DAVID Atkinson, who was MP for Bournemouth East for 28 years, has died at the age of 71.

He won the seat for the Conservatives in a by-election in 1977 and retired at the general election of 2005.

Tobias Ellwood, who succeeded him as member for Bournemouth East, paid tribute to his “enormous zest for life” and said he was “always full of energy and ideas”.

“Despite retiring from politics in 2005 he remained active within the local Conservative Party and was extremely generous in his support to me, quickly turning into a close friend and mentor, always on hand to answer any questions and offer advice,” he said.

“He never failed to point me in the right direction and I will much miss his wisdom and experience.”

The MP spoke to the Daily Echo last year to warn other people not to ignore the symptoms of ill-health after he was diagnosed with bowel cancer and given an operation.

He said he there were symptoms he should have taken to his GP. “Maybe they would have caught it earlier,” he added.

Mr Atkinson was proud of his record on human rights as a member of the Council of Europe and as its special rapporteur for the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation. He was the first British backbench MP to address the United Nations General Assembly.

At his retirement from the Commons, he said his proudest achievements included securing a £4.5 million grant for Hengistbury Head, helping save AFC Bournemouth from financial ruin, and becoming the first MP to raise the issue of the Millennium Bug in the Commons.