Peter Tapsell, former 'father' of UK Commons, dies aged 88

London – Peter Tapsell, the former "father" of the British parliament's lower House of Commons, has died aged 88, the chairman of his local Conservative Party branch announced on Saturday.

Tapsell was first elected to parliament in 1959 and stood down at the 2015 general election.

From 2005 onwards, he was the last member of parliament to have served in the 1950s.

He was one of few MPs in parliamentary history to have spent more than 50 years in the Commons.

A colourful character who preferred champagne over coffee and had homes in Paris, Gstaad, Morocco and Barbados, Tapsell was the father of the house from 2010 to 2015.

The title is bestowed on the senior member of the house, nowadays interpreted as the MP with the longest unbroken service in the chamber.

The father has no formal duties other than taking the chair when the house elects a speaker.

However, they are usually among the first called upon to speak in the most serious debates.

Wearing a double-breasted three-piece suit with a silk handkerchief, Tapsell would enunciate his forthright views with solemn gravitas.

Anti-war Brexiteer

First elected in 1959, Tapsell lost his seat in 1964.

He returned to parliament in 1966 and represented the Horncastle area in Lincolnshire, east central England, from then on until his retirement.

Announcing his death, Craig Leyland, chairperson of the local Conservative Party branch, said Tapsell had served the constituency loyally and had never been afraid to speak his mind.

Tapsell served in the British army from 1948 to 1950 then graduated from Oxford University with a first in history. He was briefly a highly-successful stockbroker before becoming a speechwriter to prime minister Anthony Eden and then entering parliament.

He was knighted as Sir Peter in 1985.

His biggest regret was joining Margaret Thatcher's 1970s frontbench finance team in opposition, when he did not believe in her monetarist approach.

In 1981, he became the first Conservative MP to vote against a Conservative budget since the 1930s, plunging him into internal party exile.

A fierce opponent of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a staunch Brexiteer, he told The Daily Telegraph newspaper in 2014: "Everything that has gone wrong in Britain dates from us joining the European Union."