Boris and Carrie Johnson today led tributes to Britain’s ‘nicest’ MP James Brokenshire who died aged 53 after a ‘heroic’ four-year battle with lung cancer leaving behind his heartbroken wife and three children.
Mr Brokenshire, who was a Conservative minister for housing, security and Northern Ireland under David Cameron and Theresa May until he was sacked by Mr Johnson in 2019, passed away surrounded by family at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford last night, close to his Old Bexley and Sidcup constituency.
He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017 despite having never smoked, and would eventually have his right lung removed earlier this year after another relapse. In August he posted a heartbreaking tweet saying his ‘cancer had progressed’, along with a photo of him with his wife Cathy. He died yesterday, after he was rushed to hospital on Sunday.
Boris Johnson said today that he was ‘desperately sad to hear the news’, as ministers and MPs from all sides gave tributes including Labour’s Chris Bryant who tweeted: ‘Cancer is a b***ard’.
‘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’, Boris Johnson said.
‘If the government needed something done well and speedily – and sensibly explained – James was the man to do it.
‘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.’
His wife Carrie, who was previously the Tory director of communications, tweeted: ‘Thoughts with Cathy, his children and all his family and friends. Such a decent man. Incredibly sad’.
In his last tweet, Mr Brokenshire shared a picture of himself on a walk with his ‘amazing’ wife Cathy, and said that his lung cancer had ‘progressed’
Boris and Carrie Johnson today led tributes to Britain’s ‘nicest’ MP James Brokenshire who died aged 53 after a ‘heroic’ four-year battle with lung cancer
After surgery in 2018 he returned to the Cabinet as communities secretary later that year, but was axed by Mr Johnson when he became Prime Minister in July 2019
How ‘diligent’ and ‘unerring kind’ minister ribbed for having four ovens used illness to warn others that 15% of lung cancer sufferers have never smoked
Mr Brokenshire, pictured with wife Cathy, was Northern Ireland secretary under Theresa May before stepping down in January 2018 – on his 50th birthday- after his cancer diagnosis
Tributes to father-of-three James Brokenshire have poured in today.
Mr Brokenshire, the Conservative MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup, first announced he had been diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017 and he underwent surgery to remove the upper lobe of his right lung.
But the cancer kept returning and he died yesterday, after his condition deteriorated suddenly.
He was a 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.
He was MP, first for Hornchurch from 2005 to 2010, and then for Old Bexley & Sidcup for the past 11 years.
He was not well known to the public, and even branded ‘boring’ by critics, due to the lack of scandal in his career.
However, he made headlines after an interview with the Sunday Times in his kitchen, which readers spotted contained four ovens. Mr Brokenshire saw the funny side and then baked regularly for events in his constituency, but insisted it was two double ovens.
But his work as a minister became increasingly disrupted by poor health, forcing him to step back from work.
At the time of his diagnosis, non-smoker Mr Brokenshire described how he was prompted to see his GP after coughing up a small amount of blood.
He became vocal over calls for a national screening programme for lung cancer, and in April 2018 used a debate in Parliament to call for a national programme to improve poor survival rates.
Mr Brokenshire, who had never smoked, used his illness to campaign for greater awareness.
He said much stigma surrounds lung cancer, with many people incorrectly believing it is only caused by smoking.
He said: ‘There are 46,000 lung cancer diagnoses each year and, earlier this year, I was one of them and had surgery to remove a third of my lung.’
The Old Bexley and Sidcup MP, a non-smoker, stood down as security minister in July to focus on his health after a recurrence of his illness.
But in a statement today his family announced that he had died last night in hospital with his family by his side after a sudden deterioration in his condition.
In a statement, James Brokenshire’s family said: ‘James died peacefully at Darent Valley Hospital yesterday evening with family members by his bedside. He had been in hospital since Sunday after his condition rapidly deteriorated.
‘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.’
Mr Brokenshire held several Government positions during his career, including as Secretary of State for Housing, and for Northern Ireland.
Former prime minister and Conservative leader David Cameron tweeted: ‘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.’
Theresa May, the former prime minister and Tory leader, 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.’
The news prompted an outpouring of tributes from across the political spectrum, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak saying he 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,’ he tweeted.
Deputy prime minister Dominic Raab said James Brokenshire’s death is ‘such sad news’.
‘My thoughts and prayers are with James’s family,’ he tweeted.
‘I got to know James from 2006 onwards and worked with him in (government). A smart and brilliant politician, and just a terrific guy. He will be so sorely missed.’
Sharing a statement from James Brokenshire’s family about his death, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted: ‘I am so sorry to hear this very sad news. James was a fantastic colleague – honest, decent and brave.
‘My thoughts are with his family and all his friends.’
He was forced to undergo surgery and take leave again in January this year after a relapse in the same lung
Labour leader Keir Starmer added: ‘James Brokenshire was 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.’
Labour’s Chris Bryant added: ‘I always found him to be charming, committed and utterly professional.
‘My deepest condolences to all his family, friends and colleagues. Cancer is a b***ard.’
The former Cabinet minister underwent a fresh round of treatment in January, three years after surgery to remove part of one lung.
But the Old Bexley and Sidcup MP, 53, stepped down as a minister in the summer, telling Boris Johnson that he wanted to focus on his health. Her announced thwe following month that his cancer had spread.
His passing will set up a by-election in his south east London seat, which he held with a majority of more than 8,000 in 2019.