04/11/2018 09:27 GMT | Updated 04/11/2018 11:27 GMT

Sir Jeremy Heywood, Former Cabinet Secretary, Dies Aged 56

'Jeremy could light up any room.'

The Independent

Former Cabinet Secretary and head of the Civil Service Sir Jeremy Heywood has died from cancer aged 56, Downing Street has said.

Theresa May said Sir Jeremy “worked tirelessly to serve our country” and said his death was “a huge loss to British public life”.

Sir Jeremy had been Cabinet Secretary since 2012 and previously served as principal private secretary to prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, chief of staff to Brown and Downing Street permanent secretary to David Cameron.

He revealed earlier this year that he had been diagnosed with cancer in June 2017, but remained in post during a summer of political upheaval triggered by the shock general election result.

He took a leave of absence in June and announced on October 24 that he was stepping down, with acting Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill taking over the role on a permanent basis.

His wife Suzanne today paid tribute to a “wonderful father” who “crammed a huge amount into his 56 years”.

She added: “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.”

Sir Mark Sedwill, Sir Jeremy’s successor as Cabinet Secretary and head of the Civil Service, said he had made “an immense contribution to public life”, serving four prime ministers with distinction “through some of the most challenging episodes of the last 30 years”.

Yvette Cooper, the Labour chair of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, paid tribute when told on Sky News of Sir Jeremy’s death.

She said he did a “a lot to hold government together at very difficult times”.

“His contribution to public was immense, I think we all owe him a debt of gratitude,” she said.