James Brokenshire

Part of Speaker's Statement – in the House of Commons at 12:58 pm on 20th October 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Exchequer Secretary (Treasury) 12:58 pm, 20th October 2021

James was my constituency neighbour. I remember on election night, when I had just been elected, James came over to congratulate me and to introduce himself. While he was introducing himself, I remember thinking, “I know exactly who you are.” That just goes to show the humble person he was, never taking it for granted. We discussed having a catch up in Parliament when I had settled into my role, but due to the pandemic and his falling ill again, we did not get round to it and I am very sad about that.

I recently went to Bexley civic parade, my first in my role as an MP, and it was the first big event we had after the lockdown restrictions eased. I was walking alongside Sir David Evennett, and I am sure he will agree that James’s absence was clearly felt. Although it was nice to be there with the right hon. Gentleman, it was oh so sad that James was not able to take part. It was then that the seriousness of his illness began to sink in with me.

Since James’s death, I have spoken to many community groups, individuals and Labour activists from his constituency, and they have had nothing but nice words to say. Anashua Davies said that James would often be seen on a packed commuter train. She remembers asking him to support her in the campaign for a second referendum, and he was never dismissive. He was always open to a bit of light ribbing from Labour activists on issues on which they disagreed. I know my Labour activists, and I know what she said is true, that he was a true gent.

Claire and her dad said that James supported many events with the Irish community. Teresa Gray said he supported the food banks when they first started in Bexley. Dave Tingle, who stood against James, told me that he went out of his way to help him when he had a fire in his house. The mayor of Bexley, Dave Easton, on behalf of staff at Bexley Council, said that James was a wonderful individual, totally dedicated to his residents—a man of utter integrity, who cared so much about Bexley. Daniel Francis and Grant Blowers both told me that James reached out to them when their wives had cancer. That was typical of James’s character: he was always inquiring about and offering support to others, even as he had his own battle with cancer. No matter where you were on the political spectrum, James represented everyone in Old Bexley and Sidcup. To James’s family, let me say: I hope you take comfort in knowing what high regard he was held in, in Bexley and beyond.