Tessa Jowell urges MPs to fight the good fight during emotional cancer debate
Tributes were paid to the Labour peer by MPs in the Commons.
Tessa Jowell urged MPs to “keep fighting the good fight” to improve cancer treatment during an emotional Commons debate.
Tears were shed and applause rang out in the chamber for the former cabinet minister following more than two hours of praise from all sides over her campaigning to help people with brain tumours “live better lives for longer”.
Baroness Jowell, who has brain cancer, was accompanied by her family as she watched on from one of the galleries reserved for visitors.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt commended the Labour peer on behalf of Prime Minister Theresa May and the whole Cabinet, adding she had left two legacies via her “amazing achievements” with the London 2012 Olympics and her “amazing” campaigning on cancer.
He said: “It’s our privilege to take part in this debate and our duty to act on what she’s saying.”
Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth also described Lady Jowell as “an inspiration to all of us”, telling the Commons: “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.”
A real privilege to take part in today’s #cancer debate in the House of Commons sponsored by @LabourSJ on brain tumours & cancer research & to recognise the incredible contribution of @TessaJowell in securing positive change & giving hope. Great Tessa was there to hear it. pic.twitter.com/zanEPRnelc— James Brokenshire (@JBrokenshire) April 19, 2018
Labour’s Sarah Jones (Croydon Central), who used to work for Lady Jowell, had tabled a motion which praised her campaigning and called for greater sharing of health data and more adaptive clinical trials to improve outcomes for brain tumour patients.
Ms Jones concluded the debate by reading out part of a note from Lady Jowell, which drew inspiration from murdered Labour MP Jo Cox.
Lady Jowell wrote: “Living with cancer has taught me so much. I’ve been so lucky to be surrounded by such love from family, friends and fellow cancer patients.
“Today hearing so many of you talk about your own fights reminds me why I love this Palace of Westminster and the people who work here.
“It was a brilliant member of this House who spent far too short a time here who said ‘We have far more in common than that which divides us’ and today shows how much we can do when we all put our shoulders to the wheel.
“It was the honour of my life to be one of you and I shall cheer on from the sidelines as you keep fighting the good fight.
“So remember our battle cry – living with, not dying of cancer, for more people, for longer.”
Lady Jowell 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.
Labour’s Helen Hayes, who succeeded Lady Jowell as MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, earlier said it was “extremely brave” but no surprise to see her working to help others.
Emotional scenes in the Commons as Labour's Siobhain McDonagh speaks during the cancer debate, which pays tribute to Tessa Jowell - who is watching on from one of the viewing galleries with her family pic.twitter.com/WXU69ToaSB— Richard Wheeler (@richard_kaputt) April 19, 2018
Siobhain McDonagh, Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden, fought back tears as she paid tribute to Lady Jowell and told her: “We are with you.”
Her voice cracked with emotion as she added: “Politics is a rough old trade and sometimes you fall out with people, people that you think the most of.
“I just wanted to be here to say to Tessa – whatever arguments or disagreements, it counts for nothing in comparison to my admiration and my determination to do anything to support her in her campaign.”
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.
Just met the amazing, strong Tessa Jowell in Parliament today for the Commons cancer debate – she literally never stops campaigning to make things better and is rightly making us look much harder at improving brain cancer treatments pic.twitter.com/nC6idoQeLd— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) April 19, 2018
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.
Commons Speaker John Bercow said he hoped Lady Jowell had experienced “the warmth of that embrace of parliamentary love” before adding: “(Ms Jones) said that, in quoting from your letter, you loved this place.
“I hope it is blindingly obvious to you, Tessa, that we love you.”
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.