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Camden Council to name new housing block after Dame Tessa Jowell

Former councillor who went on to become MP and cabinet member to be honoured with 'Tessa Jowell Court'

17 July, 2018 — By Richard Osley

CAMDEN Council is to name a new block of flats after Dame Tessa Jowell, the former culture secretary who passed away earlier this year.

The move to build ‘Tessa Jowell Court’ was announced by one of the Labour councillors who served with Dame Tessa during her own time as a member of the council in the 1980s.

Former mayor Councillor Roger Robinson told last night’s full council meeting that the block would be in his ward of Somers Town.

He said she had been a “fighter for truth and reason” and “a person of kindness and real caring”, adding: “She always thought of others and the needs of society and her battle continued despite serious illness.”

Dame Tessa had lived for many years in Gospel Oak and Kentish Town and later in Highgate village.

Cllr Robinson said he had already been on the council for ten years when Dame Tessa was elected to the Town Hall in the Gospel Oak ward and said he “was at that time a wee bit disillusioned with life, but she made me feel like it was worthwhile fighting again – and that’s why I’m still here today. Thank you Tessa.”

He added: “The block of  ten flats being built on the Plot 10 site in my ward is to be named after Tessa, and are to be social, rented housing I’m glad to say.

Dame Tessa, who had been diagnosed with brain cancer, had been campaigning for wider access to new treatments in the final stages of her life. The former MP for Dulwich was 70 when she died in May. 

Labour council leader Councillor Georgia Gould said: “She was somebody who always treated people with respect and with kindness throughout her life. She was Camden through and through. She lived in Camden, her kids went to local schools. She was a councillor and a chair of the social services committee here, and many of her ideas that went on to change many lives around the country were developed in Camden.”

She added: “People talk about what a wonderfully compassionate person she was but that didn’t mean she was soft. When she wanted to achieve something, she was deeply determined and she kept going, whether it was the Olympics or Sure Start.” 

Opposition parties also paid tribute to Dame Tessa last night (Monday).

Conservative councillor Henry Newman told the chamber: “I knew Tessa somewhat peripherally, I met her before I came into politics but found her a very amusing, a very engaging, wonderful dinner partner at a mutual friend’s house. We sparred about politics, unsurprisingly, but she remained Labour through and through. I rather cheekily asked her: What her biggest regrets were? This was a time when she was leaving government. She mentioned the Iraq War but various other things with a candour that impressed me at the time.”

He added: “Then when I was working in government as a lowly bag carrier, I always found her as someone who always had the time to say hello and wave across a crowded hall. We were able to work with her, as opposing parties, in a constructive manner in matters of national importance. She was a model for all women in politics, for everybody in politics really, on how to conduct yourself humanely and intelligently.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Flick Rea said: “The role in which I knew her was in championing the Olympics coming to London. When I had the honour of being Camden’s art supremo for four years it was in the run-up of the Olympics and every time I open my mouth and said what a wonderful opportunity this would be for Camden, all my executive cabinet colleagues would go ‘oh no, Flick’s going on about the Olympics again’. It occurred to me that Tessa Jowell was in the same position in cabinet. Every time she opened her mouth and said ‘we could bring the Olympics to London’, [it would be] ‘oh God, Tessa’s on about the Olympics again. But she managed it with huge charm and steely determination. She got them to agree.”

Cllr Rea added: “The Olympics are probably her greatest legacy. It did what Tessa wanted to do: it brought people together, of all sorts of types of communities. It gave everybody the chance to shine.”

The council has a history of naming buildings after long-serving and notable politicians. It recent times it named a block in Holborn after Frank Dobson earlier this year – the former health secretary noted that it was normally something that happened after someone passes away at the official opening – and part of an estate in Camden Town now honours former councillor Peter Brayshaw, who died in 2014.

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