Armstrong was born on 30 November 1945 to Hannah P. Lamb and Ernest Armstrong, a Labour Party politician. She attended Monkwearmouth Grammar School before going on to take a BSc in sociology at West Ham Technical Institute (now the University of East London) and a Diploma in Social Work from the University of Birmingham. A former social worker and university lecturer, Armstrong worked for VSO in Kenya before entering politics. She was first elected as Durham County Councillor for Crook North Division in 1985.
She was shortlisted for the vacant Sedgefield constituency in 1983, only to lose out to Tony Blair. Four years later, at the 1987 general election, she was elected to her father's North West Durham seat on his retirement, increasing his majority by 3,806 to 10,162.
Armstrong was parliamentary private secretary to John Smith during his time as Labour leader, and played a large part in his successful fight to institute One member, one vote at Labour's party conference.
Armstrong was seen as a politician on the right of the Labour Party, and was close politically to her near neighbour Tony Blair and the New Labour agenda. However, she is also a member of the Amicus trades union (formerly MSF), and her trades union links were useful when she helped to shore up support for the rewriting of Clause IV.
In the 1992 general election, Armstrong retained her North West Durham constituency by defeating two future party leaders, Theresa May of the Conservatives, who became Prime Minister in 2016, and Tim Farron of the Liberal Democrats.
Armstrong spent four years as Minister for Local Government in the DETR and then the DTLR, before being promoted into the Cabinet of the United Kingdom as Chief Whip after the 2001 election. This was the high point of a political career which was low-key but generally successful; though she endured controversies over select committee membership and over allegations of strong arm tactics with Labour dissenters over military action in Afghanistan.
Armstrong also faced criticism after government defeats in the Commons over the length of time suspected terrorists could be detained without charge, and incitement to religious hatred provisions in the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005. Press commentators speculated that in losing these votes through miscalculating government support, and in one instance letting the Prime Minister off the "Whip" because she believed the vote was won, Armstrong's position had become vulnerable. However the rumours that she would resign the post proved unfounded.
Afterwards Conservative leader David Cameron mocked Armstrong during an exchange with Tony Blair, saying "She must be the first Chief Whip in history to put the Prime Minister in the frame for losing a key vote – which is an interesting career move, to say the least." This was the second time David Cameron had attacked her during Prime minister's questions; on his debut as Leader of the Opposition on 7 December 2005 she was singled out by Cameron when he said "That's the problem with these exchanges – the chief whip on the Labour side shouting like a child. Is she finished? Are you finished?"
On 5 May 2006 Armstrong was appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Minister for Social Exclusion. In 2006 Armstrong launched a petition on behalf of the Bethnal Green and Bow Labour Party against Respect MP George Galloway's participation in Channel 4's Celebrity Big Brother. She criticised Galloway for being paid as an MP during the time he was in the Big Brother house. Galloway responded by saying he planned to refund the taxpayer after his exit from the show as he would not know how much to refund until then.
She formally resigned from the government on 27 June 2007 when Tony Blair resigned as Prime Minister. On becoming Prime Minister, Gordon Brown announced Armstrong's appointment as Chair of a Parliamentary Labour Party Manifesto Committee drawing up policy ideas covering children.
She is a member of the Joint Committee on the Draft Domestic Abuse Bill.
On 19 July 2019, her North West Durham constituency party voted to expel her from the party after she - along with 67 other Labour members of the House of Lords - published an advert in the Guardian on 17 July claiming that Jeremy Corbyn had “failed the test of leadership” over his handling of antisemitism complaints within Labour. However, the vote was non-binding as only the National Executive has the mandate to expel members.
Armstrong is married to Paul Corrigan.
- Armstrong of Hill Top. Who's who. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.5722.
- University of Keele – Political Science Resources – 1987 general election
- "Tim Farron: the Christian Lefty on course to be elected Liberal Democrat leader". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
- BBC News – Hilary Armstrong MP profile
- The Times – Whips in turmoil as Blair's no-show castrates hate Bill
- The Guardian – Government suffers chaotic double defeat over bill to combat religious hatred
- BBC News – Blair to push ahead with reforms
- The Guardian – He's in front of you, Tony
- The Sunday Herald – Galloway: pledge to pay back taxpayers' money to cover absence (via FindArticles.com)
- "Two North East MPs standing down". BBC News Online. 4 July 2009.
- "No. 59467". The London Gazette. 23 June 2010. p. 11801.
- House of Lords Business, 22 June 2010
- "Hilary Armstrong interviewed by Emma Peplow". British Library Sound Archive. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
- Hilary Armstrong MP official site
- 10 Downing Street – Hilary Armstrong official biography
- North West Durham Labour Party – Hilary Armstrong MP official site
- Profile at the Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
- Current session contributions in Parliament at Hansard
- Electoral history and profile at The Guardian
- Voting record at PublicWhip.org
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou.com
- Profile at Westminster Parliamentary Record
- Profile at BBC News Democracy Live
- Articles authored at Journalisted
- East London Futures
- UEL Alumni Event – Hilary Armstrong
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
| Member of Parliament
for North West Durham
| Government Chief Whip of the House of Commons
| Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury|
| Minister for the Cabinet Office
| Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster|
| Minister for Social Exclusion
|Party political offices|
| Labour Chief Whip of the House of Commons