Watford, Hertfordshire, England
|Died||2005-08-19 (Age 55)|
Canterbury, Kent, England
|Alma mater||Trevelyan College, University of Durham, University of Iowa|
|Member of||British-American Project|
One of Blair's New Labour; as Northern Ireland Secretary saw the signing of the Good Friday Peace Agreement.
Marjorie "Mo" Mowlam was a British Labour Party politician. She was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Redcar from 1987 to 2001 and served in the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Minister for the Cabinet Office 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 and reputation for plain speaking led her to be perceived by many as one of the most popular "New Labour" politicians in the UK. When Tony Blair mentioned her in his speech at the 1998 Labour Party Conference, she received a standing ovation.
Mowlam was born at 43 King Street, Watford, Hertfordshire, England, the middle of three children of Tina and Frank, but grew up in Coventry, where her father progressed to become Coventry's assistant postmaster. She was the only one of the family's three children to pass the 11-plus exam. She started at Chiswick Girls' grammar school in West London, then moved to Coundon Court School in Coventry, which, at the time, was one of the first comprehensive schools in the country. She then studied at Trevelyan College, Durham University, reading sociology and anthropology. She joined the Labour Party in her first year. She became the Secretary of the Durham Union Society in 1969 and later went on to become the Vice-President of the Durham Student's Union. She worked for then-MP (Labour) Tony Benn in London and American writer Alvin Toffler in New York, moving to the United States with her then-boyfriend and studying for a PhD in political science at the University of Iowa on the effects of the Swiss system of referenda.
Mowlam was a lecturer in the Political Science Department at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee in 1977 and at Florida State University in Tallahassee from 1977 to 1979. During her time in Tallahassee, her apartment was broken into by someone; she suspected that it was Ted Bundy, a serial killer and rapist who is thought to have murdered, at least, thirty-five young women and attacked several others.
Mowlam returned to England in 1979 to take up an appointment at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. She also worked in adult education at Northern College, Barnsley, with students who had fewer opportunities than traditional university students. In 1981, she organised a series of alternative lectures to the Reith lectures being given that year by Laurence Martin, the university's vice chancellor. These were published as Debate on Disarmament, with their proceeds going to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Having failed to win selection for the 1983 general election, Mowlam was selected as Labour candidate for the safe seat of Redcar after James Tinn stood down. She took the seat in the 1987 general election, becoming the Labour spokesperson on Northern Ireland later that year. Together with Shadow Chancellor 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.
Following Smith's early death in 1994, Mowlam, alongside Peter Kilfoyle, became a principal organiser of Tony Blair's campaign for the Labour leadership. After his victory, Blair made her Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. She initially resisted being appointed to the position, preferring an economic portfolio, but, after accepting it, she threw her weight into the job.
Good Friday Agreement
She "oversaw the negotiations which led to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement." She was successful in helping to restore an IRA ceasefire and including Sinn Féin in multi-party talks about the future of Northern Ireland. In an attempt to persuade the Ulster loyalists to participate in the peace process, she paid an unprecedented and potentially dangerous visit to loyalist prisoners in the Maze prison, meeting convicted murderers face-to-face and unaccompanied.
She saw the Good Friday Agreement signed 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 was ultimately taken over by Tony Blair and his staff, prompting Mowlam to remark to then-US President Bill Clinton: "Didn't you know? I'm the new tea lady around here". In 1999, Mowlam referred to paramilitary punishment attacks in Northern Ireland as "internal housekeeping" and maintained that the violence did not count as breaking the ceasefire.
Cabinet Office Minister
Whilst her deteriorating relationship with Unionists was the key reason Mowlam was replaced by Peter Mandelson as Northern Ireland Secretary in October 1999, her move to the relatively lowly position of Cabinet Office Minister may have involved other factors, notably her health and her popularity. Mowlam resented being appointed to the post, having previously disparaged it as "Minister for the Today programme". As Cabinet Office Minister, she was reportedly intended to be Tony Blair's "enforcer".
As head of the Government's anti-drugs campaign, in 2002, she called for international legalisation.
- Gallaher, Carolyn (2011). After the Peace: Loyalist Paramilitaries in Post-Accord Northern Ireland. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. p. 9.