Everyone of progressive views will have been moved by the recent tributes to the late Dame Tessa Jowell. She was a politician who was respected across the political spectrum; she was highly regarded by her staff, amongst whom was Jessica Asato – the excellent candidate in Norwich North in 2015. I recall meeting Tessa briefly when she a came to a fund-raising dinner for Jess shortly before the election.
Although I was a contemporary of Tessa Jowell in the London Labour Party of the 1980s I knew her only by reputation. She was a Councillor in Camden and I was active in Islington. Camden generally maintained a good reputation for delivery; Islington, where Jeremy Corbyn was our MP, did not. However these were tough times for moderate activists in both boroughs with a factional war between left and right. A lot of people’s politics were shaped by their experiences of the time and, according to some of the obituaries, at one meeting where Tessa Jowell backed moves to set a rate, protestors threw chicken livers at her. Whatever the reasons, she was one of the early of the Labour modernisers and firm supporter of New Labour and Tony Blair. For her delivery mattered.
While at the Department of Health she introduced Sure Start, a scheme to improve childcare. Her main achievement however was to secure the 2012 Olympics for London. For me this will be remembered as a family occasion: my grandson went to his first sporting event, handball, in a sling carried by his parents. More importantly, as I’ve said in an earlier blog, our country was at its best during the London Olympics. We delivered a challenging event with remarkable efficiency, made many thousands welcome, and shared the experience with the world
In many local Labour Parties, my own North Norfolk included, Blairite has now become a term of abuse. Some of those who are so ready to use it in this way might pause and consider wherever the current generation of leaders will leave a legacy that begins to compare with that of Dame Tessa Jowell. If we are going to change people’s lives for the better it is delivery, not speeches and rallies, that matter.
This is leftyoldman’s 200thblog – a tribute to perseverance if not judgement.
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