November 04, 2018
Theresa May pays tribute to former cabinet secretary, who has died from cancer
Former civil service chief Sir Jeremy Heywood dies aged 56
The former cabinet secretary and head of the civil service Sir Jeremy Heywood has died from cancer aged 56, Downing Street has said.
Heywood died on Sunday morning, his wife, Suzanne, said in a statement. He announced his retirement on medical advice late last month, having been on a period of leave after being diagnosed with cancer in June last year.
Heywood served in Downing Street under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, becoming cabinet secretary under David Cameron. Theresa May called his departure a “huge loss to public life” and said it was a pity that Heywood could not serve the country longer in retirement.
He had been awarded a life peerage, becoming Lord Heywood of Whitehall.
Announcing his death, Suzanne Heywood paid tribute to a “wonderful father” who “crammed a huge amount into his 56 years”.
She said: “He saw it as a huge privilege to work so closely with four prime ministers and two chancellors and was unwavering in his efforts to help each of them reach their goals.
“He was always conscious of the need for civil servants to see the world through ministers’ eyes while at the same time respecting the boundaries between politicians and civil servants.
“Away from his work, he inspired admiration, respect and affection in his many and diverse group of friends and returned it to them. Jeremy could light up any room or conversation and loved hosting a good party.”
May said the news of Heywood’s death was “extremely sad” and her thoughts were with his family and friends.
“The many retirement tributes paid to Jeremy from across the political spectrum in recent weeks demonstrated his extraordinary talent supporting and advising prime ministers and ministers, and leading the civil service with distinction,” she said.
“He worked tirelessly to serve our country in the finest traditions of the civil service and he is a huge loss to British public life. I will always be grateful for the support which he gave me personally and will remember his achievements across his career as we regret that he did not have the chance to offer his talents for longer in retirement.”
In October, May appointed the UK national security adviser, Sir Mark Sedwill, who had been acting in Heywood’s stead since June, as his permanent replacement. Downing Street said Sedwill would also maintain his national security role.
Sedwill said his predecessor was “the exemplary public servant” and he felt a personal loss. “We will miss him more than we can say, and will be the poorer without his advice, leadership and extraordinary insight.”
“He set the highest standards and challenged us to meet them. Jeremy was always looking to move difficult problems forward, restlessly confident to deliver a better way.
“Jeremy also considered it a privilege to lead the hundreds of thousands of civil servants up and down the country, and across the world, who work day after day to make people’s lives better.”
The Labour MP Yvette Cooper, a former Treasury minister, paid a tearful tribute to Heywood as the news of his death broke on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday.
“People will not be aware of quite how many remarkable things he did to steady crises, deal with some of the most difficult problems and as a very honourable public servant, to hold people together and to make sure the government frankly did not do stupid things on many occasions,” she said.
“His contribution to public life for all governments, whatever your politics, was immense and we owe him a debt of gratitude.”
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