Renowned political commentator Prof Anthony King has died at the age of 82.
His death was confirmed by the University of Essex where he taught government from 1966.
Prof King was a regular commentator on British elections and helped the BBC with its coverage for 20 years.
BBC broadcaster David Dimbleby said: “It’s very sad news, completely unexpected to me. Tony King was passionate about the way government worked, he was extraordinary.”
Dimbleby, the BBC’s general election coverage anchor for nearly 40 years, added: “He also played a public role. He was on the committee for standards in public life, on a committee on reform of the House of Lords, so he was sort of embedded, in the way we do our politics.
“We used to have lunch every so often in between elections to talk about how things were going and he was always absolutely fascinating.”
Born in Canada, Prof King moved to the UK in the 1950s and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, where he gained a doctorate in politics.
He went on to become one of Britain’s leading experts in the political sciences and wrote extensively on the people and trends that have shaped Parliament over the past 50 years.
His works included the history of the Social Democratic Party, Margaret Thatcher’s leadership style and the rise of the career politician.
Baroness Shirley Williams, a close friend of Prof King, said: “Tony was one of the finest political scientists of his generation and his loss will be keenly felt by those of us who knew and worked with him”.
He was best known as a populariser of politics and electoral trends; he analysed opinion polls for the Daily Telegraph for many years and was the BBC’s analyst on its election night coverage from 1983 to 2005.
The Guardian’s associate editor, Martin Kettle, wrote: “Death this morning of Anthony King, Essex professor, BBC psephologist, prolific writer, husband of Jan, most generous of friends.”
Peter Riddell, the commissioner for public appointments and a former political journalist, wrote: “#tonyking bridged the worlds of academia, the media and public policy, always stimulating company with fresh insights.”
University of Essex vice-chancellor Prof Anthony Forster said: “Prof Anthony King was a giant of political science and one of the University of Essex’s longest-serving members of staff, joining us in 1966 just two years after the university opened.
“An inspirational teacher, a great political thinker and a brilliant writer, Professor King analysed politics in books and on television with incredible intelligence, insight and wit.”
Close friend and colleague Prof David Sanders, the university’s regius professor of political science, said: “Tony was the intellectual heart of the Department of Government at Essex.
“His facility for making complex arguments accessible to audiences of all kinds was unparalleled. His personal kindness was immense. I will miss him more than I can say.”