Prime Minister leads tributes as Dama Tessa Jowell dies aged 70

Tributes have been paid from across the political spectrum to former cabinet minister Dame Tessa Jowell following her death on Saturday night, with Theresa May describing her as “inspirational”.

Dame Tessa, who was 70, was diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme brain tumour in May last year, suffered a haemorrhage on Friday, and had been in a coma until her death on Saturday, a spokesman for the family said.

The Prime Minister tweeted: “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.”

A popular figure in Parliament, Dame Tessa played a major role in securing the 2012 Olympics for London when she served as culture secretary.

She also Championed the SureStart initiative, which aimed to give children the best possible start in life through improvements and better access to child care, early education, health and family support.

Dame Tessa moved fellow peers to tears in recent months as she used the House of Lords as a platform to discuss her condition and call for patients to have better access to experimental treatment.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he was devastated at the news of Dame Tessa’s death, adding: “Her strength in raising awareness of her illness and fighting for better treatment for others inspired us all.”

Sir Menzies Campbell, former Liberal Democrat leader and member of the Olympic Board which had oversight of London 2012, said Dame Tessa was “regarded with both admiration and affection”.

He told the Press Association: “She was universally popular and respected among politicians of all parties.

“She will be remembered for many things, but for those with an interest in sport, her crowning achievement was to bring the Olympic Games to London in 2012.

“Throughout her illness she behaved with quite remarkable courage.”

Former prime minister Tony Blair said: “Tessa had passion, determination and simple human decency in greater measure than any person I have ever known. 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.

“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 was the instigator of Sure Start and in the process gave hope and opportunity to hundreds of thousands of children. She brought the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics to London, and ensured their success.”

Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah said Dama Tessa would “always be defined by the sheer courage and compassion for others she showed while facing cancer”.

Elsewhere, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “She was quite simply the bravest and the best & brought magic to whatever she touched whether SureStarts, London 2012 or campaigning for those who like her were battling with incurable cancer. RIP.”

Many figures in the sporting world also paid tribute, with Olympic rower Matthew Pinsent tweeting: “RIP Tessa Jowell – absolutely central to the effort to win and stage the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012. Her determination and sense of humour surrounding them was infectious.”

Lord Sebastian Coe, president of the IAAF and chairman of the London organising committee of the Olympic Games, described Dame Tessa as “a life enhancer” adding: “Without Tessa there would have been no London 2012, and without Tessa they would not have been the success they were.”

A spokesman for her 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 last night, shortly after 10pm. Her husband David and their children Jessie and Matthew were by her side, with Jessie’s husband Finn, Matthew’s wife Ella, and David’s children from his first marriage.”

The spokesman added: “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.”

There will be a small private funeral in the coming days, and a memorial service open to all at a later date, the spokesman said.

Food blogger Deliciously Ella, whose partner is Dame Tessa’s son Matthew, posted on Instagram: “Matt’s extraordinary Mum passed away last night. She was lying in Matt, his sister Jess, and their Dad’s arms, as they told her that she would live forever in the centre of their souls.

“I’ve never seen love like I have since becoming part of their family. Tessa was the warmest and kindest soul, she welcomed me so generously into their family, and no matter what she has achieved in her life – and she achieved an extraordinary amount, I know her family are the thing that made her most proud.”

Mayor of London and former Labour MP Sadiq Khan said in a statement: “Tessa’s legacy is there to see all around us. She more than anyone made the dream of bringing the Olympics and Paralympics to London a reality, fighting hard around the cabinet table to make it happen.”

He added: “And even after she was diagnosed with cancer, she typically used it as an opportunity to campaign for improved research and treatment to help other sufferers.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Ian West / PA Wire.