James Brokenshire - who once tried to become NE Cambs MP - dies aged 53  

James Brokenshire who has died aged 53

The death was announced today of MP James Brokenshire at the age of 53. In 2008 he was on a short-list of six to become the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for NE Cambs. - Credit: PA Media

James Brokenshire, the former Government minister whose death was announced today, might well have been MP for NE Cambridgeshire.  

Mr Brokenshire was one of six short-listed candidates who took part in a ‘X-Factor’ style selection process following the retirement of former MP Malcolm Moss.  

Boris Johnson paid tribute to Mr Brokenshire, 53, as the "nicest, kindest and most unassuming of politicians". 

The prime minister said: "His fight against cancer was heroic, and it is a measure of his resolve that he came back from a first bout with the disease to serve in government again.  

“He will be missed by all who knew him.”  

Mr Brokenshire, the Conservative MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup had been in hospital since Sunday. 

In January 2008 he had been one of six Tory hopefuls to battle it out to be selected as the NE Cambs prospective Conservative candidate during a marathon six-hour hustings at Sir Harry Smith Community College, Whittlesey. 

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The six who had made it through to the final were picked from many dozens who had expressed interest in the seat. 

Mr Moss' majority of almost 9,000 at the 2005 general election meant the seat was regarded as one of the Tories' safest in the eastern counties. 

In an unusual move, the party had opted for an open primary selection, allowing both party and non-party members to take part and then to vote for their preferred choice. 

I had been invited to question each candidate 20 minutes before a further 10 minutes of questions from the audience.  

The final five minutes was given over to a few minutes of light relief tackling a 'pot luck' humour question, before packing a punch in a two-minute hard hitting address to delegates. 

Mr Brokenshire had been MP for Hornchurch and Rainham but his seat was about to be disappear during re-organisation.  

Sadly, he was the first candidate to be eliminated after the first count; on the second count Mr Barclay was unanimously declared the winner. 

I wrote at the time: “As voting began it soon became apparent that 35-year-old Mr Barclay was rapidly emerging as hot favourite after a robust presentation and CV which dealt with his business, military, and political career to date. 

“He promised to fight for a better deal for police, to campaign for dualling of the A47, to address empty shops in March, and ensure the Nene Waterfront at Wisbech ‘is a catalyst for investment’. 

What I also recall from the day is the lunch break.  

I had gone for a stroll in the college grounds, and found myself being approached by Mr Brokenshire.  

He had been ‘on stage’ during the morning and asked how I felt he had done.  

“In truth, not very well,” I replied.  

I moved on quickly.