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By Ben Guerin
Press releases

Conservative MP James Brokenshire Has Died Following Lung Cancer Diagnosis

8 min read

James Brokenshire — who recently stepped down from his role as Home Office minister to receive treatment for lung cancer — has died at the age of 53.

Brokenshire, the Conservative MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup, died peacefully at Darrant Valley Hospital yesterday evening with family members by his side. 

In a statement the former minister's family 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.

"We would also ask that our privacy as a family is respected at this time."

Brokenshire wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson in July to say his he was resigning as a security minister because his recovery was taking longer than anticipated.

In August, Brokenshire announced the "unwelcome news" that his cancer had progressed, but said he was "keeping upbeat". 

He thanked the team at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital in London for their support throughout his treatment.

Responding to the news of Brokenshire's death, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "Desperately sad to hear the news about James Brokenshire. James was the nicest, kindest and most unassuming of politicians but also extraordinarily effective.

"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."

Former Prime Minister Theresa May, whose cabinet Brokenshire served in, tweeted: "Truly saddened by the death of James Brokenshire. He was an outstanding public servant, a talented minister and a loyal friend.

"My thoughts are with Cathy and his whole family."

Philip Hammond, who served as May's chancellor, tweeted: "Deeply saddened to hear the news of James Brokenshire’s death. He was an excellent and diligent Minister, always courteous and patient, even in the most stressful situations.

"But most of all, he was a thoroughly decent man and a pleasure to work with. He will be greatly missed."

The Prime Minister's wife Carrie Johnson similarly shared her condolences, writing that her "thoughts (are) with Cathy, his children and all his family and friends".

"Such a decent man. Incredibly sad," Johnson added. 

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, tweeted: "James Brokenshire was a man of public service and the highest integrity. He was a valued friend and colleague and will be deeply missed.

"My thoughts are with his family on this incredibly sad day."

This morning Keir Starmer issued a statement describing Brokenshire as "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," the Labour Party leader said.

Angela Rayner has similarly offered her "deepest condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of James Brokenshire".

The deputy leader of the Labour Party tweeted: "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."

Priti Patel, who worked closely with "dear friend" Brokenshire during his tenure as security minister, says she feels "heartbroken" by the news.

The Home Secretary posted on Twitter: "James was a remarkable Parliamentarian and Minister, but first and foremost he was a dear friend much loved by us all.

"He epitomised the value of public service and served his constituents, our party and our country with great dignity." 

Responding to the news of Brokenshire's passing, Conor Burns, Minister of State for Northern Ireland, wrote: "Deeply cruel news about the death of James Brokenshire. Unfailingly kind and courteous.

"I always recall being in a selection final with him when he was seeking a new seat and him helping me relax. He did every job well and was respected in Northern Ireland. RIP."

Posting on Twitter, former Prime Minister David Cameron wrote: "Devastated to hear the heartbreaking news that James Brokenshire has died, well before his time.

"He was a hard working and dedicated MP but, more than that, he was a thoroughly decent and lovely man, and devoted to his family. My thoughts and prayers are with them all today."

Penny Mordaunt has relayed that "much of what James did as a Minister the public will never know about". 

"He made a huge contribution to their safety and security. He was modest, kind and endlessly cheerful," the trade minister said. 

Alok Sharma has described Brokenshire as an "exceptionally kind, considerate and supportive colleague".

The COP26 president added that he will be "universally missed".

Paying tribute to Brokenshire, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons, said: "I will always remember James for his positivity and good sense of humour – and for being one of the most friendly, thoughtful and well-liked people in the House of Commons. His passing is a profound loss to us all.

"He was a politician who commanded affection and respect from colleagues, no matter which party they represented. In a career spanning 16 years, James’ contribution to public life was immense, serving in successive Governments in Ministerial roles across the Home Office, as well as serving as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and later Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. 

"His commitment to serving his constituents in Old Bexley and Sidcup was also obvious to anybody he knew. Today is a very sad day. My thoughts go out to his wife Cathy and their three children."

Conservative Campaign Headquaters are expected to announce the details of a by-election in due course. 

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