Local tributes to ‘inspirational’ Tessa Jowell as former Camden councillor turned cabinet minister dies aged 70

Tessa Jowell at the LDNY fashion show and WIE Award Gala at Goldsmiths Hall, London, in April 2015

Tessa Jowell at the LDNY fashion show and WIE Award Gala at Goldsmiths Hall, London, in April 2015 Picture: Ian West/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Dame Tessa Jowell has been described as an “inspirational” politician with “unflinching tenacity” as friends and former colleagues shared heartfelt tributes following her death at the age of 70.

Dame Tessa Jowell speaking in the House of Lords in January. Picture: PA Wire

Dame Tessa Jowell speaking in the House of Lords in January. Picture: PA Wire - Credit: PA

Camden council leader Georgia Gould said her optimism and courage were a “massive inspiration” to many.

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “So sad to hear of the death of Tessa Jowell. I will remember her warmth, her passion, her goodness her decency.

“And the extraordinary way she coped with her cancer and tried to use it to help others. The world is a sadder place without Tessa. Deepest condolences to her family.”

Former Labour cabinet minister Dame Tessa, who launched her political career at Camden Council in 1971 and where she served for a decade, died at home on Saturday evening after being diagnosed with a brain tumour last year.

Former prime minister Tony Blair, in whose Cabinet Dame Tessa served as culture secretary, said she would be remembered for being “the most wise of counsellors, the most loyal and supportive of colleagues, and the best of friends”.

He said: “There was no-one like Tessa and no-one better. I will miss her more than I can say.

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Former acting Labour leader Harriet Harman said Dame Tessa was “no softie”, adding: “She was clever and tough.”

“Tessa was my MP neighbour for 23 years, always courteous and polite with local agencies, hospitals and schools.

“But if they were misleading, uncaring or obfuscating she would be tougher than anyone - and forensic with it.

“But above all she wanted to see Labour in government, and when we were she took her unique style and deep personal commitment into the heart of Whitehall.”

After being diagnosed with a brain tumour in May 2017, Dame Tessa worked to raise awareness about the realities of cancer, and made an impassioned plea in Parliament for better treatments for patients.

Sarah Lindsell, chief executive of the Brain Tumour Charity, said: “Tessa Jowell’s courage and honesty in speaking about her brain tumour diagnosis, coupled with her fierce determination to improve the lives of others affected by the disease, has already brought hope to an often-forgotten community of patient and families.

“As at so many times in her life, she has been an extraordinary driving force for change. Her passionate support for more flexible clinical trials for brain tumour patients, and for global data-sharing to improve understanding of the disease, will have a real and lasting impact in our quest for a cure.”

When she was

Jowell, former councillor for both Swiss Cottage and Gospel Oak, met her first hsuband anti apartheid campaigner Sir Roger Jowell spent a decade at the town hall before joining the Westminster village, said she was “immensely proud” at being singled out for the honour.

When she was made a dame in the Queen’s birthday honours in 2012, Dame Tessa paid tribute to Kentish Town. She told the Ham&High: “I was absolutely speechless. I was told around six weeks before the public announcement but couldn’t tell anybody. I am incredibly proud and pleased.”

“They were very happy times for me in Camden, certainly in the 1970s Camden was the most forward looking authority in the country.”

“A high point was when I opened the Langtry children’s centre in West Hampstead. It was designed to provide childcare and provide training to mothers which meant they could either start their own business or get a job. It was pioneering. “There was money to spend on things that would extend to people who did not have the same opportunities of those middle class families who had books on the shelves and pictures on the walls.”