Thursday, April 17, 2008

Gwyneth Dunwoody Has Died

I've had it confirmed that Gwyneth Dunwoody passed away this evening... Very sad. A real character and a great example of an independent minded MP. She will truly be mourned by everyone in politics. She would have made a truly great Speaker. Her period as chairman of the Transport Select Committee will be remembered with fondness by all the MPs who served with her and those who gave evidence. She was truly formidable.

I met her a few times when she used to come into Politico's. She had a very naughty sense of humour which everyone who knew her is going to miss. She was a great mimic and delighted in self deprecation.

There aren't many politicians who will be missed as much by their political opponents as their allies, but Gwyneth is one.

40 comments:

fleetofworlds said...

What a terrible shame. People of good will of all political persuasions will remember Ms Dunwoody as a brave and honourable woman.

verity said...

Oh! I am so sorry! What a fine, strong and principled individual and how bitterly she will be missed in a corrupt Parliament! And she was even being mentioned as the next Speaker.

I am terribly saddened by this news.

Deborah Thomas said...

Who has already put this on Wikipedia?!

Gallimaufry said...

A true Parliamentarian full of common sense. My sympathies are with her family, friends and constituents.

al b said...

Genuine shame - one of the few decent MP's on the Labour benches. Genuine Labour through and through.

She'll be missed.

Tony Sharp said...

There is little more anyone can add. I cannot think of any time her integrity was called into question, which in this day and age is worthy of note. She was a very good Parliamentarian and I wish there were more like her, regardless of their chosen party.

Moorman said...

Indeed fleetofworlds. There are vanishingly few MPs of either party who I genuinely had respect for, but Ms Dunwoody was one of them. My thoughts are with her family and personal friends. A sad day for us all I feel.

Anonymous said...

A shame - it's always the ones with character who seem to go. I was doing some intern work in Parliament last year, and I ended up in a lift with her. Most MPs don't give you the time of day when you're an intern, but she immeditately started up a conversation with me. We ended up talking for about five minutes. It was the first and only time that an MP other than the (very nice) one I was working for actually bothered to be cordial in a situation like that.

stuart said...

Yes, I am sure politicians of every party will be saddened by her passing. As you say, Iain, she was a great, independently-minded Member of Parliament.

Cranmer said...

His Grace is profoundly saddened to hear this news.

There are some politicians who stand head and shoulders above the anonymous mediocre parliamentary mass, and she was one. A truly formidable politician, with impeccable integrity.

May she rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

Sad news indeed,she was one of the dwindling exemplars of what a Parliamentarian should be.

Happy Harriet Harman said...

She was not my favourite person in the house, but she certainly will be missed.

RIP Gwyneth

Anonymous said...

She should be remembered for the glorious, glorious kicking she doled out to that nasty piece of work Blears only a few weeks ago.

If I remember it was do do with the administrative splitting up of Cheshire.

Somebody dig it up. Dunwoody soared in her righteous anger.

Anonymous said...

Found it. Fantastic.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007.

Labour MP's fury at Blears' plans

A senior Labour MP has accused a Cabinet minister of not respecting voters in a furious Commons outburst over plans for councils in Cheshire.
Gwyneth Dunwoody said Communities Secretary Hazel Blears acted for "venal and personal reasons".

....The row erupted after Mr Healey announced Cheshire's county council and district councils are to be axed and replaced by two unitary authorities.

Mrs Dunwoody...said

I have rarely seen a decision like this taken with such cynicism and with so little respect of the interests of the average voter.

She said Ms Blears had never "deigned" to explain the need for the change, which was being pushed through "irrespective of the needs or wishes of the population".

"I believe it is a decision which has been taken for the most venal and personal reasons and I find it wholly and deeply objectionable," she said.

She added she had seen MPs being promoted over the years: "I have seen the crawlers. I've seen those whose sexual preferences were of interest to others.

"I've seen those who've demonstrated a great commitment to their own interest, irrespective of the political parties they were supposed to be representing.

"But I have rarely seen a decision like this taken with such cynicism and with so little respect of the interests of the average voter."

Superb.

Anonymous said...

I always remember her being first to read the newspapers in Norman Shaw North every morning!

Terrible news.

verity said...

1:24 - Seconded.

Nicholas Bennett said...

Gwyneth was married to Dr John Dunwoody who was a Labour MP in the 1966-70 Parliament for Falmouth and Cambourne. The daughter of Morgan Phillips, one time General secretary of the Labour Party, she was a redoubtable parliamentarian and will be remembered for the occasion when the Labour whips tried to remove her from the Chairmanship of the Transport Select Committee and the House re-elected her.

She will be much missed as one of the rare breed of party politicians who was respected on all sides of the House as a member of independent and forthright views yet loyal to her Labour roots.
RIP

Manfarang said...

A true friend of Pooh who will be greatly missed.

verity said...

What has struck me forcibly is the trite, schoolgirly, vapid, defused of any meaning, "tributes" from this horrendous government.

"Prime Minister" (unelected) Gordon Brown exuded this: "So many people will be so sad to hear of the death of Gwyneth Dunwoody".

So many people will be so sad he opines schoolgirlishly. I know 14-year old girls who could have put it better.

"She was always her own person. She was fiercely independent. She was politics at its best - a great parliamentarian."

Jeesh, if ever a man needed an oar ...

"She will be sadly missed in all parts of the Houses of Parliament."

This is probably the nastiest - or tribute least connected to human life - that I have ever read.

"Sadly missed". What a great phrase! Gordy! Any probs if I steal your wonderful way with words?

A great, fearless, honourable Parliamentarian dies and he comes up with she will be "sadly missed". Like Billy the corporate mail deliverer for 30 years in a company. Or the woman who did my nails for a few years and was really, really good. A card to her family: "Sadly missed".

We are speaking of a giant.

He has no connection, does he, to human life? To speak of a giant in the terms of "sadly missed" tells me Gordon is off his nut.

asquith said...

Incredible. Her constituency is next to the one I live in, and she is one of those people that you just assume is going to be around forever.

Doubtless, she is vastly superior to whatever mindless, careerist drone is going to replace her. Maybe they really don't have independent-minded MPs like that any more.

RIP.

judith said...

A Tory MP friend worked with Gwyneth Dunwoody for the past 3 years on a select committee and had nothing but affection and great respect for her - she was honest, sensible and principled, as well as having a sense of humour.

A sad loss to the HoC.

Anonymous said...

Sad on so many levels and all well said on here. The whole country is going to miss her articulating our desire for common sense and the demolishing of cant, hypoocrisy and woolly thinking. I can't think of who can take her place.

Unsworth said...

A great loss to Parliament - and the nation. She was a fine, gutsy, lady with enormous courage, a penetrating intellect and wit. More importantly she fully understood and empathised with the views of the common man. She was a true socialist in the very best sense of that word, and a tenacious, brave, defender of the underdog.

I used to watch her in Committee. Hugely entertaining, businesslike, courteous, even motherly - although she, rightly, did not suffer fools - and very modest. She radiated warmth, energy, and a waspish charm. Her pace of intellect, command of plain English, and forthright commonsense was simply breathtaking.

A very sad day for us all.

Anonymous said...

Yes this is very sad indeed, although as someone who often seemed to share our dislike of Tony Blair, and who was a eurosceptic, she defied being compartmentalised into the usual boxes.

The contrast between her principled and uncompromising stand and the vacillation of Angela Smith, who has, it seems, capitulated to the Labour hierarchy at a whiff of grapeshot, couldn't be more telling..

Colin said...

I'm not sure that I can, with all honesty, join the trite and feeble lamentations on this thread for Gwyneth Dunwoody. After all, let us not forget that she was a wrong-headed Socialist of the reddest hue - someone with whom I could never have been in agreement. And, as a Socialist, she stood for the downfall and Sovietisation of this country, something I oppose viscerally. She belonged to the labour Party of the 70s - and we all know what happened to the country then.

However, at least she had her principles, however woolly-headed they were, and she stuck to them, which is more than most of the weak-willed, munchkin-minded lobby fodder on the current Labour benches could ever think of doing. However wrongly conceived her muddled Socialist philosophy, she believed in it and stood by it. A few more like her and politicians might have a better name for saying what they actually believe in rather than what they foolishly believe will get them into power.

zeno said...

She was the MP for my home town, Crewe. My parents knew her through their work for the Labour party in the 70s and 80s.

I can't think of many MPs who were so widely admired, let alone liked, across the parties. She was an exemplary constituency MP. The threat of involving Mrs Dunwoody was enough to make even the most asinine local official squirm!

Her integrity and reputation were the basis of the long tenure she had in Crewe and, latterly, Crewe & Nantwich. Even if you weren't a Labour voter - and I wasn't - it was hard to vote for someone else because you knew she was unquestionably the best of the bunch.

She'd recently declared that she was going to stand again at the next general election. I'm sorry that parliament has lost her, and that the people of C&N will now likely have some faceless NuLab clone foisted on them. It won't be an easy task to fill her shoes.

Adrian Yalland said...

What a shock! She was one of the best MPs in the house. In an age of frankly mediocre politicians, she was a shining example of what an MP should be.

Regardless of her party allegiance, she was first and foremost a committed democrat, who came from a long line of principled democrats (I believe her grandparents were suffragettes?).

The house is a poorer place for her passing. We need more giants like her.

Jessthedog said...

A very sad loss to politics, a principled parliamentarian who was completely on top of her specialism in transport, a MP of the old school. Not someone to take the gold-plated pension and run. RIP.

Womble On Tour said...

You know the problem with this ? It all sounds a bit pious, as people in political circles paying tribute to someone who's died always does.

It's lovely that people felt this way about Gwyneth Dunwoody, but why wait till she's dead to say it all ? Wouldn't it be nice if we could be a bit more positive about people while they're still alive (and I'm including myself in this - I very rarely say anything vaguely postive about anyone in public life, so I'm no better than many of those I'm accusing !) And yes, I do remember people here congratulating GD for what she said in the House about the Cheshire thing. We should have more of that.

In the spirit of Iain's oocasional post requesting that we behave decently on here, what about having a celebration of the good politicians who are still around, and giving posters a chance to say positive stuff about MPs whom they admire. You could call it the "Gwyneth Dunwoody Memorial Award for Parliamentarian of the Year" if you wanted....or something like that. And my vote ? Frank Field, for consistnently showing dignified and well argued principle, often in the teeth of opposition from his own party. When he dies, people will be queuing up to say nice stuff about him. So why not say it now ?

Adrian Yalland said...

Colin 9.29. Sorry - But GDW was NEVER on the left of the Labour party. She was a centrist social democrat with a strong and principled commitment to democracy.

She was not someone who howled at the moon like many in the Labour party did in the 70's, she was a Eurosceptic, and understood most of all that all politics is local.

I doubt you would find a more respected and liked member of the commons than Gwyneth.

Anonymous said...

I would class myself as a political opponent of Gwyneth Dunwoody, but equally I hugely respected her and will much miss her. One of the true Labour old guard, whose convictions a conservative could admire even if opposed to them.

What a sad legacy she leaves behind, a culture of lies & spin & contempt. She must have hated it.

olly kendall said...

I met her last year in a meeting to discuss carbon emission reductions.

I had got 20 seconds into my introduction when i said "we want to make the industry more green".

"More green?" she barked backed. "More green? You mean greener, boy!"

Me: "er, yes"

Gwyneth: "were did you go to school? Public school?"

Me (feeling like a school boy again) "Er, yes"

Gwyneth: "Didn't teach you right did they! Greener, not more green. Got it? Continue!"

She was so refershingly straight and honest. She was awesomely sharp and i will never forget my ten minutes in Norman Shaw North with her. But she was very fair and incredibly courteous, despite my little grammatical tour de force. She will be sorely missed by the world of politics and her constituents - and, dare i say, even by us lobbyists. RIP

olly kendall said...

I met her last year in a meeting to discuss carbon emission reductions.

I had got 20 seconds into my introduction when i said "we want to make the industry more green".

"More green?" she barked backed. "More green? You mean greener, boy!"

Me: "er, yes"

Gwyneth: "were did you go to school? Public school?"

Me (feeling like a school boy again) "Er, yes"

Gwyneth: "Didn't teach you right did they! Greener, not more green. Got it? Continue!"

She was so refershingly straight and honest. She was awesomely sharp and i will never forget my ten minutes in Norman Shaw North with her. But she was very fair and incredibly courteous, despite my little grammatical tour de force. She will be sorely missed by the world of politics and her constituents - and, dare i say, even by us lobbyists. RIP

Baldwin said...

The news of her death is very sad and unexpected.

Nobody was more straight forward.

I'm a Tory but still thought of her as one of the best MPs in the Commons.

bj said...

She really was tremendously grumpy on the couple of occasions I spoke to her. But that's because I'm a journalist and I suspect she preferred talking to real people. The scrutiny of the government -- especially railway policy -- will be all the worse for her death.

David Lindsay said...

She fought the Trots and was rewarded with exclusion from office once they had declared themselves "New Labour" and taken over.

It was her father who said that Labour owed "more to Methodism than to Marx". If you still want a party like that, then you now need to look elsewhere. See my blog.

Andrew Allison said...

There have been very few great parliamentarians, however, she was one of them. A sad loss to the country.

drunken tory said...

David Lindsay, I think anyone who's been to your blog once will know better than to come back for more.

Anonymous said...

Gwyneth Dunwoody in her capacity as chair of the Transport select commitee was that rare breed of Parlimentarian, honest, impartial and dedicated to doing her best for the public.

I remember one interview in which she attacked the Labour party over it's treatment of backbenchers, the passion she showed in defending her colleagues was clear in her demeanour yet she still managed to sound polite and respectful.

A terrible loss to the House of Commons, and a terrible loss to the British public, she really was a servant of the people.

Oliver Lewis said...

While I stand on the other end of the political spectrum to the late Ms Dunwoody, I think that the only thing to say is Rest in Peace Ms Dunwoody, my prayers to your family and friends.