My friend James
Created by Richard 9 months ago
My friend James.
Almost 30 years ago, back in the days when regional Young Conservative organisations had their own conferences, I went to Felixstowe for my very first political conference. I met various people, some of whom were to go on to be lifelong friends, but at the age of 15 I had no idea that was to be the case. Wets, drys, (mostly wets in Eastern!) fun, crazy and even some who were just plain weird. Felixstowe offered everything. One guy, in his early 20s, in a trademark white suit at the disco, with a beautiful and dedicated girlfriend on his arm, was called James. He was the area treasurer. His chest hair protruded from his shirt and his smile illuminated the entire hall. We didn’t know it then, but he was to go on to be the most successful out of all of us. But we should have known it then. It was obvious. There were some amazing people in the room that day and I remember it clearly. But none had what he had - a unique ability to focus on others, to make you feel like you were the only person he wanted to speak to, to make sure you were ok, to support you and help you in any way possible, to tell you that it is ok to be you (even when others might not) and to make everything fun so that he could utilise his infectious laugh. Some years later he was elected to parliament and quickly became a minister, but he didn’t change. I tried not to bother him, knowing that he was busy, but whenever I sent him a text wondering if we could meet up, we always did within a matter of days or even hours. I would tell him my worries, my concerns, I would ask for advice, I would share very personal news and even if I asked him something outside of his immediate and extensive range of abilities, he would always have an answer and something reassuring to say. We were serious and hilarious in equal measure. During my own political life, I counted him as one of the very few “go to” people for advice and honesty. If you weren’t sure what to do, he was the person to speak to for a balanced and sensible response. I watched him on tele, always feeling quite proud that he was a friend. I watched with excitement during every reshuffle to see where he landed next. When he became Northern Ireland Secretary I remember saying to a friend “well if anyone can do it, James can”. At friends parties, I would always end up in a lengthy conversation with him and it would always be fun, littered with intellect (very much provided by him) smiles and humour. The chat could cover pretty much anything. During a holiday in France, I started writing a book and James (among others) never forgot my efforts slaving away at the laptop while they enjoyed the sunshine - he quite rightly ribbed me about it for years and would sometimes ask me about a publication date a decade on. At my 40th birthday party he wasted no time dressing up in the photo booth and the picture of fun James with the traffic cone on his head will always be a favourite. He helped me with my career, politics, charity, and life. I wish I had told him that when we last spoke a few weeks ago. I could go on, but it has all been said so eloquently and so genuinely by so many people already. When someone dies, everyone suddenly remembers the kindness they showed, the integrity they displayed and the humanity they demonstrated. Not to mention the fierce loyalty to family, friends and colleagues. James lived his entire life focussed on others, and dedicated to family, friends, service and duty. He leaves behind the most amazing wife anyone could ever ask for and three intelligent children that he was so proud of. And in death, we all see so clearly the significance of his far too short life. There is no doubt that The Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP had a lot more to do and that we have all been robbed of one of the good guys. But his legacy will live on and we will all remember that smile, his laugh, his friendship and his impact on us as individuals and on the world in general. When my grandfather died, I remember saying at the end of the eulogy “when they made my grandfather, they broke the mould because there haven’t been any like him since.” The same is true of James. A more decent and kind human being you could not find. I will miss him. We will all miss him. Rest well, my friend x