James Brokenshire

Part of Speaker's Statement – in the House of Commons at 1:15 pm on 20th October 2021.

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Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Chair, Committee on Standards, Chair, Committee on Standards, Chair, Committee of Privileges, Chair, Committee of Privileges 1:15 pm, 20th October 2021

I am grateful to you for breaking the rules occasionally, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I want to add one adjective to the list that has been provided, and that is the word magnanimous. I think you could see, in every single moment of any engagement that you ever had with James, even if you were completely and utterly disagreeing with every single word in his sentence, paragraph or speech, that there was magnanimity in the way in which he dealt with you and in the way he dealt with everybody in this House. I can imagine it was exactly the same in his constituency.

I will let the House in on a secret, which is that there is something of a cancer survivors club here. I always hoped that James would always be in that club. He was magnificent with me when I had my cancer a few years ago, and I know that many others had exactly the same experience. Cancer is a bugger: you think it has gone away and then it comes back. You had no idea that it was there and suddenly find that you have stage 3 or stage 4 cancer. That is particularly true, as Dr Fox said, in relation to lung cancer. You think to yourself, “Why didn’t I spot it earlier?” So it is not just sadness and fear that you and your family are surrounded with; it is anger, guilt and all sorts of complicated feelings. I am sure that for many of those in the House who have had cancer there will be a sense of guilt that some of us are still here and James is not.

What does that leave us with? A simple feeling that we must—we must—devote ourselves, especially after this year of covid, to making sure that early detection is possible for everybody and for all the different cancers, and there are so many different kinds. It would be helpful if Mr Speaker could circulate the details of the memorial website so that we might all be able to contribute and a bit more money goes back into cancer care. We need to get a lot of the cancer trials back up and running. We need to make sure that people are not frightened of going to the doctor, that they get seen and that all the backlog is dealt with.

My final thought is this. I do not know whether Members have ever read Thomas Hardy’s book “The Woodlanders”, but at the end Giles Winterborne has died, and the woman who has always loved him addresses him directly and says:

“I never can forget’ee;
for you was a good man, and did good things!”