News ID: 214983
Published: 0817 GMT May 13, 2018

Former Labour cabinet minister Tessa Jowell dies aged 70

Former Labour cabinet minister Tessa Jowell dies aged 70
Tessa Jowell served as a minister during Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s premierships. Photograph: Chris Ison/PA

The former Labour cabinet minister Tessa Jowell has died aged 70, her family has said.

Dame Tessa was diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme brain tumor in May last year. She suffered a hemorrhage on Friday and had been in a coma until her death on Saturday, a spokesman for the family said, The Guardian wrote.

The prime minister Theresa May, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former prime minister Tony Blair led tributes to Jowell on Sunday morning, alongside former cabinet colleagues and MPs who praised her work on Sure Start, a flagship scheme to support children in the early years, her success in bringing the Olympic Games to London and her later campaigning on cancer research.

Jowell died peacefully at the family home near Shipston-on-Stour in Warwickshire just after 10 p.m. on Saturday with her husband David and their children Jessie and Matthew by her side.

The family announced the death “with great sadness, and an enormous sense of loss”.

“In addition to chemotherapy and radiotherapy, in recent months doctors tried innovative new treatments which Tessa gladly embraced, but sadly the tumor recently progressed very quickly,” they said in a statement.

“The family would like to thank people for the overwhelming support Tessa and they have received since she became ill. They have been touched and moved by the response, in both houses of parliament; from members of the public; and other cancer patients and their families around the world.”

There will be a small private funeral in the coming days and a memorial service open to all at a later date.

May paid tribute to Jowell on Sunday, praising her “lifetime of public service”.

Corbyn also tweeted his condolences, praising Jowell’s huge achievements, including her Olympics legacy.

Blair said: “Tessa had passion, determination and simple human decency in greater measure than any person I have ever known. She was an inspiration to work with, and a joy to be near.

“She was the most wise of counsellors, the most loyal and supportive of colleagues, and the best of friends. There was no one like Tessa and no one better. I will miss her more than I can say.”

As culture secretary in Blair’s government, Jowell oversaw the UK’s drive to win the 2012 Olympic Games for London. She was one of only a handful of MPs to have served as a minister during the whole of Blair’s and Gordon Brown’s premierships.

Lord David Blunkett, Jowell’s Labour cabinet colleague, called her “one of my closest friends for over 40 years” and said they had worked together to develop an alternative to Old Labour, as well as praising her commitment to Sure Start, which led to the creation of 3,500 children’s centers across the country.

“It will be Tessa as a person who I will remember,” he said. “There when people needed her, both personally and also with her political hat on, and with her bravery over the last year, always thinking of others.”

She stepped down as MP for Dulwich and West Norwood in 2015 and ran as a candidate for the Labour nomination for mayor of London, but was beaten by Sadiq Khan.

Helen Hayes MP, who succeeded Jowell in Dulwich and West Norwood, called her legacy extraordinary. “Tessa is much-loved across the constituency, for the things she delivered but perhaps even more for her deep empathy and compassion, and the way that she worked collaboratively to empower others,” she said. “Life is now better and fairer in our part of south London because Tessa put people first.”

Jowell announced she had brain cancer last September. In a statement, she said: “I’m in treatment at the moment ... and look forward to finding ways to make better, longer lives for people with cancer.”

She was hailed as an inspiration during a cancer debate in the Commons last month. Jowell had come to the House of Commons to meet the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and his Labour shadow, Jon Ashworth, to continue her campaign for better support and access and more research to clinical trials for brain cancer patients.

Hunt said he was devastated to hear about her death, calling Jowell “quite simply the bravest and the best”.

In January, she received a standing ovation – breaking parliamentary protocol – in the House of Lords after giving a moving speech about her cancer in which she urged peers to support an international initiative to share resources, research and new treatments.

Sarah Lindsell, the chief executive of the Brain Tumour Charity, said: “Tessa Jowell’s courage, her spirit and her determination to help others in the face of her own illness – particularly through her extraordinarily brave and powerful speech in the House of Lords – will not be forgotten.

“We will be among those working every day to keep the promise she made, to improve life for everyone diagnosed with a brain tumor.”

   
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