Jack Dromey brought people together: he was a giant of Labour politics

Yvette Cooper
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Jack Dromey had a wonderful way of making you feel that everything was going to be alright. Whatever mountains we had to climb, whatever the slings and arrows along the way, there was something in Jack’s combination of great warmth, deep principles and immense determination that reassured, encouraged and motivated people all at the same time. That was his gift. It made him hugely effective as a campaigner and hugely loved as a man. We all miss him terribly.

From his Irish family roots to the Brent Trade Union Council, to the Transport and General Workers Union, to the streets of Erdington and the green benches in parliament, wherever Jack was, he was unwavering in his fight for working people and his championing of equality and decency. His final act in parliament the day before he died was to urge the government to match the bravery and moral sense of purpose shown by British soldiers evacuating Afghans last year and establish a resettlement scheme of integrity. As a last act in parliament, it was entirely fitting – a final demonstration of his persistent decency and solidarity.

More than anyone, Jack brought people together and built the broadest of alliances around his campaigns. When the shocking news came that he had died, tributes flowed from the five biggest British manufacturing groups and the five biggest trades unions – a reflection of the impressive Industrial Alliance he brought together to campaign for manufacturing jobs during the difficult Brexit debates. He was formidable – always thinking in any campaign about what to do “at the next stages”, always reminding everyone not to forget what people were really talking about “at the Dog and Duck”. Jack knew how to persuade and change minds, how to rouse and inspire a crowd or how to calm conflict with wise and soothing words. And he made us all laugh and smile along the way.

I think of Jack through the many campaigns we worked on through the years as a lifelong champion of equality and a fabulous feminist, too. He was incredibly proud of his wife, Harriet Harman, only last week in an interview describing her 40-year legacy as an MP as a complete transformation of the political landscape. But it wasn’t just his support for Harriet. He gave steady support to me and many other women across parliament and the trade union movement, a solid ally in so many campaigns for equality, stretching back to his vital role in the Grunwick dispute, backing low-paid Asian and ethnic minority women workers in their fight against exploitation and poverty pay.

Most of all, Jack was a proud family man. The day before we lost him, I sat with him on the frontbench in parliament chatting about the wonderful family Christmas he had just had, about his brilliant children and gorgeous grandchildren. Before anything else he was a devoted husband, father and grandfather – they will miss him the most, but we are so lucky that we got to share him.

Recent days have seen an absolute outpouring of love and respect for Jack. Throughout all the tributes the same things shine through – his kindness and his relentless pursuit of social justice. In a political world so often defined by division and hostility, he was big-hearted and determined. He was a giant of Labour politics, and the loss will be felt across the labour movement and beyond. So many of us learned so much from him, we must ensure those values and that legacy Jack left us with live on.

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