Former civil service chief Sir Jeremy Heywood remembered

Senior figures from across the political spectrum have paid tribute to Sir Jeremy Heywood, the former head of the Civil Service who served four prime ministers, after his death at the age of 56.

Sir Jeremy Heywood was diagnosed with cancer in 2017. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire
Sir Jeremy Heywood was diagnosed with cancer in 2017. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Theresa May, David Cameron, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown all hailed the tireless work and support of the ex-cabinet secretary, who passed away yesterday from cancer.

The announcement came just days after he had retired after decades as one of Whitehall’s most senior mandarins in roles that led to him 
being regarded as a key behind-the-scenes influence in the shaping of modern Britain.

Mrs May hailed his impact on the country, saying: “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.

“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.”

Sir Jeremy had been Cabinet Secretary since 2012 and previously served as principal private secretary to prime ministers Blair and Brown, chief of staff to Mr 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.