I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to pay tribute to my friend and our colleague, James Brokenshire, who, very sadly, as we have heard, lost his courageous battle against lung cancer only two weeks ago. To lose one colleague is a tragedy, but to lose two in two weeks is almost too much to bear.
There is so much that I wanted to share with this House about my experiences with James. Much will be and has been said about James the politician, but I want to talk about James, my friend—the James I met some 45 years ago at Staples Road County Primary School. We grew up in the same area of Epping Forest. We joined the local Conservative association. We fought local elections together, either as candidates, helping each other, or when helping others to get elected. We supported the fantastic Member of Parliament for Epping Forest, Madam Deputy Speaker, to ensure that she—you, Madam Deputy Speaker—was elected in 1997 and retained her seat at every election since. You must feel this loss as keenly as many of us here, Madam Deputy Speaker, and it is unfortunate that you are not able to express that. James and I worked together to support Robin Squire in his attempt to regain his Hornchurch seat in 2001. That seat eventually sent James to this place in 2005, and that inspired me to find a seat that I could win.
James was the embodiment of all that is good. He was decent, honest and faithful. He demonstrated integrity and good humour in everything and was respected by all. Now, we have to say goodbye. Goodbye to James, taken from us all, especially from Cathy, Sophie, Jemma and Ben, all too cruelly and all too untimely. I send my deepest regrets and sympathies to them. As we have heard, as a tribute to James, Cathy has set up a muchloved.com page, and when I last checked well over £50,000 had been raised in memory of James and in support of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. I am sure we all agree that that is a fitting tribute, and I encourage people to visit that site—as Bob Geldof once said, “Give us your money”—because it will make a difference. But I look for the Government to do more. As we have seen throughout the pandemic, our UK science base is capable of extraordinary achievements at breakneck speed, when required. Now, as we move past the pandemic, it would be a fitting use of our science superpower status to lead the world in finding better treatments and cures for this cruel disease.
I could share with you, Madam Deputy Speaker, so many occasions on which James and I shared good times together, whether over a glass of wine at our Wasters Wine Club or just out on the campaign trail, but I fear that time is my enemy, so I will simply say: James, I will miss you greatly. Please, rest in peace, and, by the grace of God, rise in glory. Goodbye, my friend.