British public life is much the poorer for her passing. Dame Tessa embodied the best that politics can be, irrespective of party loyalties, in her unswerving commitment to service and working for the greater good.
Indeed, although she was a leading light of New Labour’s heyday under the premiership of Tony Blair, Dame Tessa always attracted the respect of supporters of the other main parties because she was a centrist politician of unashamedly mainstream views who appealed to an overwhelming majority of voters.
Her instinctive understanding of Britain’s people was illustrated by the triumph of the 2012 Olympics, which she played a key role in securing while Culture Secretary.
It is too easily forgotten that in the run-up to the games there were serious doubts over their cost, and whether they would leave any real legacy. That they were such a spectacular success, and kick-started a golden age of British sporting achievement, was in large part due to Dame Tessa’s tenacity and skill in forging consensus.
But the Olympics did more than that. They helped to define modern Britain’s sense of itself as an inclusive, forward-thinking and ambitious nation, and Dame Tessa could have claimed credit for that too.
She was too modest to do so, yet Dame Tessa leaves behind a proud legacy. It was typical of her that she used her own illness to continue working for the public good, campaigning tirelessly and movingly for better treatment of cancer patients.
Politicians of all parties should honour her memory not only with words, but with deeds. By following her example, they can aspire to make Britain a better place.