By Ed King
On Friday 7 January, only a week into the New Year, the longstanding Erdington MP Jack Dromey was found dead at his constituency residence – aged 73.
Erdington Local asked local organisations, stakeholders, colleagues, and community champions who knew Jack to contribute some words and pictures in remembrance.
A significant part of Erdington since being elected MP in 2010, Jack Dromey was involved in numerous projects and initiatives to support the constituency.
From his work with the Erdington Covid Taskforce and North Birmingham Economic Recovery Plan, to every food bank or school road safety campaign that needed his support – the impact of Jack Dromey’s death will be felt by countless across the Erdington constituency and beyond.
Erdington Local wishes to extend our condolences to Jack Dromey’s family, friends, and close colleagues. We hope the following is a welcomed epitaph to a man who will be sorely missed and mourned for. RIP Jack.
With thanks to the following for their contributions:
Witton Lodge Community Association, The Pioneer Group, Compass Support, Spitfire Advice and Support Services, Castle Vale Community Partnership, The Hospice Charity Partnership, Save Our Schools West Midlands, Active Arts Castle Vale, Erdington Local, Erdington Arts Forum, Kingstanding Food Community, Urban Devotion, Andy Street – Mayor of West Midlands Combined Authority, Cllr Robert Alden, Unite the Union, Erdington Labour Party, Josh Jones, Naziah Rasheed, Birmingham Leader Cllr Ian Ward, Liam Byrne MP (Hodge Hill), Jess Phillips MP (Yardley), Preet Kaur Gill MP (Edgbaston), Shabana Mahmood MP (Ladywood), Steve McCabe MP (Selly Oak), Short Heath Fields Trust, Short Heath Residents Action Group, Abbey Catholic Primary School, Paul Jennings, Haroon Chughtai, Simon Foster – West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner.
With special thanks to the staff from Jack Dromey’s offices in Erdington and Westminster.
Remembering Jack – pictures and messages of rememberence
“We are shocked and deeply saddened at Jack Dromey’s sudden passing. We have lost a principled public servant and a kind, generous and thoroughly decent man.
“At Witton Lodge Community Association, we had the privilege of working with Jack for over a decade and in recent years almost on a weekly basis. He was a friend of the Association.
“His determination to act for local people was second to none – whether helping to solve problems, creating opportunities to improve lives or celebrating the richness of local communities.
“He was an engaging and energetic man who collaborated with many, combining a mixture of good grace and steeliness to get things done. We saw this first hand through his leadership of the Erdington Taskforce and the North Birmingham Economic Recovery Board, through which we were able to support thousands of residents during the pandemic.
“Jack’s legacy will live on in his many accomplishments and the lives that he touched. Our heartfelt condolences to Jack’s family, friends, and colleagues. RIP Jack.”
Afzal Hussain / Chief Officer, Witton Lodge Community Association
“Jack was so much more than a hardworking constituency MP; he had a real passion and sense of purpose in his work to fight for every constituency and make their lives better. He has been an unwavering supporter of our work and that of all social landlords and partners working across the communities. Jack advocated for his constituents across many issues, not least ensuring they had secure, well-paid work and decent housing and communities in which they can thrive.
“He had chaired the Castle Vale Neighbourhood Partnership Board for many years and done so in a way that paid no regard to tribal politics – it was always about getting the best possible outcome for the people he served. He was the best MP I have ever had the privilege to work alongside and he will leave a huge chasm in our communities that will be hard to fill. My thoughts are with his family, friends, his wife, children, grandchildren who he spoke of frequently and with such joy.”
Simon Wilson / CEO, The Pioneer Group
“Jack was an amazing MP who strongly supported the communities of Erdington. He was a strong arm in lobbying for improving people’s circumstances and was particularly engaged in some of our work with young people and families over the years. He will be dearly missed.”
Lisa Martinali / Community Regeneration Director, The Pioneer Group
“Jack was simply the most remarkable man I have met, fearless, compassionate and caring, he saw something in me (personally) which I didn’t and through his kindness and support enabled me to see it also, I will be forever grateful.
“At Spitfire Services he became part of our collective Castle Vale family. A friend colleague and one of the greatest parliamentarians he will be missed terribly, there are not words to say how I feel about Jack’s passing. My thoughts are with his family.”
Ray Goodwin / Chief Executive, Spitfire Advice and Support Services
“Jack has carried on with the tradition of providing senior leadership to the Castle Vale Community Partnership building on the likes of Lord Corbett of Castle Vale and Lord Rooker. Over the last four years, he has helped the partnership in securing funding for a range of community projects and fought for the support of residents throughout our communities.
“Jack always had the people at the heart of everything he did, and his legacy shall live on through the lives he has touched. We will always be whole-heartedly grateful for his dedication, and he shall be deeply missed.”
Sue Spicer / Vice Chair, Castle Vale Community Partnership
“Jack was a huge advocate, supporter and friend of John Taylor Hospice in Erdington. His work locally and with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Palliative and End of Life Care reflected his commitment to the hospice movement and his constituents.
“Jack was a regular visitor to the hospice and always looked to find a way to help and support in any way he could. Warm, friendly and engaging, he showed humility and kindnesses to the people he met, he will be dearly missed by us all. Our thoughts are now with Jack’s family and friends.”
Simon Fuller / Chief Executive Officer, The Hospice Charity Partnership
“The whole SOS family has been devastated by the tragic and sudden death of MP Jack Dromey. A wonderful politician, with a Trade Union heart. Passionate about campaigning for children’s rights, he supported SOS in so many of our actions and was driven to ensure ALL children had access to a good education.
“We will miss him dearly and send our love and condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.”
Kate Taylor, on behalf Save Our Schools West Midlands
“The grief has caught many of us by surprise. Jack Dromey was the local MP – the person we demanded to be whatever we needed in any day because he was our local elect and in a position of responsibility. Actually, he was our captain, our comrade, our friend.
“One of the best things about my work in Erdington was getting to know Jack. He gave his all for Erdington, much will never be fully appreciated but his legacy is already and will be enormous. I have some very fond memories of Jack – throwing himself into creative projects including holding a vegetable for a photo shoot, enjoying many Evenings of Creativity, and walking with pride as part of our diverse community with Little Amal.
“It’s hard to now imagine an event or meeting without him being there. We will still save a seat for you. Thank you Jack, for being you, we will miss you.”
Claire Marshall / Project Director, Active Arts Castle Vale
“A fierce supporter of Erdington Local, Jack was always championing the voices of Erdington and pushing us to celebrate the constituency’s achievements, endeavours, and people. He was immensely proud of Erdington and made damn sure others knew why. Not everyone in office cares as he did.
“Always available, Jack never hid from a contentious issue or a tough question. He was a man who could be careful with his words, but never lied. It would have been incredible to report on him ‘in action’ during the upcoming elections, a real tour de force.
“I told him this many times, but we wouldn’t have made it without his help. Plain truth. This is a real, tragic loss. RIP Jack, rattling the pearly gates with a battle cry for justice no doubt.”
Ed King / Editor-in-Chief, Erdington Local
“I, along with many other musicians and artists in the local area, will miss Jack deeply. He was a champion of the arts, really seeing the value in what creativity does for the soul.’
Jobe Baker Sullivan / Erdington Arts Forum
“Jack possessed a rare combination of concrete convictions with a willingness to collaborate to get things done. When the Lakeside Children’s Centre was threatened with closure it was Jack’s ability to draw people together from across the political spectrum that ensured we won the case for it to remain open.
“His influence took a grassroots campaign right to the corridors of people; he gave people a platform to speak rather than presuming to speak for him. I have lost count of the number of local people Jack described as ‘remarkable’. He was undoubtedly a remarkable man himself who has left an indelible imprint on our community and will be sorely missed.”
Andy Winmill / Director, Urban Devotion
“Today we lost a true democrat. Jack was a principled politician who fervently believed that the democratic process could improve the lives of his residents. His natural respect for political leaders, officers and even his political adversaries revealed his own guiding principles.
“He was a man schooled in the Union, a man who excelled in the art of politics, but one who always understood its ultimate purpose. He was a great collaborator always able to put party differences aside for the greater good. He was inventive, thoughtful, and some might even say a touch mischievous, but always in the name of getting an outcome that he believed was right.
“In recent years it has been a privilege to work with him and experience his unshakable belief in the value of uniting to protect the interests of workers, and nowhere more so than in Erdington. His many battles, campaigns, and passions all bore this hallmark.
“Birmingham has lost a dedicated servant. Parliament has lost a true believer. And we have all lost a generous, inclusive friend who set a fine example.”
Andy Street / Mayor of West Midlands Combined Authority
“The shocking news that Jack Dromey MP had passed has rocked our local community and wider. From his days as a Trade Union organiser Jack Dromey built a reputation as a formidable organiser and public speaker, skills that went on to serve him well as in his later years he moved into frontline politics. The outpouring of tributes that have been seen since demonstrate the man that Jack was and the regard with which he was held.
“Nationally Jack had a reputation as a passionate defender of worker’s rights, who had dedicated his life to the Labour movement. Eventually going on to serve in the Shadow Cabinet nationally under Ed Miliband, Jeremy Corbyn, and Kier Starmer.
“From Jack’s rise to national fame, for his work organising and supporting the Grunwick strikes, to his most recent work supporting workers at GKN, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Jack always put solidarity with workers first”.
“While over the years Jack and I would often find ourselves as political opponents at election time; during the Covid-19 pandemic, Jack worked cross-party with my colleagues and I on the Council and with community groups to support residents through the Erdington Covid -19 Taskforce and the North Birmingham Economic recovery group working jointly with local stakeholders.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Jack’s family and friends at this awful time.”
Cllr Robert Alden / Erdington Ward Councillor & Leader of Birmingham Conservatives
“Having worked with Jack over the years on a number of issues, not least the pending closure of our site, I can honestly say that it was an honour and a privilege to call him a colleague and a friend.
“Jack was a champion for working people as a trade unionist and as an MP for Erdington he has fought tirelessly over the years for manufacturing, especially automotive in the West Midlands. As Jack would always say once a trade unionist always a trade unionist.
“His passing will be a huge loss to not just his constituents in Erdington but to the larger Labour and Trade union movement. God bless Jack.”
Frank Duffy, GKN Unite convener
“Erdington Labour Party is devastated by the tragic loss of our brilliant Member of Parliament, Jack Dromey. Jack was a wonderful man who cared deeply about delivering a better life for the people of Erdington, Birmingham and the UK.
“He fought hard every day to work towards a society based on egalitarianism, friendship, commonality, and kindness. He has done so much for the people Erdington and the members of our Party, that we will be forever grateful for the enormous contribution he made to our lives. He will be missed deeply.”
Message from the Erdington Labour Party
“I can’t really put into words what an inspiration Jack has been to me since I first met him in February 2010.
“He continuously encouraged and supported me in any way he could and always had unconditional belief in me.
“He was an absolutely wonderful man and the world is a much worse place without him in it. He will be sorely missed by many for the brilliant MP, trade unionist and campaigner he was or for his numerous achievements, but I will just deeply miss my friend Jack.”
Cllr Josh Jones, Stockland Green
“I was privileged to work with Jack for the past eight months. During this time I found him very supportive, motivational, and encouraging.
“He always said to believe in yourself. ‘There is no mountain you cannot climb, there is nothing you cannot achieve,’ that was his gift to me which will remain with me forever. I will miss him hugely.”
Naziah Rasheed / Birmingham Labour Party BAME Officer
“It’s a measure of the way Jack lived his life that the last meeting I had with him was to discuss a memorial for Erdington families who have lost loved ones to Covid. His first thought was always to give a voice to the unheard and he genuinely listened to and cared about the community he represented.
“Whether it was campaigning for people’s jobs, highlighting injustice or fighting cuts, Jack was a true Labour man, a man of strong values who was always on the side of the underdog.
“In the last couple of years, he worked closely with the Covid-19 bereaved families and worked tirelessly to give them a voice. He never stopped working for his constituents and the people of Erdington have lost a true champion.”
Cllr Ian Ward / Leader of Birmingham City Council
“Jack Dromey was quite simply the greatest campaigner most of us have ever worked with. From his very first sit-ins to helping marshal the votes for Harriet’s bid to become Commons Speaker, Jack was not simply a founder member of the feminist husband’s caucus, his life was a crusade for decency pursued quite literally right into the final hours of his life.
“In Birmingham we are stunned. We thought because Jack was invincible, he was indestructible. We are struggling to comprehend our loss. Britain’s second city has lost our leading citizen, our first among equals.”
Liam Byrne MP for Hodge Hill
“I worked with Jack in Erdington for a number of years, and he was so dedicated to the people in the area. Youth Homelessness is a real problem in Erdington and across the city and Jack organised an annual event with St Basils Youth Homelessness Charity for the young people to hold their own parliament in Westminster.
“He was always striving to ensure that the corridors of power were open for the ordinary people who would not normally get a chance to be heard. He will be so badly missed by all of us in Birmingham but mostly by those in Erdington.”
Jess Phillips MP for Yardley
“After being elected in 2017, Jack was the person who took me under his wing providing support and regularly checking in on how I was doing. If ever I felt the imposter syndrome Jack had the ability to put me at ease and always pushing me to be my absolute best.
“Jack had a remarkable ability to bring people together. Following the tragic death of my constituent Dea-John Reid, Jack and I went to visit his mother where he was a tower of strength. At the vigil mourners approached Jack and the care he displayed was a symbol of his kindness.
“I was shocked to hear of his sudden death. I had seen him days before. He was a fantastic constituency MP, of the people for the people. Jack’s passing is a devastating loss to the labour movement, Birmingham as the city he endlessly served, and to all who knew him.”
Preet Kaur Gill MP for Edgbaston
“Jack was always such a good friend and supportive colleague to me. He was truly inspiring. A force of nature that served the people of our Erdington and our city so well for more than a decade.
“His energy and enthusiasm for Erdington was limitless – every day working and campaigning to get the best for the people he represented. He will be missed by all who knew him.”
Shabana Mahmood MP for Ladywood
“Jack was an inspirational colleague and a generous and decent man. He campaigned tirelessly for the people of Erdington and always had time for everyone, no matter how big or small their concerns. He was a champion for workers’ rights and the real living wage and a bold and fearless voice in Parliament where he constantly spoke up for the interests of Birmingham. We all feel his loss.
“I have lost a great colleague and a good friend, and my thoughts are with Harriet and his family and the loss they have suffered. We will continue to honour his memory by supporting the people of Erdington and backing the causes which Jack worked so hard to promote.”
Steve McCabe MP for Selly Oak
“Jack made a promise to Short Heath Fields Trust to give us a seat at the table to get our community’s voices heard by BCC and he did. In our last conversation with Jack just before Christmas he made a further commitment to support, help and work with SHFT to give our team the chance to deliver our proposal at the playing fields.
“Jack and I didn’t agree on everything, but what I do know is he was a man of his word, a gentleman and believed our community deserved better, thank you Jack for everything.”
Steve Hughes / Chair, Short Heath Fields Trust
“Jack gave a voice to our community when many others would or could not, by listening and not being afraid of a fight. We have ruffled each other’s feathers, laughed, smiled, and had verbal tug of wars until we reached a goal we could agree on over the last 12 months. Never once did he raise his voice or be anything other than a gentleman. He gave his word we would be heard, and we were.
“Jack taught me that when people come together to fight for the same cause there is power in that. I thank you for that Jack, and for standing alongside Short Heath Residents in our fight to save our playing fields.”
Estelle Murphy / Short Heath Residents Action Group
“Jack was a huge advocate for education not only locally but through his work nationally. He always had time for his local schools; supporting leadership, praising teachers, and instilling in our pupils the power of an active and invested local MP. We keep him and his family in our prayers at this time.”
Mr Joseph McTernan / Principal, Abbey Catholic Primary School
“All the Abbey School community were deeply saddened to hear of Jack Dromey’s passing. He was such an enthusiastic supporter of our school and the whole of Erdington, always finding time to support and engage with our pupils. His involvement with our Pupil Parliament, Chaplaincy, and School Council Teams has inspired our children as they seek to be active participants in their communities, living out British values.
“Jack was especially dedicated to supporting our pupils in their campaign against the new Nationality and Borders bill, always replying to children’s letters and showing his deep compassion for the marginalised. We began our week in school with a memorial prayer service to Jack, who we shall miss but are very thankful to have known.”
Message from everyone at Abbey Catholic Primary School
“Jack was passionate about health issues, working to ensure that his constituents had the best possible offer in health. He was very conscious of the disadvantages that many of his constituents suffered and worked tirelessly to redress the balance.
“He was a frequent visitor to the ExtraCare Village at New Oscott. He would spend time listening, talking, and getting to know what the residents felt about issues and seeing where he could help. That sounds a bit like it was all serious, but it wasn’t. There would be plenty of smiles and humour to go with the serious chat.
“As a public servant it was a delight and a privilege to work with him. He had the very considerable skill of being able to support, advise and encourage me whilst holding me appropriately to account for excellent service delivery on his patch.
“His gratitude and respect for the NHS was a constant throughout the pandemic and he was a huge supporter of the vaccination programme. He was present, engaged, and supportive; a tireless champion of improving the lot of the disadvantaged and a great example of a politician absolutely driven by his values who lived them out through his love of people.”
Paul Jennings / Retired CEO of NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCG, Chair of the ExtraCare Charitable Trust
“I always felt with Jack that he spoke for the Erdington communities with great credibility and confidence, always asked the right questions, was aware of the important things and what was impacting the communities the most. He was able to do his job with great dignity and respect for everyone.
“He always made time for me, valued what I said and I felt he truly cared not just about me but all of the Police family.
“I found him inspiring with his zest and energy; his leadership around the Erdington Task Force was remarkable.”
Haroon Chughtai / Deputy Head, Prevent, Counter Terrorism Policing West Midlands (ex-Inspector for Erdington & Sutton Coldfield)
“I am deeply shocked and saddened by Jack’s death. First and foremost my condolences go to his wife, Harriet Harman, and his three children.
“Jack stood up for others his whole life and served the people of Erdington tirelessly since 2010. He has been a formidable political figure for decades and a close ally of West Midlands Police.
“Jack was the Shadow Paymaster General but held a number of other Shadow ministerial positions including Shadow Minister for Policing.
“His passing is a huge loss for our region and he will be dearly missed.”
Simon Foster / West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner
“Throughout our time working for Jack he steadfastly refused to be referred to as our manager and always said we were a team and colleagues.
“Jack was intensely proud of representing working people and the people of Erdington, both as a Member of Parliament and in his former role as Deputy General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, later Unite.
“Without fail, Jack energetically stood up for Erdington and was determined that the communities he represented achieved their full potential and were never left behind. As members of his team this drove us on to be the best we could be for him.
“We will all miss Jack immensely. His kindness, his deep affection for his family and his sheer belief in the labour movement will stay with us forever.”
Message from staff at Jack Dromey’s offices in Erdington and Westminster
For more on Jack Dromey visit www.jackdromey.co.uk