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13 May 2018updated 09 Jun 2021 10:33am

Tessa Jowell, former Labour cabinet minister, dies aged 70

She had been diagnosed with brain cancer last year. 

By Patrick Maguire

Tessa Jowell, the former Labour cabinet minister, has died aged 70, her family has announced. 

She had been diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer last May, and died at around 10pm on Saturday with her family by her side. 

She had been in a coma since suffering a haemorrhage on Friday.

A former social worker, Jowell’s five decades in politics saw her serve as minister in the cabinets of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown for nearly a decade, as well as in the House of Lords. She was MP for Dulwich and West Norwood from 1992 to 2010.

As culture secretary, she oversaw London’s bid for the 2012 Olympics. Sebastian Coe, who chaired the organising committee, said this morning that without Jowell “there would have been no London 2012”. 

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After being diagnosed with glioblastoma – a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer – Jowell devoted her final months in public life to campaigning for better treatment to be made available on the NHS for fellow suffers of brain tumours. 

She was given an unprecedented minute-long standing ovation by peers after she made an emotive speech on her condition, and the need for better treatment, in January.

Blair and Brown led tributes from across the political spectrum this morning.

“Tessa had passion, determination and simple human decency in greater measure than any person I have ever known,” Blair said. “She was an inspiration to work with, and a joy to be near. She was the most wise of counsellors, the most loyal and supportive of colleagues, and the best of friends.”

In a joint statement with his wife, Sarah, Brown said Jowell would “always be defined by the sheer courage and compassion for others she showed while facing cancer”.

The prime minister said: “The dignity and courage with which Dame Tessa Jowell confronted her illness 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.”

Jeremy Corbyn said news of Jowell’s passing was “devastating”. “From councillor to cabinet minister, her achievements were huge, including helping to bring the Olympics to London. Her strength in raising awareness of her illness and fighting for better treatment for others inspired us all.”

Sadiq Khan, who beat Jowell to the Labour nomination for London Mayor in 2015, also paid tribute to her legacy. “Tessa was a friend, a colleague, a champion of Labour values, and a towering figure in London and national politics. Her death is terribly sad news and my thoughts go out to her family,” he said.

Her family said a private funeral service will take place ”in the coming days”, with a public memorial service “open to all” to come at a later date.

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