I hope the Brokenshire family will not mind my writing.
I didn't know James Brokenshire. I am not going to claim I did. But I well remember meeting him a few years ago and I thought I would mention the circumstances. It is a small thing and you might consider it trivial. But at the time I thought of him as proving that personally he was trusting and kind.
A few years ago (it must have been October 2016 or October 2017 and I'm afraid I forget which) I was on a plane from London City Airport to Belfast City Airport. James was on the same flight. I was going to Stormont for an event called 'Science and Stormont' and I guess that he was going to conduct Cabinet business as he was (at the time) Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. On the plane I conveyed best wishes from his Parliamentary colleague Stephen Metcalfe MP.
The science event to which I was going involved a ballot organised by the Royal Society of Biology [RSB] of Britain's favourite 'tree' or 'plant' or something similar (to be honest I have forgotten which) and everyone attending was approaced to cast their ballot (on a mock 'election ballot form') and place it in a Ballot Box which would be (and was) taken back to Westminster the following day and together with other ballots cast the next evening would be reported at a Reception in the Churchill Room where the winner was to be announced.
Lots of people at Stormont cast their ballots in the Ballot Box placed in the Long Gallery.
During that afternoon I happened to go to the Gents (a magnificent piece of Victorian-looking engineering though dating from the 1930s) and James happened to be there. It was just the two of us.
I asked him if he would participate in the RSB Ballot and he looked somewhat surprised. And reluctant. After all someone whom he didn't know was asking him to vote on something where (who knew?) he might potentially be embarrassed.
On the other hand we had just met earlier that morning (on the plane) and when I told him that his vote would be entirely secret he was persuaded to take part. [In other words he trusted me for which I will always be grateful.] So there and then I gave him a Ballot Paper and he voted.
To this day I haven't got the slightgest clue how he voted. But I placed his Ballot in the Ballot Box and it was duly counted the next evening in the Palace of Westminster where the result was announced about 9.15pm. And when I did announce the result I made a point of mentioning that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland had voted!
Dr Stephen Benn
Like so many people right across the political spectrum we were all full of admiration for James and the way in which he faced the health problems that he had and the dignity with which he conducted himself. The outpouring of grief at his early death was felt across all side of Parliament and he will be missed.