Jackson, Helen (2 of 2). The History of Parliament Oral History Project
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Interviewee’s home, Sheffield
Jackson, Helen, 1939- (speaker, female)
Irving, Henry, 1986- (speaker, male)
Part 2: Comments on entering parliament as MP for first time, importance of feeling independent, having own significant salary, exploring Westminster, asking advice from David Blunkett, taking election leaflets to parliament to allow staff to learn name, finding office, meeting other MPs, sharing office with other MP, Ann Coffey. [00:02:50] Comments on taking on employee. [00:03:40] Remarks on time spent in Westminster/London prior to election, working with London colleagues, children working in London, looking for flat in London, choosing to live in north London. [00:05:00] Remarks on areas of London lived in. [00:05:30] Comments on facilities at Westminster, expectations, awareness of Westminster through colleagues, feeling comfortable quickly. Remarks on library, staff, bar at Westminster, getting to know staff quickly. [00:06:45] Remarks on first impressions of chamber, feelings of chamber being small, experiences of voting, proximity to other MPs. [00:07:45] Comments on differences to council responsibilities, deferential nature of treatment in parliament. [00:08:50] Further comments on friendship with Ann Coffey, sharing secretary/office, involvement with parliamentary women’s committee, becoming chair of committee, being nominated by Mo Mowlam, knowing Mo Mowlam before election, doing chair at job share with another MP. [00:10:25] Remarks on lack of job description, being given whip, having to decide own interests/committees, joining environment committee, involvement in gender/equality/environmental issues. [00:12:30] Remarks on relationship with Elizabeth Peacock, setting up committee about water disconnections, becoming used to appearing in media. Remarks on links between water disconnections and outbreak of dysentery in Birmingham. [00:14:30] Comments on constituency surgeries, having same employee for many years, nature of constituency work, replying to all constituents, having assiduous reputation, receiving press publicity for water campaigns. [00:15:55] Comments on time split between Westminster and constituency, weekly routine, travelling by train. [00:17:00] Further comments on Sheffield spring bank holiday camps, knowing local colleagues well. [00:18:20] Further remarks on issues involved with, water connection campaign, press publicity, getting to know Frank Dobson, Yorkshire running out of water during dry summer, conflict with water companies, arguments about leakages, involving influential people in campaign. [00:21:30] Remarks on doing most effective work in parliament through parliamentary and outside groups, dangers of parliament becoming over-involved in issues, scepticism about promotion procedures into ministerial ranks. [00:23:00] Remarks on Ann Coffey becoming whip, interviewee not becoming whip, enjoyment of first parliament, activities of women’s committee, raising money for women’s committee of South African ANC, involvement with South African politics, anti-apartheid movement, AWEPA movement in Europe against apartheid. [00:25:00] Remarks on memories of visit to South Africa, bomb at hotel prior to election, white driver not wanting to enter townships, getting new black driver, excitement of talking to voters, feeling of historic moment taking place, queues of voters. [00:27:55] Comments on other issues involved with, issues from local surgeries, involvement with couple looking to adopt, woman’s loss of job for taking time off to look after adopted child, campaigning for maternity rights for mothers adopting, New Labour government putting through rights for adoptive parents. [00:30:40] Comments on involvement with freedom of information rights, brother’s involvement with miscarriages of justice. [00:31:10] Comments on visit to Palestine organised by Transport and General Workers’ Union, other visits with environment select committee. [00:31:30] Remarks on involvement with right to roam legislation, all women shortlists. [00:33:00] Remarks on impact of being in opposition, leadership changes, not voting for Tony Blair as leader. [00:34:10] Comments on enthusiasm for party democracy, lack of interest in party positions, closest allies being Sheffield colleagues. [00:35:10] Comments on links to Mo Mowlam, not always being ‘women’s woman’, liking to be involved with male MPs, not wanting to be labelled, friendship with Ann Coffey. [00:36:30] Comments on Tony Blair’s election, voting for Margaret Beckett/John Prescott. [00:37:00] Comments on involvement with party conferences, meetings about issues involved with. [00:37:50] Comments on getting on well with John Smith and Donald Dewar, other relationships with colleagues, difficult relationship with Tony Blair, not backing Blair, not wanting to be junior minister under Blair, feeling of doing useful work to do with Ireland. [00:39:10] Comments on own campaign for 1997 election, danger of swing to Liberal Democrats. [00:40:20] Remarks on involvement with local events, refusal to judge competitions. [00:42:10] Remarks on meetings with Sheffield colleagues, comments on succession of researchers employed. [00:44:00] Comments on 1997 election results, waiting for news on positions. [00:44:40] Further remarks on relationship with Mo Mowlam, working with Mo Mowlam, work on women’s movement in Northern Ireland, always staying in hotels rather than official residences in Belfast, using driver in Northern Ireland. [00:48:30] Comments on organising familiarisation visits in conjunction with Irish government, visits to Dublin, Irish embassy. [00:49:50] Detailed remarks on work, invitations to engagements, departmental meetings, pushing legislation through parliament, attending parliamentary committees, hectic travel arrangements. [00:51:40] Further comments on relationship with Mo Mowlam, Mo Mowlam’s illness, working with Peter Mandelson after Mowlam lost job. [00:53:00] Remarks on working relationship with Peter Mandelson. [00:54:10] Comments on other issues involved with during Northern Ireland years, importance of confidentiality in job. [00:55:00] Comments on party work, joining NEP and Parliamentary Labour Party. [00:56:00] Remarks on changes from being in opposition to being in government, being careful not to vote against government, not agreeing with one government vote. [00:57:40] Comments on Tony Blair’s work on Northern Ireland, relationship between Blair and Mandelson, comments on colleagues in government, different attitudes of MPs to being in government. [00:59:10] Comments on other issues dealt with in government, student loans, not voting against government. [01:00:30] Remarks on travelling, payment of expenses, not being paid extra, not feeling out of pocket, feelings of usefulness of work. [01:02:30] Comments on 2001 election, realisation that interviewee was not going to become minister. [01:03:30] Comments on modernisation committee in 1997 parliament, not becoming chair of select committee, feeling hurt at not becoming minister. [01:04:30] Remarks on upset over Iraq war, plan to resign over Blair’s actions on Iraq. [01:05:40] Comments on involvement/meetings with local party over Iraq war, being on foreign affairs policy commission, attending meetings, increasing disenchantment with leadership. Comments on support from colleagues. [01:07:30] Comments on Iraq war overshadowing feelings of loyalty to Labour Party, fundamental disagreement with leadership’s involvement with issue. [01:08:50] Comments on decision to stand down, feeling upset over death of Robin Cook, feeling useless, others trying to persuade interviewee to stay on, including brother. [01:10:40] Comments on selection process for successor, disagreeing with fixing incoming MP, positive views of high turnover in parliament for representation of women/young people, support of idea of limit for time serving as MP. [01:12:25] Remarks on advice to successor, Angela Smith, offering staff. [01:13:25] Comments on links with Westminster after retirement, attending party conferences, continuing to pursue issues of interest related to older people in care. [01:14:30] Comments on being on National Women’s Commission, coming into contact with women in Northern Ireland/Scotland, commission’s 2010 abolition. [01:15:20] Remarks on continued link to constituency, involvement with women’s development, being known as former MP, still being approached by constituents. [01:17:00] Remarks on changes in parliament in terms served, increased numbers of women, difficulties of implementing legislative changes. [01:18:10] Further comments on being on modernisation committee in House of Commons, lack of involvement with House of Lords. [01:19:10] Remarks on prominence of Northern Ireland in memories of time in parliament, feelings of sadness at public dislike of MPs, enjoyment of time spent in parliament.
Life story interview with Helen Jackson (1939-), former Labour Member of Parliament.