Tributes paid to Jeremy Heywood after former cabinet secretary dies aged 56
Cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill and four prime ministers among those to pay tribute to former civil service chief
Photo: Louise Haywood-Schiefer
Cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill and prime minister Theresa May have led tributes from across government to Lord Heywood after it was announced that the former cabinet secretary and head of the civil service died yesterday.
Heywood, who retired on 24 October following treatment for cancer, made an “an immense contribution to public life”, Sedwill, his successor as cabinet secretary, said in a statement.
“He joined the civil service in 1983, advising and supporting governments through some of the most challenging episodes of the last 30 years. Jeremy was the exemplary public servant. We will miss him more than we can say, and will be the poorer without his advice, leadership and extraordinary insight,” he said.
Heywood “set the highest standards and challenged us to meet them,” Sedwill, who had been acting cabinet secretary after Heywood took a leave of absence inJune until his retirement last month.
“Jeremy was always looking to move difficult problems forward, restlessly confident to deliver a better way. He was a champion of innovation and embraced change while consolidating and protecting the best of history. He promoted a diverse and inclusive civil service, fit to meet the digital, commercial and policy challenges of the future,” Sedwill added.
“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. We offer our condolences and best wishes to Jeremy’s wife Suzanne, his three children, the rest of his family and their friends.”
May, who is the fourth prime minister Heywood advised, said 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.
“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,” she added. “Jeremy will be sorely missed and I send my deepest condolences to Suzanne and the children and to all his family and many friends.”
Suzanne Heywood said that her husband had “crammed a huge amount into his 56 years”.
In a statement, she said: “He loved his work as a civil servant and was hugely proud of his colleagues while always believing that they – and he – could and should do more, that there had to be a better way, a new way of looking at things or a fresh approach which would bring differing sides together. Those who worked with him found it a challenging, inspiring and rewarding experience.
“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.”
She said there would be a small private funeral in the coming weeks and a memorial service open to all at a later date.
"A brilliant civil servant and dedicated to our country"
Among the others to offer tributes to Heywood were former prime ministers David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, all of whom Heywood worked with at Number 10 as either cabinet secretary, permanent secretary at Number 10 or principal private secretary.
Cameron said it was “desperately sad news”
He added: “He was an amazing man, brilliant civil servant and dedicated to our country. It was a privilege to work with him. All our thoughts and love are with Suzanne and the children.”
Brown said that the country had lost a leader of exceptional ability, unquestioned integrity and remarkable courage
“Jeremy Heywood was a unique civil servant who may not always have agreed with ministers’ proposals but always offered a positive and often better alternative. He will be sorely missed for the remarkable contribution he has made to Britain,” he said, while Blair said Heywood had been “a quite outstanding public servant and someone I came to have enormous respect for both as a professional and as a person”. He said Heywood had been “dedicated, smart, and with a rare small ‘p’ political skill which made him such a formidable Whitehall operator.”
Heywood's predecessor Sir Gus O’Donnell said Heywood was “a great, dedicated civil servant who worked tirelessly for his country, his political masters and his colleagues”.
So sad to hear of the death of Jeremy Heywood, my successor. He was a great, dedicated civil servant who worked tirelessly for his country, his political masters and his colleagues. My thoughts are with his family who have supported him so well.— Gus O'Donnell (@Gus_ODonnell) November 4, 2018
Among the colleagues to offer tributes was Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs perm sec Clare Moriarty, who called him a “civil servant and public servant extraordinaire”.
RIP Sir Jeremy Heywood, civil servant and public servant extraordinaire. As @HeadUKCivServ he held the civil service through exceptionally challenging times and set a path that it will be our honour and privilege to follow. We will miss him greatly @UKCivilService @DefraGovUK— Clare Moriarty (@ClareMoriarty) November 4, 2018
“He held the civil service through exceptionally challenging times and set a path that it will be our honour and privilege to follow. We will miss him greatly,” she tweeted.
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government perm sec Melanie Dawes said Heywood’s contribution was immense. “His leadership and friendship were a privilege and we will continue to follow his example.”
Jeremy Heywood’s contribution was immense. Relentlessly high standards, always kind to the individual. His leadership and friendship were a privilege and we will continue to follow his example @UKCivilService. My thoughts with his family on this sad day.— Melanie Dawes (@dawes_melanie) November 4, 2018
Department for International Trade perm sec Antonia Romeo said it was “an incredibly sad day”, calling him a mentor, inspiration, and friend. “I’m proud to have served on his permanent secretary team. We will miss him hugely,” she added.
Incredibly sad day. RIP Sir Jeremy Heywood. Mentor, boss, inspiration, unparalleled public servant, leader & champion of @UKCivilService, friend. Proud to have served on his Permanent Secretary team. We will miss him hugely.— Antonia Romeo (@AntoniaRomeoUK) November 4, 2018
Home Office perm sec Sir Philip Rutnam said Heywood was “the outstanding public servant of his generation, and a very humane and kind man".
He added: “We have lost a great leader of UK civil service but the greatest loss of all is to his family.”
Jeremy Heywood was the outstanding public servant of his generation, and a very humane and kind man. We have lost a great leader of @UKCivilService but the greatest loss of all is to his family.— Philip Rutnam (@PhilipRutnam) November 4, 2018
Scottish Government perm sec Leslie Evans said Heywood was “a source of wisdom and support” she would miss greatly.
My thoughts are with the family of Sir Jeremy Heywood on hearing this sad news today. Jeremy was a valued colleague & a source of wisdom & support, I shall miss him greatly @HeadUKCivServ @UKCivilService @scotgov— Leslie Evans (@PermSecScot) November 4, 2018
A selection of other tributes is below.
Jeremy Heywood, an hour before Gordon Brown left no.10 for the final time in May 2010: on the phone, orchestrating the transition on which our constitution depends, while we were saying goodbye. Among the many privileges of working for a PM, few were greater than working with him pic.twitter.com/PLEOau7OXx— Stewart Wood (@StewartWood) November 4, 2018
Stewart Wood, a No 10 special advisor under Gordon Brown
Jeremy Heywood was an inspiration. We worked so closely together during my 6 years in No 10; he always had time, always focused on solutions. All my thoughts with Suzanne and their children. Farewell my colleague and my friend - our country owes you more than it will ever know.— Ed Llewellyn (@EdLlewellynFCO) November 4, 2018
Ed Llewellyn, current UK ambassador to France and No 10 chief of staff under David Cameron
Jeremy Heywood was one of the most talented people I've had the privilege to work with, a wonderful public servant & a patriot. His death at a time when his talents were most needed is a tragedy for the country but most of all for Suzanne and his children. Rest in peace my friend— Gavin Barwell (@GavinBarwell) November 4, 2018
Current Number 10 chief of staff Gavin Barwell
Jeremy Heywood was an impressive and dedicated public servant. My thoughts are with his family, loved ones and colleagues at this sad time.— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) November 4, 2018
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Deeply saddened by the news of Jeremy Heywood’s death. He was a superb public servant and his wise advice and sound guidance will be greatly missed.— Philip Hammond (@PhilipHammondUK) November 4, 2018
My deepest condolences to Suzanne and their children.
Chancellor Philip Hammond
I was very sad to hear this. A loyal and inspirational civil servant who will be missed so very much. My thoughts are with his family and friends. https://t.co/3rwX1qCpj7— Rupert McNeil (@CivilServiceCPO) November 4, 2018
Civil service chief people officer Rupert McNeil
Sir Jeremy Heywood - mentor, friend, inspiration, and unparalleled servant of his country. His death is a personal and national loss that is hard to compass. But it was a privilege to have known him, and his deeds - and the example of unfailing high standards he set - live on.— Susan Acland-Hood (@CEOofHMCTS) November 4, 2018
Susan Acland-Hood, the chief executive of HM Courts & Tribunals Service
Had privilege of working with Jeremy Heywood in three roles. He was always the same: intellectually brilliant; quick to the heart of any issue; creative; equally hard driving and personally supportive; kind, funny, family man; public servant to the end. RIP— Ian Watmore (@ianwatmore) November 4, 2018
Former head of prime minister's delivery unit and ex-Cabinet Office perm sec, now first civil service commissioner Ian Watmore
So sad to learn that Jeremy Heywood has died. He was head and shoulders the best of us in Whitehall. Razor sharp policy brain, incredible capacity for hard work, uncanny ability to manage the machine of government. A truly exceptional public servant.— Simon Fraser (@SimonFraser00) November 4, 2018
Former BIS and Foreign Office perm sec Sir Simon Fraser
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