The last communication I had with Tessa Jowell, who died yesterday, was by text as I was travelling home from Canary Wharf after seeing Sadiq Khan launch his manifesto for the 2016 mayoral election campaign. To a backdrop of the Thames working its way towards the East End and Square Mile, she had opened the proceedings with a speech in praise of Khan that was all the more generous for the fact that she had hoped to be Labour’s candidate that year, but finished as runner up.
She asked that the campaign of Khan and Labour’s London Assembly candidates should be “a love song to London”, and spoke with real emotion in her voice. My message to her after my Jubilee Line train came to the surface was that she had been selfless and brave to introduce her nemesis – who I had backed as candidate – and to give him a helping hand. Her reply was that it had been a difficult thing to do but, she hoped, the right thing. People who knew Tessa Jowell much, much better than I will not find that story surprising.
There’s little more I can add to the array of tributes that have been paid to her today, but I invite you to spend a few minutes watching the video clip below. It is Jowell’s speech to the 2011 Labour Party conference held in Liverpool. Her party had been in opposition for a year and the 2012 London Mayor election was approaching, with Ken Livingstone seeking to win City Hall back from Boris Johnson.
The London Olympics, which Jowell had done so much to bring about, would take place a few weeks after that. She and Livingstone were not natural allies, but they had worked together well to win the Olympics bid and now she, then a London MP, was doing her best to help him be restored as Mayor. She was a popular politician with all sorts of politicians. It is easy to see why.
More from Tessa Jowell on how London became the 2012 host city here. Read the BBC’s obituary of her here. Photo is of Jowell with supporters in Brixton launching her bid to became Labour’s 2016 London Mayor candidate.