Labour’s Tessa Jowell dies at 70 after losing cancer fight

Labour’s Tessa Jowell dies at 70 after losing cancer fight

Former Labour cabinet minister Tessa Jowell has died peacefully at the age of 70 after a battle with cancer, her family announced on Sunday.

Dame Tessa was diagnosed with a brain tumour last year, and her family said she suffered a haemorrhage on Friday and had remained in a coma until her death on Saturday. 

She was an influential member of Tony Blair’s New Labour government, and played an important role in bringing the Olympics Games to London in 2012. She became a dame for her services to politics and charity. 

A social worker before entering politics, Dame Tessa served as public health minister and culture secretary, among other roles. 

A spokesman for Dame Tessa’s family said: “It is with great sadness, and an enormous sense of loss, that we announce the death of Tessa Jowell. 

“She died peacefully at the family home near Shipston-on-Stour in Warwickshire . . . Her husband David and their children Jessie and Matthew were by her side.”

Dame Tessa Jowell speaking in the House of Lords after she was diagnosed with a brain tumour © PA

Prime minister Theresa May said: “The dignity and courage with which Dame Tessa Jowell confronted her illness was humbling and it was inspirational. My sympathies to her loving family — Dame Tessa’s campaigning on brain cancer research is a lasting tribute to a lifetime of public service.”

Mr Blair said Dame Tessa 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,” he added. 

“What she achieved was remarkable. She was the first senior politician fully to understand the importance of public health and to shift health policy towards prevention of illness and not only cure.

“She brought the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics to London, and ensured their success. 

“Whatever task she was set she gave her all, touching hearts and minds with her gentle compassion and sympathy.”

The spokesman for Dame Tessa’s family said: “In addition to chemotherapy and radiotherapy, in recent months doctors tried innovative new treatments which Tessa gladly embraced, but sadly the tumour recently progressed very quickly. 

“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.”

The spokesman said a small private funeral would be held in the next few days and an open memorial service will be arranged later in the year. 

Harriet Harman, the Labour MP and former acting leader of the party, said Dame Tessa made politics personal. 

“She nurtured personal relationships to build support for projects she wanted to see happen — like the Olympics,” she added. 

“Her politics was personal — supporting colleagues with a sick child or a dying parent. And because everything she said or did was intertwined with the personal, she was more effective. 

“She didn’t follow the political rules of the day. She followed her personal instinct. But she was no softie. She was clever and tough.”

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