Mo Mowlam: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Right Honourable
 Mo Mowlam

In office
11 October 1999 – 7 June 2001
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Jack Cunningham
Succeeded by The Lord MacDonald of Tradeston

In office
3 May 1997 – 11 October 1999
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Patrick Mayhew
Succeeded by Peter Mandelson

Member of Parliament
for Redcar
In office
11 June 1987 – 7 June 2001
Preceded by James Tinn
Succeeded by Vera Baird

Born 18 September 1949(1949-09-18)
Watford, United Kingdom
Died 19 August 2005 (aged 55)
Canterbury, United Kingdom
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Jon Norton (1995–2005)
Alma mater Trevelyan College
University of Iowa
Religion Atheism

Marjorie "Mo" Mowlam (18 September 1949 – 19 August 2005) was a British Labour politician, who was the Member of Parliament for Redcar from 1987 to 2001, and served in the Cabinet as both Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Mowlam's time as Northern Ireland Secretary saw the signing of the historic Good Friday Peace Agreement in 1998. Her personal charisma, reputation for plain speaking and successful fight against a brain tumour led her to be perceived by many as one of the most popular "New Labour" politicians in the UK; a fact reflected in the standing ovation she received when Tony Blair mentioned her name in his speech at the 1998 Labour Party Conference.


Early life

Mowlam was born at 43 King Street, Watford, England, the middle of three children of Tina and Frank,[1] but grew up in Coventry, where her father rose to become Coventry's assistant postmaster. She would later be awarded the Freedom of the City in 1999.[2] She was the only one of the family's three children to pass the 11-plus exam, and started at Chiswick Girls' grammar school in West London, before attending Coundon Court School in Coventry,[2] which at that time was a girls comprehensive school. She then studied at Trevelyan College, Durham University, reading sociology and anthropology, joining the Labour Party in her first year. She worked for then Labour MP Tony Benn in London and American writer Alvin Toffler in New York, before deciding to do a Ph.D in political science at the University of Iowa.

Mowlam was a lecturer in the Political Science Department at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee in 1977, and at Florida State University (1977–1979). During her time in Tallahassee, she claimed that her apartment was broken into by Ted Bundy, a serial rapist who attacked several young women. She returned to England in 1979 to take up an appointment at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

In 1981, Mowlam organised a series of alternative lectures — in parallel to the Reith lectures — which were published as Debate On Disarmament, jointly edited by Mowlam, with all proceeds from the book going to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Personal life

Mowlam married Jonathan Norton, a City of London banker, in County Durham on 24 June 1995.[3] She had no children.[4]

Member of Parliament

Having failed to win selection in the previous election (1983), Mowlam was selected as Labour candidate for the safe seat of Redcar after James Tinn stood down. She then took the seat in the 1987 general election. She became opposition spokesperson on Northern Ireland in that year. Together with Labour leader John Smith, Mowlam was one of the architects of Labour's "Prawn Cocktail Offensive", dedicated to reassuring the UK's financial sector about Labour's financial rectitude.[5] Subsequently, she held a variety of posts and was made Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in 1994 by Tony Blair. She initially resisted being appointed to the position, preferring an economic portfolio, but after accepting it, threw her weight into the job.

Mowlam had been a principal organiser, alongside Peter Kilfoyle, of Blair's campaign for the Labour leadership following the death of John Smith. As a member of Smith's shadow cabinet (Shadow Secretary of State for National Heritage), she had earlier courted controversy by calling for Buckingham Palace to be demolished (so antagonising monarchists) and replaced by a 'modern' palace built at public expense (so antagonising republicans). Later her willingness to speak her mind — often without regard to the consequences — was seen as her greatest strength by her supporters and her greatest weakness by critics.


In government

After the 1997 general election Mowlam was made Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the first and currently the only woman to have held the post. She was successful in helping to restore an IRA ceasefire, and including Sinn Féin in the multi-party talks. She also paid an unprecedented - and potentially dangerous - visit to loyalist prisoners in the Maze prison in an attempt to get the loyalists to sign up to the peace process, meeting convicted murderers face-to-face, and unaccompanied.

Mowlam saw through the Good Friday Agreement signing in 1998, which led to the temporary establishment of a devolved power-sharing Northern Ireland Assembly. However, an increasingly difficult relationship with Unionist parties meant her role in the talks had been increasingly taken over by Tony Blair and his staff, prompting Mowlam to remark on one occasion (to Bill Clinton) "Didn't you know? I'm the new tea lady around here".[6]

Whilst her deteriorating relationship with Unionists was the key reason Mowlam was replaced as Northern Ireland Secretary in October 1999 by Peter Mandelson, her move to the relatively lowly position of Cabinet Office Minister may have involved other factors, notably her health and her popularity.[7] Mowlam had previously denounced the post as "Minister for the Today programme", and resented being appointed to it. As Cabinet Office Minister she was reportedly intended as Tony Blair's "Enforcer".

Mowlam was head of the Government's anti-drugs campaign, but caused some controversy when she attracted media attention in 2000 after admitting to having used cannabis as a student. ("I tried dope. I didn't particularly like it. But unlike President Clinton, I did inhale")[8]


On 4 September 2000, Mowlam announced her intention to retire from Parliament, relinquishing her seat at the 2001 election.[9] Her statement of intent was forced on her by Downing Street following a series of stories in the paper suggesting she was looking for an excuse to leave the government.

After retirement from the House of Commons she became a noted critic of government policy on various issues, especially foreign policy towards Iraq.

Mowlam continued public activity after retirement, becoming agony aunt for the men's magazine Zoo, saying that she missed her constituency work as an MP. She also set up a charity, MoMo Helps, to help drug users who are successfully completing their rehabilitation and provide support for the parents or carers of disabled children.

Her political memoirs, entitled Momentum, were published in 2002.

Illness and death

Five months before the 1997 General Election which took Labour to office, Mowlam was diagnosed with a brain tumour, a fact she tried to keep secret until the tabloid press started to print jibes about her appearance. Although she made a full recovery from the tumour itself, the various treatments caused her to lose most of her hair and she often wore a wig, which she would sometimes casually remove in public stating that it was "such a bother".[10]

The BBC reported on 3 August 2005, that she was critically ill at King's College Hospital in London.[11] She appeared to have suffered from balance problems as a result of her radiotherapy. According to her husband, on 30 July 2005, Mowlam fell over, received head injuries and never regained consciousness.[12] She had made a living will in which she had asked not to be resuscitated, and food and water were withdrawn.

On 12 August 2005, she was moved to Pilgrims Hospice in Canterbury, Kent where she died seven days later, aged 55. She was survived by her husband, Jon Norton, who died in February 2009 at the age of 53,[13] and two stepchildren. Mowlam died 13 days after Robin Cook, another member of the 1997 New Labour Cabinet.

In January 2010, it was revealed by her ex-doctor that her tumour was in fact cancerous, and that she had died as a result. Despite the doctor's recommendations, she had withheld the true nature of her condition from Tony Blair and the electorate.[14]

Mowlam was an atheist, and was cremated in Sittingbourne on 1 September 2005, at a non-religious service.[15]

A memorial service was held for Mowlam at The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on 20 November 2005, and another in Redcar on 3 December 2005.[16]

Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council officially unveiled a memorial mosaic to honour her life at Redcar's newly-refurbished boating lake on 23 October 2009. The intricate 800 tile mosaic, set in a three-metre raised circle, created by local artist John Todd, illustrates Mo's life and interests, with her portrait as the centrepiece surrounded by images including the beach where she loved to walk, racehorses at Redcar Racecourse, where she celebrated her wedding, the steelworks, the Zetland lifeboat, clasped hands and doves to symbolise the Northern Ireland peace process and the Houses of Parliament.[17]


External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
James Tinn
Member of Parliament for Redcar
Succeeded by
Vera Baird
Political offices
Preceded by
Kevin McNamara
Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Succeeded by
Andrew MacKay
Preceded by
Patrick Mayhew
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Succeeded by
Peter Mandelson
Preceded by
Jack Cunningham
Minister for the Cabinet Office
Succeeded by
The Lord Macdonald of Tradeston
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster


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