which gave working for the Party there a wonderful "family" feel - my thoughts are with them now and in the difficult days ahead.