The tribute made by Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP for Barking, in the House of Commons on 2 February 2022.
My husband Henry introduced me to Jack and Harriet when we got together in the ‘70s. We were, as ever, at some conference, Jack was, as ever, preoccupied with fixing some vote, and I was in total awe of Harriet and Jack. Fortunately, I got the seal of approval and we have been friends now for nearly 50 years. Those who knew him well know what a generous, kind, funny, enthusiastic, interested and interesting, loyal, unselfish and consistent friend Jack was.
Jack’s life was filled by his total passion for social justice, his tribal loyalty to the Labour party, his consummate determination to be at the heart of any and every campaign that might help to make the world a better place, and his relentless optimism that he would always win. Jack’s life achievements were so many, his campaigns so eclectic, that it is impossible to capture everything in a short tribute. I want to focus on his work before he became an MP. From the Grunwick strike to fighting to maintain the Rosyth and Plymouth dockyards, from corralling the first ever equal pay strike at Trico to observing the Luanda mercenary trials in Angola, seeking to stop the execution of three British mercenaries, wherever there was injustice, Jack was there. I remember Jack in the ‘70s leading the occupation of Centre Point in London, when London was littered with empty new office buildings while the homeless slept on the streets; in the ’80s, when he bravely led the trade unions to oppose Militant in Liverpool; in the ‘90s, when he served on Labour’s national executive committee and worked to modernise the Labour party and make us fit to govern; and in the noughties, when he organised the cleaners’ strike here in Parliament when they were earning as little as £5 an hour.
Finally, two personal memories. In all our fantastic adventurous holidays together, whenever we arrived at a new destination, Jack’s first question was always, “What’s the wi-fi code?” He was not looking for a local restaurant. He was not finding a place for us to have a drink. His first priority was always, “Is everything okay in Erdington?” On new year’s eve, we would always have a sing-song, me playing the piano and everybody else singing. Each year, Jack, with his great singing voice, would give us a solo performance, that harked back to his Irish roots, of “Danny Boy”, with the women joining in to help him with the high note at the end. We always brought in the new year with a bang.
Our grief at his loss is an expression of our love for the man. Jack will continue to live on in all our todays and tomorrows as we take forward the campaigns he worked on and enjoy the successes he achieved. Thank you, Jack, for everything, and for just being you.