|Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government|
30 April 2018 – 24 July 2019
|Prime Minister||Theresa May|
|Preceded by||Sajid Javid|
|Succeeded by||Robert Jenrick|
|Secretary of State for Northern Ireland|
14 July 2016 – 8 January 2018
|Prime Minister||Theresa May|
|Preceded by||Theresa Villiers|
|Succeeded by||Karen Bradley|
James Peter Brokenshire
8 January 1968
Southend-on-Sea, Essex, England
|Died||7 October 2021 (aged 53)|
Dartford, Kent, England
Cathrine Anne Mamelok
James Peter Brokenshire (8 January 1968 – 7 October 2021) was a British politician. A member of the Conservative Party, he served in Theresa May's cabinet as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland from 2016 to 2018, and then as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government from 2018 to 2019. He also served as a minister at the Home Office under David Cameron and Boris Johnson. Brokenshire was Member of Parliament (MP) for Hornchurch from 2005 to 2010, and for Old Bexley and Sidcup from 2010 until his death.
Born in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Brokenshire studied law at the University of Exeter before beginning work with a large international law firm. Deciding on a career in politics, he stood successfully as the Conservative candidate for the parliamentary constituency of Hornchurch in the 2005 general election. When his constituency was to be abolished in the boundary changes, he sought out another constituency to represent, failing to be selected in six until being selected for Old Bexley and Sidcup. He was elected MP for the seat in 2010.
In David Cameron's first government, Brokenshire was initially Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Crime Reduction; in May 2011 he was transferred to the position of Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Crime and Security. He oversaw the closure and privatisation of the Forensic Science Service and championed the Modern Slavery Bill. He served as Minister for Security and Immigration at the Home Office from 2014 to 2016. In July 2016, in Theresa May's new cabinet, he was appointed Northern Ireland Secretary. He resigned in January 2018 on health grounds and was replaced by Karen Bradley. In April 2018 he was appointed Communities Secretary, following Sajid Javid's appointment as Home Secretary as a result of Amber Rudd's resignation. In 2020 he was appointed by Boris Johnson as Minister of State for Security at the Home Office. He stepped down from this post in July 2021 due to his lung cancer and died in October of the same year.
Early life and career
MP for Hornchurch
Brokenshire was elected at the 2005 general election to the parliamentary constituency of Hornchurch, defeating the Labour candidate and incumbent member John Cryer by 480 votes. The election itself resulted in a third successive term for Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Labour government. From 2005 to 2006, Brokenshire was a member of the House of Commons Constitutional Affairs Select Committee. From 2006 to 2010 he then served as the Shadow Minister for Crime Reduction.
Brokenshire was aware that his constituency, Hornchurch, was to be dissolved for the next election. In November 2006, he applied for selection as the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Witham in Essex, but was defeated by Priti Patel. He simultaneously campaigned to be selected as Conservative candidate for the constituency of Hornchurch and Upminster, but in March 2007 was defeated there by Angela Watkinson.
He next applied for Gillingham and Rainham in July 2007, Grantham and Stamford in October 2007, North East Cambridgeshire in January 2008, and Maidstone and The Weald later that same month. He was unsuccessful in all of these attempts.
MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup
Derek Conway, the member for the Conservative safe seat of Old Bexley and Sidcup in southeast London, was embroiled in an expenses scandal and resigned, after which Brokenshire put his name forward as a potential replacement. His competitors for the seat were Rebecca Harris, Katie Lindsay, and Julia Manning, and he was successful in gaining the selection for the seat in June 2008. He was described as a "serial carpetbagger" by a local single issue party, Independents to Save Queen Mary's Hospital.
In the 2010 general election, Brokenshire was elected for Old Bexley and Sidcup with 24,625 votes (53.93%), beating the Labour candidate Rick Everitt, in second place with 8,768 votes (19.21%). Voter turnout was 69.13%. Upon victory, Brokenshire announced that his priority would be to prevent the proposed closure of accident and emergency services at local Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup.
Parliamentary Under Secretary for Crime Reduction
With no party gaining an overall majority in the House of Commons, the 2010 election resulted in the formation of a coalition government consisting of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, led by Conservative prime minister David Cameron. The new prime minister appointed Brokenshire as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Crime Reduction in the Home Office. One of his first moves was to initiate the closing of the UK's Forensic Science Service; it had been making operational losses of £2 million a month, and was predicted to go into administration in early 2011. Brokenshire stated his desire that there would be "no continuing state interest in a forensics provider by March 2012", with the service's role being taken on by private enterprise. Critics asserted that this move would result in the loss of hundreds of jobs and the degradation of forensic research and criminal justice, with an MPs enquiry chaired by Labour MP Andrew Miller criticising the manner in which the closure had been overseen.
In August 2010, Brokenshire called for the government to adopt a new approach to the "war on drugs" in Britain; he argued that they should focus on getting addicts off drugs, rather than minimising the effects of drug use, as the preceding Labour government had focused on.
Parliamentary Under Secretary for Crime and Security
In May 2011, Brokenshire's Home Office brief was changed from Crime Reduction to Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Crime and Security following the resignation of Baroness Neville-Jones, although he was not appointed to the more senior rank of Minister of State. In this position, he was responsible for updating plans to tackle terror content online. This move was seen as controversial by broadband companies and freedom of speech groups.
In the buildup to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, he stated his belief that the games would be a "great success", largely due to the government's security measures. He also commented that "I think it will bring Bexley together and the torch relay will be a fantastic event for the community ... I'm quite sure it will have a lasting impression."
In October 2013, Brokenshire published a draft of a proposed Modern Slavery Bill, designed to tackle slavery in the UK. He was quoted as saying that the Bill will "send the strongest possible message to criminals that if you are involved in this disgusting trade in human beings, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and you will be locked up." Experts in the issue were sceptical of the Bill, believing that it had many shortcomings and was designed largely to enhance Theresa May's career. The bill was subsequently enacted as the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
Minister of State for Security and Immigration (1st term)
Northern Ireland Secretary
In July 2016, under Theresa May's new cabinet, Brokenshire was appointed the Northern Ireland Secretary. On 16 January 2017, the Northern Ireland Executive collapsed following the resignation of Martin McGuinness as deputy First Minister one week earlier in protest of the DUP's handling of the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal. Brokenshire, as Northern Ireland Secretary, temporarily assumed the powers of the Executive and called for snap elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly, which took place on 2 March 2017.
Brokenshire's comments in The Sunday Telegraph of 28 January 2017 sparked consternation in Northern Ireland:
Writing in the Telegraph, James Brokenshire, the Northern Ireland Secretary, concedes there is an apparent "imbalance" that has led to a "disproportionate" focus on criminal inquiries involving former soldiers. "I am clear the current system is not working and we are in danger of seeing the past rewritten."
Following a question from MP Sylvia Hermon, Brokenshire offered his "clear and unequivocal" support for the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Sir Declan Morgan. Sir Declan had earlier criticised Brokenshire for refusing funding for cases and thereby adding to case backlogs when Brokenshire refused to grant £10 million to pay for an inquest into the deaths of eleven civilians shot dead by British forces in 1971 in the Ballymurphy massacre.
Brian Feeney in The Irish News accused Brokenshire of "ineptitude ... [though] no one would give him the credit of even being aware of the coincidence of the date he chose, when British soldiers killed most innocent victims in Ireland." (Bloody Sunday), while the Belfast Telegraph editorial accused the minister of "playing a dangerous game".
Brokenshire resigned as Northern Ireland Secretary on 8 January 2018 on health grounds due to an upcoming lung operation. On 20 January 2018 it was announced that he had the operation and had been discharged from hospital.
In September 2019, Brokenshire said that his best piece of advice to people becoming Northern Ireland Secretary was to "get yourself a history book and read it."
Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary
In April 2018, Brokenshire was appointed Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government following Sajid Javid's appointment as Home Secretary in the light of Amber Rudd's resignation after the Windrush scandal. After his appointment, Brokenshire said he was "looking forward to taking the Government's agenda forward especially on building the homes our country needs". In this role, Brokenshire was responsible for regional growth, local government, housing, planning, rough sleeping, building safety and communities. Hours after taking on the new role Brokenshire appeared in Parliament and stated, after a question from Andrew Gwynne (Labour's shadow communities secretary), that "local government is in my blood".
He piloted the Tenant Fees Act (2019) through Parliament which, among other regulations, caps the deposit a landlord or a letting agency may take from a new tenant and largely abolishes administration fees.
In April 2019, Brokenshire sacked philosopher Sir Roger Scruton from his unpaid role as chair of the British government's "Building Better, Building Beautiful" commission. The dismissal followed the publication of an interview with Scruton by George Eaton in the New Statesman magazine, in which Eaton had suggested that Scruton had made unsavoury remarks. A series of online comments from Eaton suggested that he had set out to present Scruton, a former contributor to the New Statesman, in a poor light. Following a campaign from Douglas Murray of The Spectator, the tapes of the interview were eventually leaked, which prompted the New Statesman to publish a correction of its original article and an apology. Brokenshire apologised to Scruton for his sacking and invited him to rejoin the commission.
Minister of State for Security (2nd term)
On Brexit, Brokenshire was believed to have voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum, but by April 2019, his position on the "soft Brexit v no deal" debate was described by reporters in The Guardian as unclear.
Illness and death
In December 2017, Brokenshire noted blood in his cough, and testing disclosed early-stage lung cancer. The following month, he had the upper lobe of his right lung removed at Guy's Hospital and returned to parliament five weeks later. Brokenshire said that he wanted to end the social stigma around lung cancer because, he, like 15% of people with the disease, had never smoked.
In January 2021, he took a leave of absence from his ministerial post in preparation for a pneumonectomy. On 3 October 2021, Brokenshire was admitted to Darent Valley Hospital in Kent because of a further deterioration in his condition; he died there on 7 October, aged 53.
Many political figures, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer, memorialised him. The House of Commons held tributes to him on 20 October; his funeral took place the next day at St John the Evangelist Church in Bexley. Robert Buckland, Cressida Dick, Bob Neill, Priti Patel and Rishi Sunak were named as some of those in attendance. Former prime minister Theresa May gave a Bible reading.
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He is the son of Peter Brokenshire who, after five years as Epping Forest DC's chief executive, he became chief of Greenwich LBC and then joined the Audit Commission as a director...
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- Official website
- Tribute to James Brokenshire, 1968–2021
- Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard
- Voting record at Public Whip
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou
- Profile on the Conservative Party website
- Guardian Unlimited Politics – Ask Aristotle: James Brokenshire MP