08 October 2021

PM leads tributes after death of ‘nicest, kindest and most unassuming of politicians’, James Brokenshire

08 October 2021

Boris Johnson has paid tribute to James Brokenshire as the “nicest, kindest and most unassuming of politicians” after the death of the former Government minister aged 53.

Mr Brokenshire, who served as Northern Ireland secretary and security minister, had been suffering from lung cancer and died on Thursday evening, a statement from his family said.

The Prime Minister said he was “desperately sad” to hear the news.

Mr Johnson said on Twitter: “He served with particular distinction in the Home Office and as Security Minister. If the government needed something done well and speedily – and sensibly explained – James was the man to do it.

“I worked with him for many years in London and I know how much he cared for the interests of his Bexley constituents.

“His fight against cancer was heroic, and it is a measure of his resolve that he came back from a first bout with the disease to serve in government again. He will be missed by all who knew him. Our thoughts are with Cathy and his family.”

Mr Brokenshire, the Conservative MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup, first announced he had been diagnosed with lung cancer in 2018 and he underwent surgery to remove the upper lobe of his right lung.

At the time, non-smoker Mr Brokenshire described how he was prompted to see his GP after coughing up a small amount of blood.

He became vocal over calls for a national screening programme for lung cancer, and in April 2018 used a debate in Parliament to call for a national programme to improve poor survival rates.

He said much stigma surrounds lung cancer, with many people incorrectly believing it is only caused by smoking.

He also backed efforts by Baroness Jowell, who died in May 2018 after suffering from a glioblastoma multiforme brain tumour, for more experimental treatments to be available on the NHS.

In January, he suffered a recurrence of a tumour in his lung and later said the “somewhat troublesome” lung had now been removed by surgeons at Guy’s Hospital in south London.

But in August, he confirmed his lung cancer had “progressed” and he was starting a new line of treatment.

Mr Brokenshire’s family said he had been in hospital since Sunday and his condition had rapidly deteriorated.

In a statement, they said: “James was not only a brilliant Government minister as both security and immigration minister at the Home Office and Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office and Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government, but a dedicated constituency MP, first for Hornchurch from 2005 to 2010, and then for Old Bexley & Sidcup for the past 11 years.

“But most importantly, he was a loving father to his three children, a devoted husband to Cathy and a faithful friend to so many.

“We would like to thank all the NHS staff, particularly those at Guy’s & St Thomas’ in London, who cared for James with such warmth, diligence and professionalism over the past three-and-a-half years.”

Mr Brokenshire resigned as security minister in July after telling Mr Johnson that his recovery from surgery was taking “longer than expected”.

Mr Brokenshire in 2018 (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

When his cancer progressed, he said he was “keeping upbeat” over his condition but “needed space to focus on treatment”.

Former prime minister David Cameron said Mr Brokenshire had been a “hard-working and dedicated MP but, more than that, he was a thoroughly decent and lovely man, and devoted to his family”.

Mr Cameron’s successor as PM Theresa May called Mr Brokenshire “an outstanding public servant, a talented minister and a loyal friend”.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak wrote on Twitter: “James Brokenshire was a man of public service and the highest integrity. He was a valued friend and colleague and will be deeply missed.”

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss described Mr Brokenshire as “honest, decent and brave”.

Home Secretary Priti Patel added that he “epitomised the value of public service and served his constituents, our party, and our country with great dignity”.

Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said: “I got to know James from 2006 onwards and worked with him in (government). A smart and brilliant politician, and just a terrific guy. He will be so sorely missed.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: “James Brokenshire was a thoroughly decent man, dedicated and effective in all briefs he held.

“He fought his illness with dignity and bravery. I’m incredibly sad to learn of his death and send my condolences to his wife and children.”

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner tweeted: “Sending my deepest condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of James Brokenshire.

“He has been taken far too young, a real tragedy. James was unfailingly professional and kind and it was clear that he cared deeply about his work and public service. Rest in peace James.”

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