James Brokenshire

Part of Speaker's Statement – in the House of Commons at 1:28 pm on 20th October 2021.

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Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale 1:28 pm, 20th October 2021

It is an honour to contribute to this debate. So much has already been said about James. I regard it as a huge honour to have been a friend and to have seen him as a friend. High office is actually a very lonely place, as many people around this Chamber will know, and the ability to be able to speak to someone openly and not to think that that will appear on the front page of tomorrow’s paper or to be part of online speculation about yourself or colleagues is hard to find. When I was a Cabinet member, a Minister and a shadow Minister, James was someone I always felt I could speak to in total confidence: somebody who would give support, in a way that was for my benefit, not for any benefit to him; somebody who would be candid; and, as we have heard, somebody who would be funny about it as well, because you can be nice and be very funny too, with a wicked sense of humour. I am very grateful for the support that he gave me when I was a Minister.

I was also struck by James’s self-effacing nature. As we started this discussion, I looked at the last exchange of messages that I had with him about his situation, and it was his thanks to me for my concern. It was the fact that all of us had given him so much love and support over the period that he was so grateful for; he wanted to convey that and said it had sustained him in some of the most difficult times.

The final point I want to make is that I was actually with Sir David Amess in Qatar when we heard the news of James’s passing. David really was very upset by that news and was effusive in his tributes to James. I am sure that if he had been in the Chamber today, he would have wanted to make such a contribution. As we heard earlier, social media is not the friendliest place, but there is a great picture that was put up on Twitter, which shows Sir David in this Parliament, advocating the case for Southend as a city, with James sitting over his shoulder, laughing. That is the picture that I would like to retain in my mind of those two great parliamentarians—great men, who have contributed so much to our national life.