MPs across the political divide have paid tribute to Conservative former cabinet minister James Brokenshire, who died after suffering from lung cancer.
There was a minute’s silence in the Commons following PMQs in memory of the MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup who was described by former prime minister Theresa May as an “outstanding minister” and a “true friend”.
Watched by Mr Brokenshire’s family in the gallery, Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: “James was a politician who commanded affection and respect from colleagues, no matter which party they represented in a parliamentary career spanning 16 years. James’s contribution to public life was immense. ”
Paying tribute to the former Northern Ireland secretary and security minister, he added: “I will always remember James for his positivity, his good sense of humour and for being one of the most friendly, thoughtful, well-liked in the House of Commons.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson described James Brokenshire as “unflappable, earnest, sincere” and a “gentleman politician”.
He said: “The many tributes paid to James are testament to the affection and respect and esteem in which he is remembered, and his skill as an able and effective politician, who served his country under three prime ministers in some of the most sensitive and demanding positions in Government.”
Mr Johnson recalled the time Mr Brokenshire was photographed baking cakes in his kitchen, “starting a Twitter frenzy on the vital question of whether he owned two ovens or four”.
He added: “It was James’s diligence, composure and experience as a lawyer steeped in the art of negotiating last-minute deals that proved so valuable to the Government.
“He held five ministerial jobs, including two in cabinet as secretary of state for Northern Ireland and for housing, communities and local government, and every one of them was fraught with traps for the unwary, opportunities for error.
“The fact that he improved his reputation in each post shows that we’ve lost an astute politician of rare ability.”
He said: “We can only imagine how much more good he would have done if he had been given the chance.
“James was in the prime of his life with a huge amount still to offer his country and it was the cruellest of fates that he, a non smoker, should have been struck down by lung cancer. His tenacious fight showed the depths of his courage and his character.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, looking at Mr Brokenshire’s family in the side gallery, said: “We send our condolences and, if I may say so, they should be very proud of their husband and father.
“And they should know across this House and on all of these benches he commanded enormous respect and goodwill.”
Sir Keir said Mr Brokenshire was a “friend to many of us” in the House of Commons.
Mrs May said the Government and the country is poorer for the loss of James Brokenshire adding it was an “enormous privilege” working with Mr Brokenshire in Government.
She described him as diligent and hardworking, “a loving family man” and also “great fun”.
She said: “James was a remarkable man. He was an outstanding minister, a great constituency member of Parliament, and a true friend.
“As a minister he was assiduous in dealing with the briefs … he was thoughtful in his consideration of the issues and careful in his decision-making.
“That is what you want from a government minister. He gave his time and effort because he understood the importance of the decisions he was making. He cared about people and he cared about the work he was doing. And that came through in all the decisions he made.”
Mrs May added: “He gave dedicated public service to this country. The Government is the poorer for his loss. This Parliament is the poorer for his loss. And our country is the poorer for his loss.”
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said James Brokenshire was “a young man who clearly had so much more to give” and a “dedicated minister”.
Mr Blackford said: “I think all of us across this House looked on with deep admiration and awe at the sheer bravery he showed while bravely battling against the cancer that, sadly, ultimately took his life.”
He said Mr Brokenshire “remained on very good terms with all the parties during his period as secretary of state. I think it’s fair to say that that in itself is no mean feat for any British secretary of state”.
“He was above all else diligent and determined. The mark of a man and our memory of him will be of a dedicated minister, a loyal friend, and a dedicated father. James battled to the very end against his cancer. Now that his battle is over, may he rest in peace.”
Mr Brokenshire, 53, died on October 7 after suffering lung cancer.