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By Lord Lamont of Lerwick
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Tribute to Alice Mahon

Tribute to Alice Mahon

Labour Party Conference, Bournemouth 2003: Alice Mahon, 28 September 1937 – 25 December 2022 | Alamy

3 min read

Utterly brilliant, determined and dogged, Alice Mahon was a fearless champion for social justice and peace

“To make a difference.” In her own words, this is why Alice Mahon became a Labour MP. Elected to Parliament in 1987, she proudly represented the people of Halifax for 28 years. Before she entered the House of Commons she had worked in the NHS for 10 years as a nursing auxiliary, studied at the University of Bradford, and later taught trade union studies at Bradford College. She had also served as a Labour councillor in Calderdale. From the moment Alice became an MP she worked tirelessly for the people of Halifax in the name of equality, fairness, and social justice. Unphased by the pomp and grandeur of Parliament, she immediately joined the Socialist Campaign Group, where she led the fight for workers’ rights on the picket line, anti-racism on the streets, and international solidarity around the world.

Alice was a champion of peace. She opposed the Gulf War in 1991 and the later Balkans War, bravely visiting Belgrade whilst it was under Nato bombardment. In 2001, we travelled together to East Timor to observe the referendum on its future, and to witness the effects of the brutal war of independence first-hand. Alice was fearless even when we saw the effects of military attacks on some of the polling stations we visited.

In 2002 she drafted the first parliamentary motion against the British involvement in Iraq, which grew in support. A supporter of Stop the War, she later told the Labour Party Conference: “We were lied to about WMD [weapons of mass destruction], and there is no delicate way of putting it.”

Alice was a great socialist, never a crowd pleaser or career politician

She was a great friend to all those who were facing poverty and marginalisation. As a member of the Nupe (later Unison) group in Parliament, she strongly opposed PFI [private finance initiative] schemes and foundation hospitals as vehicles for undermining the NHS. She would be a leading, articulate, and powerful voice against the plans for privatisation today.

Alice stepped down from Parliament in 2005 and became increasingly frustrated with the direction of the Labour Party under New Labour, resigning from the Party in 2009. She came back to Labour when I was elected leader in 2015. Despite suffering macular degeneration and the loss of much of her sight, she was a committed and vocal supporter of the anti-austerity socialist agenda we were putting forward. I have this happy memory of her in the 2017 election campaign at a huge election rally in Hebden Bridge, on the front row beaming with hope and happiness.

Alice was a great socialist, never a crowd pleaser or career politician, with an acerbic but human wit, and never afraid to take her case into hostile territory. Utterly brilliant, determined and dogged, she proudly saw herself as a working-class MP, and was uncompromising with her authenticity.

Everyone who met Alice learned much from her about life, principles and determination. She was a brilliant and loyal friend – on the good days and the bad. She was one of my best comrades in Parliament and I will miss her terribly. My thoughts go to her family and the people of Halifax she served so well.

She went into Parliament to make a difference. She succeeded. The impact she made will be felt for generations to come.

Jeremy Corbyn is Independent MP for Islington North

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