James was the first man to contact me to get me involved with my local community and local politics. I was just 17 and he was already on his business and political journey. He was a man who knew how to get things done. Thankfully for me, that chance encounter was not a one off. He became a friend for life. He was always, ready to give advice and guidance no matter how busy or, in the end, how ill. He was basically one of the nicest human beings.
Even a week before he was tragically taken away from us, he wanted to know more about what I had been up to and was talking about the things he cared passionately about. He asked how his friends were, and gave his insights to the world of politics. No time or talk of the difficulties he was having with his own health.
He had the crazy ability to be right about most things you could through at him. Even after all these years of friendship, he still remains the one person that I failed to have a row with.
We campaigned together and I found myself learning. Firstly on the doorsteps in the 1990s, where I observed him in action. Years later I had the privilege of seeing him in work in the corridors of Westminster while he was serving as a Secretary of State, and I was a SpAd in Transport, again learning from his mastery of his brief.
James was a man who was dedicated to his family. Always speaking with pride about how they were getting on and what they were up to. Simply put his wife and children were the loves of his life. He was a normal man. Yet also an extraordinary one.
Quite frankly there is a large demand for MPs like him. True leaders. Frankly there are very few people that come along like that. He genuinely had time for everyone and would listen to all sides of the argument, then make a strong case. He loved people. He knew that ordinary people where the most important and the political people were a process - and one he could deal with with style. He has been our rock for so long. I will miss him always.