James Brokenshire: Ministers and mourners gather at funeral to pay tribute to MP

·4-min read
James Brokenshire: Ministers and mourners gather at funeral to pay tribute to MP

MPs across the political divide and family friends gathered to mourn former Cabinet minister and Conservative MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup James Brokenshire.

A heavy police presence was seen in Bexley and around St John the Evangelist Church where the service took place on Thursday.

Mr Brokenshire was described by Reverend Scott Lamb as “unassuming” and the “most decent of men” during a touching service.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Priti Patel were among those in attendance.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May, in whose government Mr Brokenshire held two Cabinet roles, gave a Bible reading from Mark’s Gospel. Referring to the passage, Rev Lamb said Mr Brokenshire also “came not to be served but to serve”.

Elsewhere, Rev Lamb said Mr Brokenshire went into politics “not out of ambition but because he wanted to make a difference”.

He noted how the MP was doing constituency work two days before his death from lung cancer at the age of 53 on October 7.

Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds was played at the end of the service.

Prior to the funeral, there was a minute’s silence in the Commons following PMQs in memory of the MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup who was described by former Prime Minister May as an “outstanding minister” and a “true friend”.

Watched by Mr Brokenshire’s family in the gallery, Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: “James was a politician who commanded affection and respect from colleagues, no matter which party they represented in a parliamentary career spanning 16 years. James’s contribution to public life was immense. ”

Paying tribute to the former Northern Ireland secretary and security minister, he added: “I will always remember James for his positivity, his good sense of humour and for being one of the most friendly, thoughtful, well-liked in the House of Commons.”

Prime Minister Johnson described Mr Brokenshire as “unflappable, earnest, sincere” and a “gentleman politician”.

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

Mr Johnson recalled the time Mr Brokenshire was photographed baking cakes in his kitchen. He said, “starting a Twitter frenzy on the vital question of whether he owned two ovens or four”.

He added: “It was James’s diligence, composure and experience as a lawyer steeped in the art of negotiating last-minute deals that proved so valuable to the Government.

“He held five ministerial jobs, including two in cabinet as secretary of state for Northern Ireland and for housing, communities and local government, and every one of them was fraught with traps for the unwary, opportunities for error.

“The fact that he improved his reputation in each post shows that we’ve lost an astute politician of rare ability.”

He said: “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.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, looking at Mr Brokenshire’s family in the side gallery, said: “We send our condolences and, if I may say so, they should be very proud of their husband and father.

“And they should know across this House and on all of these benches he commanded enormous respect and goodwill.”

Theresa May paid tribute to James Brokenshire (PA Archive)
Theresa May paid tribute to James Brokenshire (PA Archive)

Sir Keir said Mr Brokenshire was a “friend to many of us” in the House of Commons.

Mrs May said the Government and the country is poorer for the loss of James Brokenshire adding it was an “enormous privilege” working with Mr Brokenshire in Government.

She described him as diligent and hardworking, “a loving family man” and also “great fun”.

She said: “James was a remarkable man. He was an outstanding minister, a great constituency member of Parliament, and a true friend.

“As a minister he was assiduous in dealing with the briefs … he was thoughtful in his consideration of the issues and careful in his decision-making.

“That is what you want from a government minister. He gave his time and effort because he understood the importance of the decisions he was making. He cared about people and he cared about the work he was doing. And that came through in all the decisions he made.”

Mrs May added: “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.”

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