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House of Commons Pays Tribute To “Gentleman” James Brokenshire Following His Death From Lung Cancer

House of Commons Pays Tribute To “Gentleman” James Brokenshire Following His Death From Lung Cancer

“James was great fun. Evenings with Cathy and James were evenings of fun and laughter.” (Alamy)

3 min read

Boris Johnson said former Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire — who died from lung cancer earlier this month — was a “gentleman politician” whose passing came “tragically early”.

Opening tributes to the MP, the Prime Minister offered his “heartfelt condolences” to Brokenshire’s wife and three children who were watching the proceedings from the Commons gallery. 

“The many tributes paid to James are a testament to the affection, respect and esteem in which he is remembered,” Johnson said. 

“And his skill as an able and effective politician, who served his country under three prime ministers in some of the most sensitive and demanding positions in government.”

Johnson continued: “We can only imagine how much more good, he would have done if he had been given the chance. 

“James was in the prime of his life with a huge amount still to offer his country. And it was the cruellest of fates that he, a non-smoker, should have been struck down by lung cancer.”

“His tenacious fight showed the depths of his courage and his character.”

“After his first bite with the disease, as colleagues will remember, he was back in this house within weeks, serving in government and helping his constituents.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer told the House about his friendship with Brokenshire, forged when he shadowed him during Starmer's time as an immigration minister.

“One of the first things I learned when I arrived in this house was that there are not many glamorous roles in opposition. No one gives you a guidebook on how to do these jobs. You're appointed, and off you go,” Starmer said.

“You can ask older wiser heads, you can appoint excellent staff, but genuinely, you're on your own.”

He continued: “There's one little known exception to this rule — a secret in Westminster.

“That is when you shadow a government minister of such decency, courtesy and sense of fair play, that they reach out across the divide and provide helpful pointers, you're not on your own. 

“And so it was for me when as a new MP in 2015 I was appointed the shadow Immigration Minister.”

Brokenshire, the Conservative MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup, died peacefully at Darrant Valley Hospital on 7 October with his family by his side.

He served as Northern Ireland secretary under Theresa May between 2016 and 2018, and later as housing secretary between 2018 and 2019, alongside several other junior ministerial roles.

Offering her own tribute, May said Brokenshire "understood the importance of the decisions he was making", but always focused on helping his own constituents whenever he could.

She also remembered him as a “true friend” and a “remarkable man” who was devoted to his family.

“From what I've said and what others have said, you get the impression that James was just a hard working workaholic,” she continued.

“James was great fun. Evenings with Cathy and James were evenings of fun and laughter.”

“He was also a loving family man, and I remember when he had been first diagnosed with his lung cancer, and he was stepping down from government, his first thought to me was about the impact it would have on Cathy and the family.”

“He was that loving family man, he was out there in his constituency, and he gave dedicated public service to this country.”

“The government is the poorer for his loss, this parliament is the poorer for his loss, and our country is the poorer for his loss,” May said.

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