Labour shadow minister Jack Dromey dies aged 73

Sienna Rodgers
© David Woolfall/CC BY 3.0

Labour MP Jack Dromey, who was serving as shadow immigration minister on Keir Starmer’s frontbench and had represented Birmingham Erdington since 2010, has died today aged 73.

The family of Dromey, husband of veteran Labour politician Harriet Harman, said the “much loved husband, father and grandfather” and “dedicated” MP who would be “greatly missed” died on Friday morning.

Jack Dromey’s son Joe, a former Labour councillor in Lewisham, tweeted several pictures of his father with the message: “Our dad – Jack – died suddenly today. We loved him so, so much. Rest in peace big man x”.

© Twitter/@Joe_Dromey

Dromey, who it is understood died from natural causes, had been appointed shadow immigration minister in the latest shadow cabinet reshuffle. He was previously Shadow Paymaster General.

Raised in Kilburn, north west London, by Irish parents, Dromey started out in the labour movement as a Transport and General Workers’ Union (TGWU) official while working at Brent Law Centre.

He later became deputy general secretary of the TGWU and, after the merger with Amicus, then deputy general secretary of Unite. He supported Steve Turner in his bid to become general secretary of Unite last year.

“Working people have never needed strong trade unions more than they do now in an ever-changing world of work. There are many who counsel despair, believing trade unions are a force of the past. I fundamentally disagree with that view,” he wrote in a LabourList piece in July 2021.

Dromey first tried to stand as a Labour parliamentary candidate in 1997, but Yvette Cooper was selected in the Pontefract and Castleford seat. He won the selection in Birmingham Erdington after Siôn Simon announced his intention to stand down as the MP in 2010.

He was Labour Party treasurer from 2004 to 2010, then joined the opposition frontbench in various roles once he became an MP. His briefs covered housing then policing under Ed Miliband, and labour then pensions under Jeremy Corbyn.

Under Keir Starmer’s leadership, Dromey was moved in January 2021 from his pensions role to join Labour’s Cabinet Office team led by Rachel Reeves. In November, he joined Labour’s home affairs team led by Yvette Cooper.

Reacting to the news of Dromey’s death, Starmer said: “The proud son of Irish parents, Jack Dromey dedicated his life to standing up for working people through the labour movement, becoming deputy general secretary of the UK’s largest trade union and then a Labour MP.

“From supporting the strike at the Grunwick film processing laboratory, when he met Harriet, through to being elected to represent Birmingham Erdington in 2010, Jack lived his commitment to social justice every day.

“Jack was recognised for his determination to stand up for his constituents and he was highly respected and warmly regarded across parliament. My thoughts and those of the whole labour movement are with Harriet, their children and all those who knew and loved Jack.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said she learnt the news “with great sadness” and expressed Unite’s “heartfelt condolences” to Dromey’s family, saying “Jack’s family can be so proud of all that he has achieved” and he will be missed.

“From standing shoulder to shoulder with the workers at Grunwick in the 1970s, to delivering legislation to defend workers from exploitative gangmasters in the 2000s, to today where Jack showed no hesitation in backing our members at GKN in their fight to save their jobs, Jack always put solidarity with workers first, all his life.

“I was personally proud to work closely with Jack for a number of years to establish the ground-breaking organising department in Unite. It stands today as a testament to his commitment to the union,” Graham said.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady tweeted: “Devastating to lose such a champion of working people. As a trade unionist, MP and shadow minister, Jack Dromey fought for a fair deal for us all. Rest in peace my friend. Thinking of Harriet and all the family.”

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