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Mourners gather to remember ‘unassuming’ and ‘most decent’ MP

·4 min read

Senior politicians, family and friends have gathered to mourn and remember former Cabinet minister and Conservative MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup James Brokenshire.

A heavy police presence was seen in Bexley and around St John the Evangelist Church, where the service took place on Thursday.

Fellow Tory MP Sir David Amess – who was killed during a constituency surgery in Essex just a week after his colleague’s death – and his family were remembered during prayers in the packed church.

Mr Brokenshire was described by Reverend Scott Lamb as “unassuming” and the “most decent of men”.

James Brokenshire funeral
James Brokenshire’s coffin is carried from St John the Evangelist Church in Bexley, south-east London, after his funeral (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Former prime minister Theresa May, in whose government Mr Brokenshire held two Cabinet roles, gave a Bible reading from Mark’s Gospel and, referring to the passage, Rev Lamb said Mr Brokenshire also “came not to be served but to serve”.

Rev Lamb said Mr Brokenshire went into politics “not out of ambition but because he wanted to make a difference”, underlined by the fact that he was doing constituency work two days before his death from lung cancer at the age of 53 on October 7.

He said: “As a local MP no case was too trivial or the plaintiff too lowly.”

James Brokenshire funeral
Former prime minister Theresa May gave a Bible reading (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

He also spoke of how, when Mr Brokenshire became MP for the constituency, the fate of Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup had been sealed.

“The deal was done, the hospital closed, and the land sold for housing,” he said.

But Mr Brokenshire intervened, and Rev Lamb said: “There are hospital services on that site today because of James’ vision.”

He added: “The irony was not lost on James that he received the cancer care services himself that he had fought to bring to local people, and he did so in the building where he had turned the first earth, passing each day a plaque with his name on it.”

Rev Lamb said Mr Brokenshire’s father, Peter, had worked in local government, while his mother, Joan, would take him to local Conservative fundraisers.

“He joined the Young Conservatives in his teens and started campaigning, and, well, just never stopped,” he told the congregation.

On their wedding day in 1999 Mr Brokenshire’s widow Cathy gave her husband a drawing of the House of Commons, Rev Lamb said.

And she told him: “I expect you will be there.”

Mr Brokenshire was elected as the MP for Hornchurch in 2005 and then for Old Bexley and Sidcup in 2010.

In 2002, while a candidate, he was meant to meet Mrs May for a visit, but the birth of his first child, Sophie, meant he had to cancel on his future boss.

When his second daughter, Jemma, was born in 2005, it was the day the general election was called.

His son, Ben, was born in 2006 while the family were on holiday in Cornwall, which Rev Lamb said had started a Conservative Party tradition.

James Brokenshire funeral
Former Cabinet minister David Davies (centre) arrives for the funeral of James Brokenshire in Bexley, south-east London (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Rev Lamb also outlined how many of those who worked with Mr Brokenshire had become close friends.

“People were more than that to James,” he said.

Sophie, now 18, also gave a reading and said that, while to many Mr Brokenshire had been a colleague, an MP, a friend, to her he was simply “Dad”.

“Maybe you can sum the person up by the little moments,” she said.

And she recalled how her childhood was often full of being told Mr Brokenshire was on a conference call, or recently discussing the events in Afghanistan.

She said there is now only “one thing we can do – follow what he started”, adding that, like her father, she would strive to be “a very decent person”.

James Brokenshire illness
Tory MP James Brokenshire died of lung cancer on October 7 at the age of 53 (PA)

Mr Brokenshire’s funeral was attended by senior figures including Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Home Secretary Priti Patel, Health Secretary Sajid Javid, father of the House of Commons Peter Bottomley, Commons deputy speaker Dame Eleanor Laing, minister Chloe Smith, Tory peer Baroness Morgan, former Cabinet ministers Julian Smith and David Davis, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, former Northern Ireland first minister Arlene Foster, and Conservative MPs Tom Tugendhat, James Cleverly and Chris Grayling, among others.

Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds was played at the end of the service.

Rev Lamb said Mr Brokenshire had raised more money for the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation than anybody except for Roy Castle himself.

The charity also said it had been overwhelmed with inquiries about lung cancer since the MP’s death.

The Brokenshire family said anybody interested in sharing memories or donating to the charity can visit https://jamesbrokenshire.muchloved.com/

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