Tony Blair pays tribute to former MEP Michael Cashman by saying #ThanksMichael

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Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has paid tribute to Michael Cashman, one of Britain’s leading gay politicians, following his retirement as an MEP.

An LGBT Labour reception to mark Mr Cashman’s 15 years of service in the European Parliament is taking place on Wednesday evening in central London.

Mr Blair, Prime Minister from 1997-2007, became the most senior Labour politician to tweet his support for the event on Monday.

Mr Cashman represented the West Midlands region since he was first elected to the European Parliament in 1999.

He announced his intention to stand down as an MEP in October 2012.

The 63-year-old London-born politician officially left the European Parliament today.

In May 2012, Mr Cashman became the first member of the European Parliament to join the Out4Marriage campaign.

Mr Cashman co-founded gay rights charity Stonewall in 1989 and in 2010 led the calls for the charity to give its support towards equal marriage.

Before going into politics Michael Cashman had long been a household name.

As a child actor he was cast in the role of Oliver Twist in the original run of Lionel Bart’s musical Oliver!

However, he is possibly best known for his role as Colin Russell in the BBC’s long-running soap Eastenders.

His character is best remembered for taking part in the first ever same-sex kiss in a British soap.