Alice Mahon (born 28 September 1937) is a former British member of parliament for the Labour Party. She was also an active trade unionist during her working life. Mahon represented Halifax in the House of Commons from 1987 until 2005.
|Member of Parliament|
12 June 1987 – 11 April 2005
|Preceded by||Roy Galley|
|Succeeded by||Linda Riordan|
|Born||28 September 1937|
Halifax, West Yorkshire
|Political party||Labour Party (resigned 2009)|
John Gledhill (div.)
|Alma mater||University of Bradford|
She is a left-winger who was a member of the Socialist Campaign Group and is a Eurosceptic. A frequent rebel against Labour's Blair government first elected in 1997, Mahon stepped down as an MP at the 2005 general election and was succeeded by a Labour councillor, Linda Riordan. Mahon resigned from the Labour Party itself in April 2009, saying she could no longer tolerate how the party operates.
Early life and careerEdit
After attending a grammar school in Halifax, she worked in the NHS as a nursing auxiliary for ten years. In 1979, she gained a BA in Social Policy from the University of Bradford and taught Trade Union Studies at Bradford College from 1980 to 1987. Meanwhile, she was a councillor on Calderdale Council.
Mahon was first elected for the Halifax constituency at the 1987 general election. In 1994, Mahon told Chris Mullin: "‘I’m in the Stop Blair camp'. To which I replied, 'I am in the Win the Next Election camp'."
She opposed the missile defence plans during her period in the House of Commons and sought to protect benefits for parents, women's rights (particularly in regard to abortion), and gay rights. Mahon was also a supporter of reform of the House of Lords. She was opposed to the Iraq War, speaking in 2004 of the "cruel barbarism that has been inflicted upon Iraq". She told the 2003 Labour Party conference "we were lied to about WMD and there is no delicate way of putting it".
In a July 2003 Commons debate she queried the support of John Reid, then the Secretary of State for Health for Foundation Hospital's: “How can the Secretary of State stand there as a Scottish MP who is not going to have one of these divisive hospitals, and yet is voting to inflict them on the people of Halifax?” In a version of Tam Dalyell's West Lothian question, the government in the subsequent parliamentary division would have lost the vote without the support of Scottish and Welsh Labour MPs. Labour's majority of 164 was reduced to 17 because of votes against the motion and abstentions. "As English MPs, we have to settle this question of Scots and Welsh MPs voting for things they’re not going to have”, Mahon said at the time.
In November 2005, a film documentary by Sigfrido Ranucci of Italy's Rai News 24, The Hidden Massacre, asserted that the US military had used White Phosphorus (WP) as an incendiary weapon, including against civilians in Fallujah during operation Phantom Fury. The RAI documentary also quoted a 13 June 2005 UK MOD letter to former Labour MP Alice Mahon stating that:
"The US destroyed its remaining stock of Vietnam era napalm in 2001 but, according to the reports for 1 Marine Expeditionary Force (1 MEF) serving in Iraq in 2003, they used a total of 30 MK 77 weapons in Iraq between 31 March and 2 April 2003, against military targets away from civilian areas. The MK 77 firebomb does not have the same composition as napalm, although it has similar destructive characteristics. The Pentagon has also told us that owing to the limited accuracy of the MK 77, it is not generally used in urban terrain or in areas where civilians are congregated".
Mahon acted as a defence witness in the trial of Slobodan Milošević in 2006. Following the testimony of Slobodan Jarčević, who was foreign minister of the self-declared Republic of Serbian Krajina, RSK, in modern-day Croatia, from October 1992 until becoming foreign policy advisor to the RSK president Milan Martić in April 1994, Milošević called Mahon, who was a member of the British parliament throughout the 1990s and also sat on the NATO parliamentary committee from 1992 onwards.
In 1999, she said:
Having visited Yugoslavia, I feel as strongly about the innocent civilian victims of laser-guided bombs as I do about victims of ethnic cleansing and the Albanian refugees who must have the right to return home in safety
Mahon suffers from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an eye disease which destroys the central part of the vision in the eye, making the sufferer ultimately blind. According to the RNIB, more than 18,000 people in Britain go blind every year due to the condition making the disease the leading cause of sight loss in Britain. Mahon lost most of the sight in one eye due to AMD, and expects to lose sight in the other. Calderdale Primary Care Trust has refused to fund a drug which could stabilise or improve Mahon's condition and, in campaigning on this issue, she gained notice in 2007 for threatening to take the PCT to the High Court.
Resignation from the Labour PartyEdit
Mahon resigned her membership of the Labour party in April 2009 saying she could no longer condone how it operates. She told BBC News that she had considered resigning in 2005, having "totally disapproved of everything Tony Blair was doing", but had been more optimistic of his eventual successor, Gordon Brown: "I hoped we might go back to being a caring and progressive party. In the event I couldn't have been more wrong". She had backed John McDonnell's aborted Labour leadership campaign.
In her letter to the Halifax Constituency Labour Party she wrote: "This Labour Government should hang its head in shame for inflicting [the Welfare Reform Bill] on the British public just as we face the most severe recession any of us have experienced in a lifetime." The Bill has been criticised by a number of disability campaign groups and Labour MPs for not helping the disabled or unemployed. Mahon said she was dismayed at the impotency shown by the government in tackling energy providers and financial institutions. She condemned the failure of the party to stick to its election manifesto, including pledges not to privatise the Royal Mail, and to give the country a referendum on the EU Constitution (which later became the Lisbon Treaty). The smear tactics attempted by Brown's by then former official Damian McBride and lobbyist Derek Draper, which became known around this time, were also a factor in her decision to leave the Labour Party. She told The Yorkshire Post:
"My stepdaughter Rachel said to me: ‘How could they do that to people like David Cameron and his wife Samantha when they had recently lost their son Ivan? What kind of people think it would be a good idea to smear them?' I was sickened by that – that is not the Labour Party that I joined all those years ago… Quite simply I have had it with New Labour."
Mahon remains active in left-wing politics including the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and the Stop the War Coalition of which she is a patron. She is a Distinguished Supporter of Humanists UK and an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society. The No2EU campaign said she had decided to support them in the June 2009 European Parliament election.
She was formerly married to John Gledhill; the couple had two sons, Kris (a barrister, currently an academic at the University of Auckland Law School in New Zealand) and Kurt (who lives with his family in Yorkshire). The couple divorced in the 1970s and she married Tony Mahon.
- Sutcliffe, Robert (18 April 2009). "'Sickened' MP Alice Mahon quits Labour". Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 18 April 2009.
- King, Oona (10 September 2011). "A Walk On Part: Diaries 1994–1999 by Chris Mullin". The Times. (subscription required)
- "Ex-MP Mahon leaves Labour Party". BBC News. 18 April 2009. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
- White, Michael (9 October 2004). "Hewitt adds a qualifier to her qualified Iraq apology". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
- Kite, Melissa; Hurst, Greg (3 October 2003). "Ministers emerge unscathed after some tough talk on Iraq". The Times. Retrieved 28 September 2017. (subscription required)
- Linklater, Magnus (10 July 2003). "Why shouldn't uppity Scots grab the best jobs and control England's affairs?". The Times. Retrieved 28 September 2017. (subscription required)
- Webster, Philip; Kite, Melissa (20 November 2003). "Blair's hospital Bill could be lost after Commons revolt". The Times. Retrieved 29 September 2017. (subscription required)
- The Hidden Massacre
- rainews24 The RAI documentary asserted that incendiary weapons such as MK 77 had been used in Baghdad in 2003 in civilians-populated areas, which is forbidden by the 1980 Protocol III to the Convention on Conventional Weapons.
- "Alice Mahon: Public opinion turning". BBC News. 13 May 1999.
- "Ex-MP battles NHS over eye drug". BBC News. 30 January 2007. Retrieved 18 September 2015.
- Mulholland, Hélène (7 September 2006). "McDonnell prepares to launch leadership bid". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
- Corin Williams (3 December 2008). "Reaction to Welfare Reform Bill in the Queen's Speech". Communitycare.co.uk. Archived from the original on 19 April 2013. Retrieved 18 April 2009.
- Frank Field (18 March 2009). "It doesn't do the job". London: The Guardian. Archived from the original on 21 March 2009. Retrieved 18 April 2009.
- Henry, Robin (18 April 2009). "Alice Mahon quits Labour over e mail smears". The Times. Retrieved 28 September 2017. (subscription required)
- "Stop the War Patrons, Officers and Steering Committee". Stop the War Coalition. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
- "Alice Mahon interviewed by Mark Watson". British Library Sound Archive. Retrieved 26 January 2018.