James Brokenshire death: Tory MP and former minister dies, aged 53

Tributes paid to the ‘nicest man in politics’ after his three-and-a-half-year battle with lung cancer

Holly Bancroft
Friday 08 October 2021 19:02
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<p>James Brokenshire stepped down from his role as security minister in January after he learned that his cancer had returned </p>

James Brokenshire stepped down from his role as security minister in January after he learned that his cancer had returned

Conservative MP and former Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire has died at the age of 53, his family said in a statement.

The former Home Office minister had taken leave from his ministerial duties earlier this year after suffering from a second bout of lung cancer.

His family said on Friday that “James died peacefully at Darrant Valley Hospital yesterday evening with family members by his bedside”.

They paid tribute to his work as a “brilliant government minister” and a “dedicated constituency MP”, but also as a “loving father to his three children, a devoted husband to Cathy and a faithful friend to so many”.

They added that Brokenshire had been in hospital since Sunday “after his condition rapidly deteriorated” and thanked all the NHS staff who cared for him “with such warmth, diligence and professionalism over the past three-and-a-half years.”

Boris Johnson led tributes to the Conservative MP, saying: “Desperately sad to hear the news about James Brokenshire.

“James was the nicest, kindest and most unassuming of politicians but also extraordinarily effective.”

Mr Johnson added that “if the government needed something done well and speedily – and sensibly explained – James was the man to do it”.

He called Mr Brokenshire’s fight against cancer “heroic” and added that “he will be missed by all who knew him”.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak remembered James Brokenshire as “a man of public service and the highest integrity”, in a social media post on Friday. He said: “He was a valued friend and colleague and will be deeply missed.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer paid tribute to Mr Brokenshire, saying he was “a thoroughly decent man, dedicated and effective in all briefs he held”.

Deputy leader Angela Rayner said Mr Brokenshire had “been taken far too young” and said he was “unfailingly professional and kind”.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps described Mr Brokenshire as “quite simply the nicest man in politics. A true gentleman”.

The father-of-three had initially been diagnosed with lung cancer in 2018 and, after receiving successful treatment, he was appointed by Boris Johnson to the Home Office in February 2020.

However Mr Brokenshire was forced to step back from his government role in January after learning that his cancer had returned.

He disclosed in August that his recovery from his illness was taking longer than anticipated. Posting an update on social media on 31 August, he said: “Regrettably my cancer has progressed. Am starting a new line of treatment this week. Unwelcome news but keeping upbeat.”

He was first elected to parliament in 2005 as MP for the former constituency of Hornchurch. Before his death, he was Conservative MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup.

He went on to serve as secretary of state for Northern Ireland and for communities and local government under Theresa May and held a number of junior ministerial positions under Mr Johnson and David Cameron.

Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, remembered Mr Brokenshire’s “positivity and good sense of humour” in a statement issued on Friday.

He added: “He was a politician who commanded affection and respect from colleagues, no matter which party they represented.”

Chair of the Old Bexley and Sidcup Conservative Association, Evelyn Morrison, who worked with Mr Brokenshire for 12 years, said: “I’ve very devastated. A wonderful, wonderful MP. Lots of integrity. He worked so closely with us.”

Former prime ministers also expressed their condolences at their ex-minister’s death.

Mr Cameron said he was “devastated to hear the heartbreaking news that James Brokenshire has died, well before his time”, and Theresa May called him “an outstanding public servant, a talented minister and a loyal friend.”

Former first minister for Northern Ireland Arlene Foster described him as “gracious” and said she was “really shocked” that he had fallen ill so quickly.

The Teenage Cancer Trust said that “James was incredibly open about his diagnosis and treatment journey and used his platform to educate and inspire”.

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