Conservative MP and former cabinet minister James Brokenshire has died at the age of 53, his family has said.
The MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup announced in August that his lung cancer had “progressed” and that he would be beginning a new line of treatment.
A family statement said his condition had rapidly deteriorated since then.
A statement on behalf of the Brokenshire family on the death of James Brokenshire MP pic.twitter.com/sKknyCQ1Ow
— James Brokenshire (@JBrokenshire) October 8, 2021
Mr Brokenshire stepped down as security minister in July this year after admitting his cancer recovery was taking “longer than expected”.
He had his right lung removed as part of his treatment in February and had said stepping down from his Home Office ministerial role would allow him to focus on his health.
In a statement, Mr Brokenshire’s family said: “It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of James Brokenshire MP at the age of 53.
“James died peacefully at Darent Valley Hospital yesterday evening with family members by his bedside. He had been in hospital since Sunday after his condition rapidly deteriorated.
“James was not only a brilliant government minister as both Security and Immigration minister at the Home Office and secretary of state at the Northern Ireland Office and Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government, but a dedicated constituency MP, first for Hornchurch from 2005 to 2010, and then for Old Bexley & Sidcup for the past 11 years.
“But most importantly, he was a loving father to his three children, a devoted husband to Cathy and a faithful friend to so many.”
“We would like to thank all the NHS staff, particularly those at Guy’s & St Thomas’ in London, who cared for James with such warmth, diligence and professionalism over the past three-and-a-half years,” it continued.
“We would also ask that our privacy as a family is respected at this time.”
Mr Brokenshire was first elected to parliament in 2005 and has served as both housing secretary and Northern Ireland secretary.
The father of three was first diagnosed with lung cancer in 2018 after he coughed up a spot of blood during an event at Hillsborough Castle as Northern Ireland secretary.
He subsequently stepped down from his cabinet role to undergo treatment.
Mr Brokenshire gave his first interview about his diagnosis to Sky News later that year.
After getting the all clear, the former lawyer was appointed by Boris Johnson to the Home Office in February 2020.
However, the MP stepped back from his government role in January 2021 after discovering his lung cancer had returned.
Since his diagnosis, Mr Brokenshire has worked to promote greater awareness of lung cancer and has called for an end to the stigma surrounding it.
He had also previously admitted that his diagnoses had taken him to “dark places” and that the support of his family had been invaluable.
Politicians of all parties have given their condolences following the news of the former cabinet minister’s passing.
Leading the tributes, Boris Johnson said he was “desperately sad” to hear the news of Mr Brokenshire’s passing and described him as “the nicest, kindest and most unassuming of politicians but also extraordinarily effective”.
Paying tribute to his former minister in a Twitter thread, the prime minister continued: “He served with particular distinction in the Home Office and as security minister. If the government needed something done well and speedily – and sensibly explained – James was the man to do it.
“I worked with him for many years in London and I know how much he cared for the interests of his Bexley constituents.
“His fight against cancer was heroic, and it is a measure of his resolve that he came back from a first bout with the disease to serve in government again. He will be missed by all who knew him. Our thoughts are with Cathy and his family.”
His fight against cancer was heroic, and it is a measure of his resolve that he came back from a first bout with the disease to serve in government again. He will be missed by all who knew him.
Our thoughts are with Cathy and his family.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) October 8, 2021
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said Mr Brokenshire was a man of “the highest integrity” and that he will be “greatly missed”.
His cabinet colleague, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, added: “James Brokenshire was quite simply the nicest man in politics. A true gentlemen. We will all miss him hugely. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Posting on social media, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer added: “James Brokenshire was a thoroughly decent man, dedicated and effective in all briefs he held. He fought his illness with dignity and bravery. I’m incredibly sad to learn of his death and send my condolences to his wife and children.”
James Brokenshire was a thoroughly decent man, dedicated and effective in all briefs he held. He fought his illness with dignity and bravery. I’m incredibly sad to learn of his death and send my condolences to his wife and children.
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) October 8, 2021
His deputy Angela Rayner added: “Sending my deepest condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of James Brokenshire. He has been taken far too young, a real tragedy. James was unfailingly professional and kind and it was clear that he cared deeply about his work and public service. Rest in peace James.”
Deputy speaker and Conservative MP Dame Eleanor Laing said she was “broken-hearted” upon hearing the news and Conservative Party Chairman Oliver Dowden called it a “sad day for government, Parliament and the Conservative family”.
James Brokenshire was a man of public service and the highest integrity. He was a valued friend and colleague and will be deeply missed.
My thoughts are with his family on this incredibly sad day.
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) October 8, 2021
Former Conservative Party leader David Cameron added: “Devastated to hear the heartbreaking news that James Brokenshire has died, well before his time. He was a hard working and dedicated MP but, more than that, he was a thoroughly decent and lovely man, and devoted to his family. My thoughts and prayers are with them all today.”
Irish prime minister Micheal Martin said: “He brought integrity, energy and commitment as secretary of state, and was a constructive partner for the Irish Government throughout.”
And the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, tweeted: “So sorry to hear of the death of James Brokenshire, whose courage and faith were an inspiration to so many, myself included. Our prayers and deepest condolences are with his family, friends, colleagues and all who knew and loved him.”
Meanwhile, other groups and associations spoke of their appreciation for Mr Brokenshire’s former work as housing secretary.
Cllr James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “Councils will remember James fondly as our secretary of state. He stood up for the interests of councils and communities with the same integrity and passion that characterised him as a person.
“He was a thoroughly decent man, a real gentleman, and showed remarkable bravery in the face of his illness. He will be sadly missed.”
Cllr Tim Oliver, chairman of the County Councils Network, added: “As secretary of state for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James was a strong supporter of the vital role that councils and their communities play.
“He was kind, thoughtful, and engaging: working closely with the sector to represent our interests within government. On behalf of the County Councils Network’s member councils across the country I would like to pass on my sincere condolences to his family.”
Mr Brokenshire’s family set up a memorial page to the MP where people can donate to the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, a charity he supported, as well as post memories and photos of him.
“Great people leave a huge and lasting legacy. James Brokenshire MP wanted to make a permanent difference to other peoples’ battles against lung cancer,” they said on the page.
“This page has been established for family, friends, colleagues and wellwishers to pay tribute to James, who has died from lung cancer at the age of 53. James’s family have asked for you to share your memories and photographs of him on here, as well as contributing in his memory to the excellent work of the Roy Castle Lung Foundation in lieu of flowers.”