15 June 2023

Labour leader Keir Starmer: We won’t see talent like Glenda Jackson again

15 June 2023

Sir Keir Starmer has led tributes to veteran actress and former Labour politician Glenda Jackson saying she “leaves a space in our cultural and political life that can never be filled”.

Jackson “died peacefully” after a brief illness at the age of 87, her agent confirmed on Thursday.

The double Oscar-winner gave up acting for politics and served as Labour MP for Hampstead and Highgate for 23 years.

Labour leader Sir Keir paid tribute saying: “I was very sad to hear of Glenda Jackson’s passing. She leaves a space in our cultural and political life that can never be filled.

“She played many roles with great distinction, passion and commitment.

“From award-winning actor to campaigner and activist to Labour MP and government minister, Glenda Jackson was always fighting for human rights and social justice.

“As a fellow north London MP, I know how much she was loved and respected by her constituents.”

Sir Keir also evoked her famous appearance on Morecambe and Wise as Cleopatra, with a play on her line, “All men are fools, and what makes them so is having beauty like what I have got”.

He said: “Of course no tribute to Glenda could fail to mention her role as Cleopatra in that most famous and loved of all the Morecambe and Wise sketches.

“We will never see talent like what she has got again.”

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner described Jackson as an “inspirational woman to so many of us” in the party.

She tweeted: “An acclaimed actress, a formidable politician and an inspirational woman to so many of us in the Labour Party.

“My thoughts are with her family, friends and many others who loved her.”

Meanwhile Tulip Siddiq, who sits in Jackson’s former seat, said her predecessor “mentored” her when she was growing up and “made a real impression”.

“She mentored me when I was growing up because she was my MP when I was growing up in my teenage years and she mentored a lot of young women in our constituency,” the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn told BBC Radio Four’s World At One programme.

“She made a real impression on me as a young woman then, and also because throughout her career, she was so independent and just did what was right by her, her conscience and her constituents, even when it meant defying the Labour whips.”

Broadcaster Gyles Brandreth, who was Conservative MP for the City of Chester from 1992 to 1997, said he treasures his “unlikely friendship” with the “gifted, caring and special” Jackson.

“A wonderful actress, a committed politician, a remarkable human being – we became MPs on the same day in 1992 & I treasure our unlikely friendship,” he tweeted.

“She was such a gifted, caring & special person who came into the world to make a difference – and did. RIP the unique Glenda Jackson.”

Former Downing Street communications chief Alastair Campbell said he felt Jackson at times “found the transition to politics harder than she expected” but had “a great life well lived”.

Mr Campbell, who worked with Labour prime minister Sir Tony Blair, under whom Jackson was a minister for transport from 1997 to 1999, tweeted: “Sad to hear that Glenda Jackson has died.

“One of the finest actresses of our lifetime, our local MP and for a time minister in (Tony Blair) government.

“I sometimes felt she found the transition to politics harder than she expected. But a great life well lived and a major contribution on so many fronts.”

Labour MP and shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell, who used to work for and alongside Jackson, has recalled the “incredibly kind” politician’s “cutting humour” and “general disdain at most things”.

“This is very sad news. In my early twenties I worked for Glenda, a decade later our MPs offices were next door,” Ms Powell tweeted.

“She was always incredibly kind & supportive to me.

“I will also remember her cutting humour, general disdain at most things, all while smoking!”

Similarly, Sir Chris Bryant paid tribute to Jackson’s “versatility” and voice.

“It’s not just that she had those amazing chiselled cheekbones which served her well in many, many movies, it’s the quality of the work and the variety,” the Labour MP told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme.

“Her voice could go from gravel to caramel in three seconds and you could hear it sometimes in the chamber of the House of Commons.

“She always complained that the Commons was just like acting but the lighting was terrible and it was under-rehearsed.”

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