What did Mo stand for..?

WRITING in Spiked, Brendan O’Neill casts a critical eye over Mo Mowlam’s tenure as Northern Ireland Secretary. Drawing parallels with Robin Cook, who also died recently, he argues that they were figureheads for the ‘politics of disgruntlement’, “fallen Blairites kicking against the party” after they fell out of favour. He also downplays Mowlam’s perceived crucial role in the negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement, where even Mowlam said she felt more like the tea lady than a serious player.

O’Neill writes:

The obituaries treated Mowlam as if she were someone’s (perhaps everyone’s) mum rather than a politician. But, in a sense, this was entirely fitting. For all the claims that Mowlam was the anti-Blair, she, like Blair, played on the personal touch. Today, in the absence of political principles and ideology we are left with the empty politics of personality and good character.


Mowlam, Cook and others were not spearheading an independent challenge against Blairism but rather were fallen Blairites kicking against the party. The response to their tragic deaths – where various politicos and commentators have complained about the dire state of the democratic left and said ‘we now know exactly how bad things are’ – reveals the paucity of today’s critique of New Labour (12). If you want a new ‘passionate politics’ and an opposition to the Labour government, then a first step would be to look outside of the Labour camp.

  • Keith M

    One of the best written articles I’ve seen on the net. Thanks for the link.

  • bertie

    I agree

  • Jimmy_Sands

    I think the comparison is unfair to Cook for two reasons: Firstly Cook never diplayed the bitterness and disloyalty that Mowlam did on her demotion; secondly, the assertion that Cook’s policy differences with the leadership began in 2001 is absolutely untrue and betrays a poor grip by the author on his subject matter.

  • Confused

    I admit that it is of no relevance to this analysis that Robin Cook left his wife for another woman in what the evidence suggests was a quite breathtakingly cruel manner, but, being unaware of any comparable conduct by Mo, it bugs me that there ought to be a comparison between the two.

  • alexander bowman


    I hesitate to speak ill of the dead, but if I don’t I fear I’ll leave you in danger of persevering in a false judgement on Cook (by miles the more considerable figure of the two.)

    Cook may have behaved quite unspeakably to his wife Margaret but Mo herself, it is alleged in a profile by Lynn Barber published maybe six years ago, could also, at least in her younger years, behave in quite a cavalier fashion when it came to other people’s marriages.