Jeremy Corbyn and Angela Rayner pay tribute to Ann Clwyd
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the party’s current deputy leader Angela Rayner paid tribute to the late Ann Clwyd in a special House of Commons debate to celebrate her 35 years as an MP.
Ms Clwyd died in July aged 86, three and a half years after retiring as the Labour MP for Cynon Valley.
She was the longest serving woman MP from Wales and the first to represent a south Wales Valleys constituency.
The adjournment debate was led by Ms Clwyd’s successor as MP for Cynon Valley, Beth Winter, who spoke about Ms Clwyd’s passionate commitment to human rights and social justice. She said: “Our constituency when she became an MP was in the throes of fighting to keep the mining industry alive. Next year we will be remembering 40 years since the 1984 miners’ strike – the year when Ann became an MP for the Cynon Valley. I was, as a child then, on the demonstration through the town of Aberdare with Ann.
“In her maiden speech in Parliament, Ann said of the miners’ strike: ‘It was a symbolic fight – a fight against the Two Britains, the haves and the have-nots. It is a protest on behalf of a lost generation of young men and women who have never been able to find a job in the Valleys of south Wales.’ And that’s why it continues: the public service workers, the rail workers and health workers today are fighting against the Two Britains, the haves and the have nots.”
Mr Corbyn spoke with affection about his friendship with Ms Clwyd, which dated back to the time they shared an office together after both being first elected in the early 1980s.
He said: “It was an extremely noisy place because Ann had a great deal to say and [former Labour MP] Lord [Dale] Campbell-Savours often came along to have an argument with her about something or told her what to do and she told him what to do, and so it went on. Tony Benn was next door and there were a number of others there, so it was not a quiet place.
“It was also home to my dog that came in as well – a dog called Mango. Ann was deeply concerned about Mango’s health and often looked after Mango for me.
“And then one day there was a leak in the roof – literally. There was a lot of talk about government leaks, but this was a real leak with water coming through the roof. The rest of us just moaned and groaned and phoned up services and said ‘please fix this leak’ Ann? No, no, no, no. I opened the Evening Standard at lunchtime that day. There was a picture of Ann Clwyd with an umbrella over her head, raincoat, wellington boots, the whole bit, explaining how Parliament had so deteriorated that she was forced to come in with protective gear to get through the day.
“So she had this wonderful panache of publicising events and issues, but that actually hid a very deep steel, in many ways,in what she did. I want to say a huge thank you to Ann for the friendship, for the humour and for the steel and determination on a human rights cause, and all the other causes that so many other colleagues have mentioned. She was a good friend to me always. We often didn’t totally agree on anything, but we also totally agreed to respect each other in our disagreement, so we always got along very well indeed. And that’s a good example and a good metaphor of how politics can work.”
Ms Rayner said: “I could always rely on Ann for support and wisdom. I even tried to repay it. I played an important role in Ann’s successful campaign for Westminster Cat of the Year, as her campaign manager for the ginger tom cat Alfie. Does my honourable friend [Beth Winter] believe that her commitment to social justice and to the most vulnerable both at home and abroad means that there won’t be another MP like Ann again, but that doesn’t mean that we all shouldn’t try to be like her?”
Ms Winter said she couldn’t agree more.
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