It appears to me that there are basically two types of politician. There are those who see politics as a means of personal advancement, making as much capital out of their position as their “consultancies” allow; and there are those who enter politics and view it as a means of changing the world for the better. Mo Mowlam, who died today at the age of 55, was a politician very much in the latter camp. MP for Redcar, she was very instrumental in helping to get Labour electable because she believed that only a Social-Democratic party would ensure the most benefit to the most people.. When Labour came to power in 1997, she became Northern Ireland Secretary – the graveyard for many an aspiring politician. However, for her, this was a challenge she relished. She always believed that it was the politicians duty to talk to anyone if it brought about the opportunity for peace and security. She believed that terrorism can only truely be beaten by words and she was proved right. In 1998, the Good Friday agreement was signed, which effectively sounded the death-knell for the Provisional IRA. Atrocities still occurred, particularly at Enniskillen, but these were very much the actions of desperate splinter groups, which Republican politicians dis-owned.
Much of her success in Northern Ireland, was partly the result of her firm, life-long friendship with Bill Clinton, who believed, similarly, that the Worlds problems could be improved through intelligent politics, rather than violence. Mo had a very simple creed; violence begets violence – a lesson some politicians still need to learn. In 2000, Mo Mowlan received the Peace Prize for her work in Northern Ireland.
As a person, she was very approachable. She revelled in the company of others, and seemed very much at home with just about everyone. A truly natural and open person who seemed not to judge others very quickly. However, she had very firm principles, once saying the the Royal Family should move out of Buckingham Palace, and let the homeless of London move in. She was always a great defender, and fighter for the down-trodden and those who could not defend themselves.
Mo had been suffering an inoperable brain tumour through the Nineties, and was under chemotherapy during the Northern Ireland peace talks. The treatment made her lose her hair and gain a lot of weight. Typically, because she kept her illness secret, one right-wing paper described her as being like a “fat, Geordie trucker” – attempting to personally abuse both her and Geordies (people from Newcastle Upon Tyne).
Mo also had a wicked sense of humour, and apparently in one particularly difficult Northern Ireland meeting, she took her wig off – her way of lightening the mood and threatening to "head-butt" Jerry Adams if he didn't start moving in the right direction during the talks up to the Good Friday agreement..
She will be badly missed. The full story can be read at the BBC web-site.