Friday, 18 April 2008

Gwyneth Dunwoody

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.


Anonymous said...

"she was incredibly kind-hearted"

err you may not be aware that she was for years a spokesperson in Parliament for the fur industry and supported leg hold traps...

She also was an active supporter of bloodsports, being a member of the so called 'Parliamentary Middle Way Group', a front for the Countryside Alliance with fellow bloodsports supporters like Kate Hoey.

Kind hearted she was NOT.
Her manner was typical of people who get a kick from animal abuse, bullying and nasty.

Kerry said...

Yes I'm aware of her past support for the fur industry, and I expected you to come back with a post on that. And there were other things where I certainly didn't share her views, e.g. her stance on Israel and her euro-scepticism. But I was talking on a personal level, and while she may have played up to the battleaxe image in public, I still stick by my description of her. I have to say, I didn't expect to like her - but I did.

Anonymous said...

Her support for vicious cruelty was not just past it was current and active.
I would certainly not describe someone of that bent as 'incredibly kind hearted'.

Anonymous said...

If anyone would like to know what the 'incredibly kind hearted' Dunwoody, would have cheerfully seen made legal again in Britain and kept legal around the world, in the service of the fur industry she represented then this passage is clear..
Bear in mind too that if it had been up to the 'incredibly kind hearted' Dunwoody then fur farming would still be legal in the UK as would fox hunting, hare coursing and deer hunting.

Banned in England and Wales since 1958 the leghold trap is a barbaric device. These steel traps work by clamping the animals' leg, biting deep into the flesh. The victims may have to wait a long time, growing weaker and weaker through pain and attempts to escape, before the trapper returns to kill them. Bullets are not used to kill, as this would damage the pelt. Instead, the animal will be clubbed or suffocated. Many chew their legs off in a vain attempt to escape the suffering. In their struggle they will cause other injuries, such as broken bones and teeth. These traps have remained largely unchanged for more than a hundred years. In 1863 Charles Darwin said of them: "It is scarcely possible to exaggerate the suffering thus endured from fear, from acute pain, maddened by thirst, and by vain attempts to escape."

Kerry said...

If you want to judge a person solely on their attitude towards animal welfare, then your comments are justified. Presumably you don't have any friends who are meat eaters either?

Anonymous said...

You said she was 'enormously kind hearted' which is rather a strong statement when describing someone who actively in politics worked to perpetuate and endorse cruelty in the name of fashion and sport.

In the same way I would not describe a badger baiter, a fox hunter or a bull fighter as 'enormously kind hearted', I find it astonishing that you describe this woman thus.
By describing her as 'enormously kind hearted' you are be default ascribing her a characteristic totally at odds with her attitude of mind and her conscious choice to be a mouthpiece of and work for cruelty.

Kerry said...

All I can do is reiterate that I knew her, and I'm describing her as I found her to be in her dealings with me.

And where do you draw the line? Is it impossible that someone who wears leather, uses cosmetics tested on animals, bets on horse-racing, goes angling, could possibly be kind-hearted in their dealings with other people?

I like a range of people who have very different views to me, whether it be on religion, politics, or more trivial things like a fondness for dreadful music. I don't endorse those aspects of them, and in some cases I struggle with it, but I do accept that they have other qualities which make them decent people. As I said, I didn't expect to like Gwyneth - I probably didn't even WANT to like her - but I did.