James Peter Brokenshire (born 8 January 1968) is a British politician who served as Minister of State for Security at the Home Office from 2020 to 2021. A member of the Conservative Party, he previously served in Theresa May's Cabinet as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government from 2018 to 2019 and Northern Ireland Secretary from 2016 to 2018. Brokenshire has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Old Bexley and Sidcup since the 2010 general election.
Born in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Brokenshire studied law at the University of Exeter before beginning work with a large international law firm. Deciding on a career in politics, he stood successfully as the Conservative candidate for the parliamentary constituency of Hornchurch in the 2005 general election. When his constituency was to be abolished in the boundary changes, he sought out another constituency to represent, failing to be selected in six constituencies until being selected for Old Bexley and Sidcup. He was elected MP for the area in 2010.
In David Cameron’s first government, Brokenshire was at first Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Crime Reduction; in May 2011 he was transferred to the position of Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Crime and Security. He oversaw the closure and privatisation of the Forensic Science Service and championed the Modern Slavery Bill. He served as Minister for Security and Immigration at the Home Office from 2014 to 2016. In July 2016, in Theresa May's new cabinet, he was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. He resigned in January 2018 on health grounds and was replaced by Karen Bradley. In April 2018 he was appointed Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, following Sajid Javid's appointment as Home Secretary as a result of Amber Rudd's resignation.
Early life and career
Brokenshire was born on 8 January 1968, in Southend-on-Sea, Essex. His father was a council chief executive.
He was educated at Davenant Foundation Grammar School in Loughton and then at the Cambridge Centre for Sixth-form Studies. After this he studied Law at the University of Exeter.
Brokenshire subsequently worked at the international law firm Jones Day. In this position, he advised on company law, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate finance transactions.
MP for Hornchurch
Brokenshire was elected at the 2005 general election to the parliamentary constituency of Hornchurch, defeating the Labour candidate and incumbent member John Cryer by 480 votes. The election itself resulted in a third successive term for Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Labour government. From 2005 to 2006, Brokenshire was a member of the House of Commons Constitutional Affairs Select Committee. From 2006 to 2010 he then served as the Shadow Minister for Crime Reduction.
Brokenshire was aware that his constituency, Hornchurch, was to be dissolved for the next election. In November 2006, he applied for selection as the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Witham in Essex, but was defeated by Priti Patel. He simultaneously campaigned to be selected as Conservative candidate for the constituency of Hornchurch and Upminster, but in March 2007 was defeated there by Angela Watkinson.
He next applied for Gillingham and Rainham in July 2007, Grantham and Stamford in October 2007, North East Cambridgeshire in January 2008, and Maidstone and The Weald later that same month. He was unsuccessful in all of these attempts.
MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup
Derek Conway, the member for the Conservative safe seat of Old Bexley and Sidcup in southeast London, was embroiled in an expenses scandal and resigned, after which Brokenshire put his name forward as a potential replacement. His competitors for the seat were Rebecca Harris, Katie Lindsay, and Julia Manning, and he was successful in gaining the selection for the seat in June 2008. He was described as a "serial carpetbagger" by a local single issue party, Independents to Save Queen Mary's Hospital.
In the 2010 general election, Brokenshire was elected for Old Bexley and Sidcup with 24,625 votes (53.93%), beating the Labour candidate Rick Everitt, in second place with 8,768 votes (19.21%). Voter turnout was 69.13%. Upon victory, Brokenshire announced that his priority would be to prevent the proposed closure of accident and emergency services at local Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup.
Parliamentary Under Secretary for Crime Reduction
With no party gaining an overall majority in the House of Commons, the 2010 election resulted in the formation of a coalition government consisting of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, led by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron. The new PM appointed Brokenshire as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Crime Reduction in the Home Office. One of his first moves was to initiate the closing of the United Kingdom's Forensic Science Service; it had been making operational losses of £2 million a month, and was predicted to go into administration in early 2011. Brokenshire stated his desire that there would be "no continuing state interest in a forensics provider by March 2012", with the service's role being taken on by private enterprise. Critics asserted that this move would result in the loss of hundreds of jobs and the degradation of forensic research and criminal justice, with an MPs enquiry chaired by Labour MP Andrew Miller criticising the manner in which the closure had been overseen.
In August 2010, Brokenshire called for the government to adopt a new approach to the war on drugs in Britain; he argued that they should focus on getting addicts off drugs, rather than minimising the effects of drug use, as the preceding Labour government had focused on.
Parliamentary Under Secretary for Crime and Security
In May 2011, Brokenshire's Home Office brief was changed from Crime Reduction to Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Crime and Security following the resignation of Baroness Neville-Jones, although he was not appointed to the more senior rank of Minister of State. In this position, he was responsible for updating plans to tackle terror content online. This move was seen as controversial by broadband companies and freedom of speech groups.
In the buildup to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, he stated his belief that the games would be a "great success", largely due to the government's security measures. He also commented that "I think it will bring Bexley together and the torch relay will be a fantastic event for the community ... I'm quite sure it will have a lasting impression."
In October 2013, Brokenshire published a draft of a proposed Modern Slavery Bill, designed to tackle slavery in the UK. He was quoted as saying that the Bill will "send the strongest possible message to criminals that if you are involved in this disgusting trade in human beings, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and you will be locked up." Experts in the issue were sceptical of the Bill, believing that it had many shortcomings and was designed largely to enhance Theresa May's career. The bill was subsequently enacted as the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
In January 2014, Brokenshire called on National Rail to improve its services, after statistics were published revealing that rail services across Bexley Borough had worsened throughout 2013.
Minister of State for Security and Immigration (1st term)
Brokenshire assumed the enlarged role of Minister for Security and Immigration on 8 February 2014 following the resignation of Mark Harper.
Northern Ireland Secretary
In July 2016, under Theresa May's new cabinet, Brokenshire was appointed the Northern Ireland Secretary. On 16 January 2017, the Northern Ireland Executive collapsed following the resignation of Martin McGuinness as deputy First Minister one week earlier, and the refusal of Sinn Féin to nominate a successor. Brokenshire, as Northern Ireland Secretary, temporarily assumed the powers of the Executive and called for snap elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly, which took place on 2 March 2017.
Brokenshire's comments in The Sunday Telegraph of 28 January 2017 sparked consternation in Northern Ireland:
Writing in the Telegraph, James Brokenshire, the Northern Ireland Secretary, concedes there is an apparent "imbalance" that has led to a "disproportionate" focus on criminal inquiries involving former soldiers. "I am clear the current system is not working and we are in danger of seeing the past rewritten."
Following a question from MP Sylvia Hermon, Brokenshire offered his "clear and unequivocal" support for the Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan. Sir Declan had earlier criticised Brokenshire for refusing funding for cases and thereby adding to case backlogs when Brokenshire refused to grant £10 million to pay for an inquest into the deaths of eleven civilians shot dead by British forces in 1971 in the Ballymurphy massacre.
Brian Feeney in The Irish News accused Brokenshire of "ineptitude ... no one would give him the credit of even being aware of the coincidence of the date he chose, when British soldiers killed most innocent victims in Ireland." (see Bloody Sunday), while the Belfast Telegraph editorial accused the minister of "playing a dangerous game".
Brokenshire resigned as Northern Ireland Secretary on 8 January 2018 on health grounds due to an upcoming lung operation. On 20 January 2018 it was announced that he had the operation and had been discharged from hospital.
In September 2019, Brokenshire said that his best piece of advice to people becoming Northern Ireland secretary was to "get yourself a history book and read it."
Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary
In April 2018, Brokenshire was appointed as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government following Sajid Javid's appointment as Home Secretary in the light of Amber Rudd's resignation after the Windrush scandal. After his appointment, Brokenshire said it was "a real honour" to make a quick return to the cabinet.
In this role, Brokenshire was responsible for regional growth, local government, housing, planning, rough sleeping, building safety and communities.
Hours after taking on the new role Brokenshire appeared in Parliament and stated, after a question from Andrew Gwynne Labour's shadow communities secretary, that "local government is in my blood".
He piloted the Tenant Fees Act through Parliament which, among other regulations, caps the deposit a landlord or a letting agency may take from a new tenant and largely abolishes administration fees.
In April 2019, Brokenshire sacked philosopher Sir Roger Scruton from his unpaid role as chair of the British government's "Building Better, Building Beautiful" Commission. The dismissal followed the publication of an interview with Scruton by George Eaton in the New Statesman magazine, in which Eaton had suggested that Scruton had made unsavoury remarks. A series of online comments from Eaton suggested that he had set out to present Scruton, a former contributor to the New Statesman, in a poor light. Following a campaign from Douglas Murray of The Spectator, the tapes of the interview were eventually leaked, which prompted the New Statesman to publish a correction of its original article and an apology. Brokenshire apologised to Scruton for his sacking and invited him to rejoin the commission.
Minister of State for Security (2nd term)
In 2020, Brokenshire returned to government as the Minister for Security. On 11 January 2021, he announced that he would be taking a leave of absence in order to prepare for a cancer operation.
On 7 July 2021, Brokenshire tendered his resignation to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, stating his recovery from lung cancer is "taking longer than expected".
Political policy views
On Brexit, Brokenshire was believed to have voted to remain in the EU in the initial 2016 vote, but his position was seen[by whom?] as unclear later on.
Brokenshire married Cathrine Anne Mamelok in 1999. They have two daughters and a son.
He has expressed support for the charity Cancer Research UK and in March 2013 publicly backed their Cell Slider website, calling on all of his constituents to get involved in the initiative.
In December 2017, Brokenshire noted blood in his cough, and underwent testing that discovered that he had early-stage lung cancer. He had the upper lobe of his right lung removed at Guy's Hospital and returned to Parliament five weeks later. Brokenshire said that he wanted to end the social stigma around lung cancer because, like fifteen percent of people with the disease, he has never smoked. In January 2021, he took a leave of absence from his ministerial post in preparation for a pneumonectomy.