James Brokenshire dies aged 53 after lung cancer battle

8 October 2021, 11:35 | Updated: 8 October 2021, 12:28

Conservative MP and former minister James Brokenshire has tragically died at the age of 53.
Conservative MP and former minister James Brokenshire has tragically died at the age of 53. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

Former Minister and Conservative MP James Brokenshire has died at the age of 53, following his battle with lung cancer.

Mr Brokenshire, MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup, died on Thursday evening with his family at his bedside, and had been in hospital since Sunday.

He served as Minister of State for Security at the Home Office from 2020 to 2021, and was forced to resign as Northern Ireland Secretary at the start of 2018 after being diagnosed with the disease.

In a statement on Friday, James 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.

“We would also ask that our privacy as a family is respected at this time.”

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Mr Brokenshire resigned from his security role in July, saying his recovery was taking "longer than anticipated".

In August, he confirmed his lung cancer had "progressed" and he was starting a new line of treatment. But his family said his condition had rapidly deteriorated.

Tributes have poured in for the former minister, who was described by his colleagues as a "dedicated" MP.

Boris Johnson said the former minister was the "nicest, kindest and most unassuming of politicians, but also extraordinarily effective".

The Prime Minister said he was "desperately sad" to hear the news of Mr Brokenshire's death.

He went on to say: "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."

Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, said the Conservative MP was a "man of public service and the highest integrity".

"He was a valued friend and colleague and will be deeply missed," Mr Sunak tweeted.

Sir Keir Starmer said: "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."

Mr Brokenshire was described by James Cleverly as a "great MP, excellent minister, loving father and husband, kind and generous colleague, and a dear friend".

Mr Cleverly said the news of his death will be heartbreaking to everyone who knew him.

Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner also paid tribute on Twitter.

She said: "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."

Mr Brokenshire previously appeared on LBC to issue a passionate plea to men to visit the doctor if they suffer any unusual symptoms to ensure they can catch cancer early.

He told Iain Dale in 2018: "I want to talk about it, to make a difference, to see that we can have a proper debate and discussion on it.

"I hope by doing so, with the number of lung cancer cases that we see each year, if it gets one or two people to come forward and go to the doctor to get checked out, then I feel that is a good thing."