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Around 1,000 people attend memorial service of Dame Tessa Jowell who stood as an MP candidate for Ilford North

PUBLISHED: 16:28 18 October 2018

Former prime minister Tony Blair. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/ PA Wire/PA Images

Former prime minister Tony Blair. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/ PA Wire/PA Images

PA Wire/PA Images

Tributes have been paid this morning to the politician who stood as a candidate for Ilford North in 1978, who died in May after a year-long battle with cancer.

Tessa Jowell addressing the TUC women's conference on International Women's Day in 2006. Picture: PA Wire/Chris IsonTessa Jowell addressing the TUC women's conference on International Women's Day in 2006. Picture: PA Wire/Chris Ison

Former prime ministers Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron joined hundreds of people in celebrating the life of Dame Tessa Jowell at a memorial service.

Leaders across the political spectrum united to remember the former culture secretary at Southwark Cathedral for a service filled with laughter and love.

The politician, who stood as a candidate for Ilford North in 1978, came back to the borough in 2015 to help Wes Streeting win a seat as an MP for the constituency.

Lucy Rea (r), 80, was shopping in local supermarket when she encountered Tessa Jowell, the Labour candidate in the Ilford North by-election, and her supporter Roy Hattersley, Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection.Lucy Rea (r), 80, was shopping in local supermarket when she encountered Tessa Jowell, the Labour candidate in the Ilford North by-election, and her supporter Roy Hattersley, Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection.

More than one thousand mourners came to pay their respects to the baroness, who was a driving force behind the 2012 London Olympics.

At the service, Dame Tessa’s daughter Jessie recalled her mother’s “endless, heart-bursting, infinite love”.

She said: “To be loved like this since the moment we were born and to be her children is the single greatest privilege of our lives.”

Commons Speaker John Bercow at the the memorial service at Southwark Cathedral, London for the former culture secretary, Baroness Tessa Jowell.  Photo: Stefan Rousseau/ PA Wire/PA ImagesCommons Speaker John Bercow at the the memorial service at Southwark Cathedral, London for the former culture secretary, Baroness Tessa Jowell. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/ PA Wire/PA Images

This was echoed by Dame Tessa’s husband, David Mills, who said his wife’s last words were “love forever”.

He said: “To know that she was held in such high esteem, was loved by so many... all that is a consolation which will in some measure always beguile our grief.”

Mr Blair paid tribute to his friend and former colleague, saying “not a day goes by” without him thinking of her.

(left to right) Ed Miliband, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown arriving for the memorial service at Southwark Cathedral, London for the former culture secretary, Baroness Tessa Jowell.  Photo: Stefan Rousseau/ PA Wire/PA Images(left to right) Ed Miliband, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown arriving for the memorial service at Southwark Cathedral, London for the former culture secretary, Baroness Tessa Jowell. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/ PA Wire/PA Images

She was “unafraid to stand up for her friends, unafraid to stand up to them, but always standing by them”, he added.

The former Labour leader drew roars of laughter as he recalled how she had successfully persuaded him of the merits of hosting the London 2012 Olympics - her “brainchild”.

He said: “I resisted, she persisted, I desisted.”

Former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown arriving for the memorial service at Southwark Cathedral, London for the former culture secretary, Baroness Tessa Jowell. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/ PA Wire/PA ImagesFormer Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown arriving for the memorial service at Southwark Cathedral, London for the former culture secretary, Baroness Tessa Jowell. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/ PA Wire/PA Images

Mr Blair said: “Tessa died with so much still to give, but if life is measured not in how long you live but by how much you give, she lived a length of biblical proportions.”

He ended: “Tessa, we love you, we thank you and we will never, ever forget you.”

Also attending the service were former Labour leader Ed Miliband, former home secretary Lord Blunkett, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Commons Speaker John Bercow and London 2012 chairman Lord Coe.

(l-r) Roy Hattersley, Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection, Tessa Jowell, the Labour candidate in the forthcoming Ilford North by-election, and John Fraser, the Minister of State at the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection.(l-r) Roy Hattersley, Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection, Tessa Jowell, the Labour candidate in the forthcoming Ilford North by-election, and John Fraser, the Minister of State at the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection.

The memorial came as Mr Khan announced a walkway in the Olympic Park will be named in her honour.

Laughter rang out at several moments during the one-and-a-half hour service - as colleagues remembered her insistence on holding multiple meetings and always being on a diet.

A long queue which snaked around the cathedral’s perimeter an hour before the service started was testament to her enduring popularity.

Dame Tessa died in May after suffering from a glioblastoma multiforme brain tumour which was diagnosed the previous year.

A well-liked figure in Parliament, she played a major role in securing the 2012 Olympics for London when she served as culture secretary.

She also championed the SureStart initiative, which aimed to give children the best possible start in life through improvements and better access to childcare, early education, health and family support.

In the months before her death, she moved fellow peers to tears as she used the House of Lords as a platform to discuss her condition and call for patients to have better access to experimental treatment.

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