Tessa Jowell has been showered with praise and tributes by MPs as she sat in the House of Commons chamber for a debate on cancer treatment.
The motion tabled by Labour’s Sarah Jones (Croydon Central) pays tribute to the work of Baroness Jowell in her campaign to help people with brain tumours “live better lives for longer”.
Labour former cabinet minister Lady Jowell, who has brain cancer, received a standing ovation in the House of Lords in January after making an emotional plea for more cancer treatments to be made available through the NHS.
MPs including Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt used a similar debate in the Commons to pay tribute to Lady Jowell, who has worked to improve cancer treatment in the wake of her diagnosis.
Mr Hunt said: “I just wondered whether I could follow the shadow health secretary on behalf of the Prime Minister and the whole Cabinet in commending Tessa’s campaigning.
“Most people come to this place hoping to leave a legacy; she has left not just one legacy, but two.
“Her amazing achievements with London 2012 and her amazing campaigning on cancer.
“It’s our privilege to take part in this debate and our duty to act on what she’s saying.”
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth also paid tribute to Lady Jowell, saying: “Tessa Jowell is an inspiration to all of us and on behalf of the shadow cabinet we pay tribute to her today.
“I hope all members of the House find her bravery extraordinary – she has achieved so much and I just wanted to put on record that we will work constructively with Government to implement many of the recommendations that (Sarah Jones MP) is outlining.”
Lady Jowell took a seat at the back of the Commons chamber with her family in an area usually used by guests of MPs.
Ms Jones, who used to work for Lady Jowell earlier in her career, used the debate to call for greater sharing of health data and more adaptive clinical trials to improve outcomes for brain tumour patients.
Ms Jones said of her former boss: “She has thrown herself into the campaign for people to live longer lives with cancer with exactly the same relentlessly optimistic and total bloody doggedness as she did the Olympics.
“When faced with this woman who walks through walls and never gives up and always gets what she wants, you could almost feel sorry for cancer.”
Commons Speaker John Bercow said it was “an honour, privilege and joy” to welcome Lady Jowell to the chamber for what he hoped would be “an extremely powerful and I hope constructive debate”.
He added: “Can I say to you, Tessa, and I say it on behalf I’m sure of all colleagues, I hope you will feel fortified and inspired by the warm embrace of parliamentary love which you’re about to experience.”
Labour’s Helen Hayes, who succeeded Lady Jowell as MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, said it was “extremely brave” but no surprise to see her working to help others.
Ms Hayes added: “We must make change happen. It is our commitment, Tessa, and my promise on behalf of all those who love you in Dulwich and West Norwood that collectively we will take on your campaign and that your vision of people living better lives for longer with cancer, and with brain tumours in particular, will become a reality.”
Tory MP James Brokenshire, who stepped down as Northern Ireland secretary in January after revealing he required lung surgery, said Lady Jowell’s speech struck a particular chord with him given it came a week or so after his surgery.
He added: “It was, I think, a brave, humbling and inspiring speech in equal measure. Her very personal description of her brain tumour and the impact it has had on her, her call to action to secure more funding for brain tumour research, the need for more effective clinical trials and the joining up of analysis and data.
“But fundamentally a profound message of hope that shone through in Tessa’s words; hope for the future and her unstinting passion to secure positive change for the benefits of others. Hope in the face of her own physical adversity.”
Tory MP Eleanor Laing, a Deputy Speaker, and Labour former shadow cabinet minister Owen Smith went over and embraced Lady Jowell during the course of the proceedings.
The debate follows a landmark summit on brain tumours in London in February, triggered by Lady Jowell’s experience following her own diagnosis last year.