Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle led the tributes to Jack Dromey.
02 February 2022
Harriet Harman has praised her late husband for his “superpower” of giving support to her and others, as MPs gathered to remember Jack Dromey.
The veteran Labour MP described how her husband’s dedication to her work was a “matter of principle” to him, and he “detested men who he saw holding their wives back in their own self-interests”.
Ms Harman was dressed all in black and their family watched from a side gallery as she concluded an emotional session in the House of Commons.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle led the tributes to father-of-three Mr Dromey, who died suddenly in his flat in his Birmingham constituency last month.
The 73-year-old was referred to as “Mr Harriet Harman” throughout the tributes, with MPs recalling the encouragement he offered them, his negotiating skills honed as a trade unionist, and his dedication to Birmingham Erdington – which he represented from 2010.
Ms Harman, the Mother of the House and MP for Camberwell and Peckham, said: “On behalf of myself and my family, I would like to warmly thank all those honourable members who have spoken today and to say from everyone from all around the country who have sent us cards, emails, texts, tweets, who posted on Facebook, to say to them, the memories they have shared with us and the respect they have shown for Jack have given so much comfort to me and his beloved family as we face the total shock of his sudden death from heart failure just three weeks ago.”
She added: “Jack hated inequality and depression and his life’s work was a steadfast focus on supporting those who were fighting against it.
“His roots in the Irish working-class immigrant community, his solidarity with black and Asian people fighting against inequality, his respect for middle class people who, though not suffering hardships themselves, wanted to work to end it for others.
“That made him the polar opposite of the culture wars and the living embodiment of the coalition that is the Labour Party.
“He spoke up for people and they heard him and that made them stronger.”
She concluded: “Much has rightly been said about his support for me in my work.
“It was phenomenal and it was unswerving. But it was not just because I was his wife. It was a matter of principle.
“Jack believed that men should support and respect women, and he detested men who he saw holding their wives back in their own self-interests.
“For all of us who received it, Jack’s support was a superpower. It made us all walk taller. It made us all feel stronger. We will so miss him.”
Mr Johnson said Mr Dromey will be remembered with affection and admiration “by people on the right as well as the left, and in the middle”.
He recalled: “One day Jack was driving in Greece when he saw a family of British tourists, footsore, bedraggled, sunburnt with the children on the verge of mutiny against their father… he stopped the car and invited them all in even though there was barely any room, and I will always be grateful for his kindness because that father was me and he drove us quite a long way.
“Jack had a profound commitment to helping all those around him and those he served, and he commanded the upmost respect across the House.
“He’ll be remembered as one of the great trade unionists of our time.”
Sir Keir recalled Mr Dromey’s “humility” and “his sense of humour”, describing them as “legendary”.
He said: “Shortly after Harriet’s book came out, staff had a copy of it on their desk.
“Jack roared with laughter as he saw a photo of himself in his 20s, barely recognisable with a prodigious, thick beard. ‘Good grief’, he explained, ‘what was Harriet thinking?’ ‘What? Putting a picture in a book?’, replied the staff. ‘No’, Jack said, ‘marrying me’.”
Sir Lindsay described Mr Dromey as a “fearless, energetic trade unionist” while shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said he was “formidable” and a “fabulous feminist”.
Labour’s Liam Byrne (Birmingham Hodge Hill) said: “Jack Dromey was my mentor, my teacher, my political partner and my friend,” adding “he was like a father to me”.
On Birmingham, Labour’s Jess Phillips (Birmingham Yardley) joked Jack Dromey “loved it way more than me”, adding: “There could be no greater advocate for the city of Birmingham.”