Some of the tributes to James that I have heard have said that he took his work seriously but never took himself too seriously. That is true, but I think it should also be said that he was taken seriously—by those he worked with, by those in every area he had responsibility for as a Minister and by all those he sought to help. That matters, because if you want to get things done in politics and in Government, people have to believe that you care enough to want to help, that you have the capacity to help, and that you will put enough effort into helping to be effective. No one who dealt with James was in any doubt on any of those counts: they knew how much he cared; they knew he was capable; and they knew he was committed. That was true in every one of the difficult areas that he dealt with as a Minister and in every case brought to him as a constituency Member of Parliament.
I will remember for a long time the weekend that the Wrights went to visit the Brokenshires at Hillsborough Castle, when James was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. In the course of that visit, I was struck by how James, who had not been in the job long at that point, was widely recognised and warmly welcomed at all the community events, which, James being James, he was keen that we all went to during that weekend. That included, I recall, a gathering of the llama farmers of Northern Ireland, of whom I think there were about four. James went, as always, to take an interest, not just to take a photograph.
When we contemplate the two empty spaces on these Benches this week, we think about underrated qualities in politics. James had in abundance those qualities that perhaps the parliamentary sketch writers are not terrible interested in, but which are fundamental to meaningful public service. He was intelligent, brave, determined, compassionate and wise. There was no Cabinet meeting that I attended with him and no Cabinet that he was a member of that was not immeasurably strengthened by his presence.
Of course, his family will miss him most. Cathy, Sophie, Jemma, Ben—you know that you have our love and prayers as you mourn him and as you are unfailingly proud of him, as so many of us are too. For the many of us who will think of him first and foremost as our friend, we will remember him that way, but all of us should remember the example he set of how to be a public servant, and strive to follow it.