Had a long and late phone conversation last night with my mate Joe (who thoroughly disapproves of MPs blogging so probably won't ever see this!) He used to intern for Gwyneth Dunwoody, and was her agent for the last two General Elections. Joe introduced me to Gwyneth in 2004 when we were working together at a transport consultancy, and I was immediately won over. Contrary perhaps to how she was perceived publicly, she was incredibly kind-hearted and immensely good fun. And of course she was an excellent chair of the Transport Select Committee. Not so long ago she agreed to meet a delegation from VOSA (the agency for testing and licensing road vehicles - their national HQ is in my constituency) to discuss their concerns about possible outsourcing. I met with them afterwards and they were full of praise for her; they felt she'd genuinely listened and were confident she'd take their issues up.
Gwyneth was an MP for more than forty years, which is itself a formidable achievement, but her political involvement began at a much earlier age. Her father, Morgan Phillips, was General Secretary of the Labour Party and the 1945 General Election manifesto was drafted at the family's kitchen table. It's a real shame she never got round to writing her memoirs.
One story Joe told me last night was about one of the last times he walked through the Commons with her, not so long ago. She spied a certain Cabinet Minister walking in the far distance and bellowed down the corridor at the top of her voice "for God's sake, stop slouching man!" He looked around, terrified, and drew himself up to his full height, apologising profusely. Gwyneth continued to berate him, telling him she'd told him time and time again to stand up straight when he walked! Very typical Gwyneth. I bet she derived real amusement from behaving like that.