Harriet Harman: the ‘political survivor’ who will judge Boris Johnson

With a career spanning four decades, Harriet Harman is the longest-serving MP currently in Parliament, earning her the title of Mother of the House.

Last month, the veteran Labor politician was put in charge of the parliamentary Privileges Committee inquiry into whether Boris Johnson had misled Parliament over illegal lockdown parties in Downing Street.

His appointment, after former Speaker Chris Bryant recused himself, was criticized by Tory MPs. Harman has been accused of prejudging the outcome of the investigation after it emerged she tweeted in April that Johnson appeared to have “misled the House of Commons”.

Former justice secretary Robert Buckland told the Daily Telegraph that ‘as a lawyer, Harriet Harman is someone who values ​​due process above all else and I’m sure she would like to think very carefully to any potential impact of the tweets she posted. suggest that it is biased”.

Labor MP Nick Thomas Symonds defended his colleague, telling Sky News that Harman was “a highly respected and highly experienced parliamentarian”.

Background

Born in 1950 in Marylebone, London, her father was a Harley Street doctor and her mother was a lawyer.

The future politician, who has three sisters, attended the prestigious St Paul’s Girls’ School before earning a degree in politics from York University. She then obtained a lawyer’s degree. According to her official website, her first job as a lawyer was at the Brent Law Center in 1974.

Before becoming an MP, she also worked as a lawyer for the human rights organization Liberty (then called the National Civil Liberties Council).

In 1982 she married Jack Dromey, who served as Labor MP from 2010 until his death earlier this year. They had three children together.

Parliamentary career

Harman was elected Labor MP for Peckham (now Camberwell and Peckham) in a by-election in 1982. She was re-elected in 2019 with a majority of 33,780, making her one of the strongest Labor seats sure of the country.

A 2007 profile in The Guardian described her as “a political survivor” and “a fierce Labor loyalist” with an “ability to reinvent herself”. She held various phantom memories during Labor’s long years of opposition in the 1980s and 1990s, before being appointed Secretary of State for Social Security after the party came to power in a power slide. field in 1997. But she only served a year before losing her profile. position during a cabinet reshuffle.

Harman went on to hold various positions including Solicitor General, Minister of State for Justice, Leader of the House of Commons, Secretary of State for Equalities, Minister for Women and Lord Privy Seal.

She was elected deputy leader of the Labor Party in 2007 and served until 2015. Harman also served as acting Labor leader for several months in 2010 and again in 2015, after the resignations of Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband respectively. She is the only woman to have ever held such a high position in the party.

Harman ran unsuccessfully in the contest to succeed John Bercow as Speaker of the House of Commons in 2019. Last December, she announced that she would step down from Parliament in the next election.

On the problem of women in Labor

Described by Politics.co.uk as “a leading feminist”, Harman has written a series of books, including woman’s worka review of progressive women’s politics over the past 30 years.

Last month she reiterated her calls for the next Labor leader to be a woman. The Labor veteran told GB News his party’s failure to elect a woman leader in its 122-year history was “embarrassing”.

“I think it’s partly because the women in the Labor Party are more subversive than the women in the Conservative Party. The women in the Conservative Party tend to work with the men without challenging them like we do,” he said. she declared.

She also urged her party to retain all-female shortlists for the selection of MP candidates, arguing they were “incredibly important” to ensure gender parity in parliament.

Asked why she never ran for Labor leadership, Harman said: ‘I’ve had so many knocks in my political career that I just didn’t think I could take the Party out. Labor of this transition from opposition to government.

“Partly because I’ve always been a challenge, defying the press, challenging everyone and demanding progress, and that doesn’t make you feel very ‘leadership’, it makes you more like an underdog and a challenger. There had an absolute swarm of men going at it, and I just thought, ‘well, it could be him or it could be him’, and I kind of weeded out the people who said, ‘you should do it’.

controversies

Harman became ‘the politician we all love to hate’ during her time as Social Security Minister when she pushed through unpopular cuts to single parents, The Guardian reported.

Her decision to send her three children to selective schools at a time when Labor advocated the values ​​of public education also did little to endear her to the public.

In 2007, while serving under Brown, Harman was embroiled in a donations scandal that saw her position as deputy chief “hang by a thread”, reported The Telegraph.

Her reputation took another hit in 2014 when it emerged that she and fellow veteran Labor MP Patricia Hewitt had worked for the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) when the group granted ‘d ‘affiliated’ with the Pedophile Information Exchange (PIE). , who campaigned to lower the age of consent. The Daily Mail, which published the story, accused Harman of trying “to water down child pornography laws”.

Harman told the BBC she had “regrets” that “this vile organisation, PIE, ever existed and had anything to do with the NCCL”. But “it is the Daily Mail that should apologize for its slander and innuendo,” she said.

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