Members’ Tea Room Set To Be Renamed “Julie’s” After A Popular Catering Worker
Commons Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, with Julia Clifford | Jessica Taylor/ UK Parliament
The House of Commons Members’ Tea Room looks set to be renamed ‘Julie’s Tea Room' in honour of a popular member of the parliamentary catering team, who died this month after contracting Covid-19.
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle called for the tribute to “friend and colleague” Julia Clifford in a statement made just before parliamentary questions on Monday.
Julia Clifford, 54, also known as Julie, had worked in the Commons since 1985, first in the old Westminster Cafeteria and then in the Members’ Tea Room. She had contracted Covid just after “bravely fighting cancer”, the Speaker revealed.
Describing Clifford as “a hardworking and popular member of the parliamentary family,” Hoyle said he would personally remember her for her “sense of humour and in particular her love of animals,” saying they often talked about her family and pets. “Our condolences go to her husband John and to her sons, Ben and Jack,” he said.
Following the Speaker’s statement, housing secretary Robert Jenrick asked that he, and all on the government benches, be associated with Sir Lindsay's remarks and passed on his deepest respects to Clifford’s family: “We are all very saddened to hear of her death. As you said, service to this House comes in many forms and few have served it as well as she has.”
Responding to the Speaker’s “beautiful” tribute, MP Tracey Crouch tweeted a picture of boiled eggs and soldiers, saying: “We stayed in touch during our respective chemo sessions, although hers were way more gruelling. She was so kind/funny & as a joke always cut my toast into soldiers. Always think of her when I make my own.”
Lady Stuart – who was the MP for Birmingham Edgbaston until the 2017 general election – also remembered Clifford’s “remarkable” kindness, saying she would “always go out of her way” to help. “There was many a morning when a cup of black coffee was already waiting for me by the time I reached the counter. She always remembered,” she said.
Deputy Speaker, Dame Eleanor Laing, tweeted that it would be “hard to imagine” the House of Commons without her: “I knew her for almost 25 years. We will miss Julia’s happy smile, kind words and absolute dedication to her job.”
MP Jess Phillips said that “like most of the staff” in the tearoom, Clifford became close to “all of us”: “When she got ill, we were all devastated, now she is gone we will all miss her so much.”
Describing Julia as “deeply loved by all sides”, MP Carolyn Harris said a “kinder, sweeter lady you wouldn’t find”. “So sad for…all the family,” Harris tweeted. “But knowing she was so loved will be a comfort.”
The Speaker said that a service to commemorate Clifford’s life – and those of other colleagues who have “sadly passed away” from Covid – would take place at a later date “in time, when we are able”.
For now the tea room “would never be the same”, said Sir Lindsay. “No matter how down this House was, Julia was always there for all of us.”