James Brokenshire: ‘Kind and courteous’ Old Bexley & Sidcup MP mourned

James Brokenshire
James Brokenshire died in Darent Valley Hospital last night (photo: UK Parliament via Creative Commons)

Tributes have been paid across SE London to the Old Bexley & Sidcup MP James Brokenshire, who died last night aged 53.

Brokenshire, a former secretary of state for Northern Ireland, had been diagnosed with lung cancer in 2018 and reported that a tumour on his right lung had reappeared earlier this year.

The 53-year-old died in Darent Valley Hospital, where he was taken on Sunday after his condition worsened.

Bexley Council’s leader, Teresa O’Neill, said the Conservative MP was “a devoted husband and father” who was also “dedicated to the local people he represented”.

“For the 11 years that James was in office as MP in our borough he had a number of high profile roles that took him across the world but he always remembered his commitment to those he served locally,” she said.

“I was fortunate enough to be able to work with James over the years and know that he was a committed MP who served with passion and a determination to do the best for local people.”

The leader of Greenwich Council’s Conservative group, Nigel Fletcher, tweeted: “James was a great friend to us all in @GreenwichTories as a neighbouring MP, as well as being an outstanding minister and thoroughly decent man. Our hearts go out to Cathy and the family on their loss.”

There was also sorrow from Labour politicians in the area. Clive Efford, the MP for neighbouring Eltham, said: “My heart goes out to his wife Cathy and their three children. On a personal level away from the political fray James was warm and friendly, but when on his feet in the House, he was always well briefed and a formidable adversary.”

Abena Oppong-Asare, who represents Erith & Thamesmead, said: “He was always kind and courteous and will be missed on all sides of the House. Deepest condolences to his family and friends – I hope the respect we had for him is a comfort to them.”

Matt Pennycook, the Greenwich & Woolwich MP, said: “This is awful news. A decent man who bore his illness with fortitude and dignity.”

Janet Daby, the Lewisham East MP, said she was “holding his family in prayer”. She added: “What a desperately sad loss and far too soon.”

Lewisham cabinet member and Blackheath councillor Kevin Bonavia said: “I first got to know James when he was a partner at the firm where I trained to become a solicitor. He always was a very decent and dedicated man.”

In Downing Street, Boris Johnson said Brokenshire was “the nicest, kindest and most unassuming of politicians but also extraordinarily effective”, while his predecessor Theresa May said he was “an outstanding public servant, a talented minister and a loyal friend”.

Brokenshire – the son of a former chief executive of Greenwich Council, Peter Brokenshire – was first elected MP for Hornchurch in 2005 before switching to Old Bexley & Sidcup in 2010 when his old seat was abolished.

He served as Northern Ireland secretary for 18 months from 2018, and later became housing and local government secretary.

After being treated in 2018, Brokenshire, who had never smoked, told Sky News that he wanted to end the stigma around lung cancer.

“I think we need to promote that lung cancer is about early diagnosis, about awareness, about ensuring there are the right pathways to get the clinical interventions that are needed,” he said.

“And also to break some of the stigma around lung cancer, because around 15% of cases are in non-smokers, people who have not smoked at all and yet there is this assumption that it must be your fault in some way. And we do need to break that.”

James Brokenshire’s family have set up a tribute page for people to leave their memories as well as donations to the Roy Castle Foundation.

Updated at 4pm on Friday to include Clive Efford’s tribute and at 12.15am on Saturday to include the tribute page.

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