If it is possible to capture and pay tribute to the whole of someone's life then yesterday's funeral service did just that. It was a privilege to be there and I hope it helped Cathy, Sophie, Jemma & Ben to have so much support as we all said goodbye to James - although we won't ever forget him. I will have a very hard time not writing 'James and Cathy' on invitations, Christmas cards, e-mails and What's App messages for a long time.
Like many others I first met James through the Young Conservatives. We were fellow regional chairmen together and were somehow talked into running for national YC office in an election campaign that had some very strange moments - including the plane that didn't take off from Stansted. Instead the oxygen masks fell down as we headed down the runway - we all ended up at the glamorous Harlow Motel. I think it was during that campaign that I met Cathy properly for the first time. They were clearly destined to be together.
We've been through weddings, christenings, parliamentary campaigns, illness, missing teddies (James brought our son's teddy which had been left behind at the Brokenshires home into Westminster with him) together. I remember James and his red box at our house for the weekend and a visit to Loughborough Fair when James only remembered he'd just got new glasses as this crazy ride started and he was hurled around - the glasses survived. We also had a great holiday with others in France. And, of course, we were colleagues in Westminster where James made the toughest of roles look perfectly achievable with his customary calmness and smile.
One of my favourite photos on display yesterday was of Jonathan's 50th - James, Robert, Steve and Jonathan look so relaxed and happy. This was in 2018 and James was, I think, just back in the Cabinet.
You will be missed by many James. But, as the vicar said - you felt you'd achieved what you wanted with your fabulous family and being a public servant and that is a great thing to be able to say.