Profession/ Current priorities
Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments
© Jan 2001
Margaret Hodge MBE MP
Madness! I was political from an early age. I was a refugee so saw things as an outsider, then I was sent as a difficult teenager to boarding school in Oxford and became very aware of the class divide and this politicised me. Then I went to the London School of Economics. I became an active politician by accident. I had my first child in 1971, and had to give up working full-time as an international researcher ( I have 3 languages). Then somebody said there is a seat in the local Council, go for it, it will keep you sane. I was an active member of the Labour Party at the time.
2. Do/did you have a role model?
Politically, Rosa Luxemburg, and Nelson Mandela. I had a local guru who was very important to me as a mentor in practical politics. Simone de Beauvoir, Doris Lessing and of course, Germaine Greer, were significant influences on me. My earliest political activity was with CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament).
3.Is there a tradition of political involvement/ policy - making in your family?
No. Except that I am the middle child of 5 children, and three of us are involved in public policy areas.
4. Were you involved in grassroots activities etc.?
I started in CND and then I was active in housing issues, fighting to retain mixed communities at grassroots level. I persuaded the local Council to change the planning policy regulations to prevent abuses by absentee landlords. When I was on Islington Council, I fought for the times of meetings to be changed so that women and others with children, could attend. I ensured that people were housed according to need, rather than length of residence, which of course would have discriminated against minority ethnic communities. I developed participatory decision-making through neighbourhood offices, and equal opportunity processes for the staff as well as very advanced maternity packages. Some of these policies are the basis for the Childcare strategies we are implementing now.
My feminism dates from the days when I went to consciousness - raising groups in the late 60s and I built strong friendships with a group of like-minded women.
5.Were there disruptions in your political career?
I asked the Council leader for 6 months maternity leave when I was having my 3rd child, in 1978 and was Chair of the Housing Committee. This was granted, but one month after I returned, I was sacked.
I had chosen not to become an MP because of my 4 children. In 1992, I was asked to put my name forward for seats as an MP but I resisted, as one of my daughters was doing A levels and wanted me not to be an MP. I gave up politics for a bit in 1992, as Labour had lost another an election and I went to work for a management consultancy.
6.Were there disruptions in your biography that have had an impact on your political career? Have your objectives changed during your political career?
Children but I would never have made different choices to those I did make, to enable me to balance my life between work and caring for the children.
7.How and why did your political objectives change during your political career?
I never thought to become an MP. Lots of the reasons why I didn't want to still hold good!
The way of life is awful, but politics is a drug, and I need to work for a value-driven purpose and politics is that.
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To change the world.
2. Which party and when?
The Labour Party in 1962.
3. Does your party have equal opportunity regulations?
4. Which office/function did you hold in your party at the beginning? How long after joining? How did you get into running for office?
I was just a member. I became a Branch secretary after I was married. I helped at the 1964 election.
5. Did you have mentors within your party?
I had local mentors especially when I was Leader of the Council, and developed a lunch group of confidantes.
6. Have you ever changed party affiliation?
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I have a strong business sense and did a degree in politics before working in multi-country studies and market research.
2. What kind of qualifications do you have?
I have a degree in Politics.
3. In what kinds of jobs did you work?
I taught, I was a public sector consultant, a member of the Board of Visitors of a prison, a member of health authorities, and the Local Government Commission.
4. Do you link your professional and political career?
All my previous experience informs my political career.
5. In what areas do you see your special competencies?
In the breadth of my experience, and my solid experience of seeing things through. I do deliver, and I am imaginative and innovative.
6. What are your political priorities?
7. Main fields of action?
Disability; equality including the Equal Opportunities Commission; work/life Balance; Millennium Volunteers; Race for Employment; New Deal for lone parents and New Deal for Disabled people; Childcare strategy and implementation; early years provision.
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I am incredibly privileged to be where I am. If I can get the national Childcare strategy, the New Deal for the Disabled, and the new Disability Rights Commission on track, I shall be pleased.
2. How and why have your political objectives changed during your political career?
My objectives have not changed, but I have learned that you must start from where people are at if you want to pursue change and that you must focus on clear and time limited objectives.
3. Do equal opportunities strategies in your opinion have an impact in your country in the promotion of women in decision-making- please specify?
Yes, not enough, but yes.
4. Did you benefit from these strategies?
No, as we were the ones who created them. I think one of the factors which changed women's lives was the pill.
5. Do you see direct or indirect discrimination in conventional policy-making?
Yes. What keeps women from committing themselves to politics is that it is loud, competitive and confrontational. Why would they want to do it? Very little co-operative activity takes place.
6. What are the major obstacles that women need to overcome?
The culture and the hours.
7.What obstacles have you had to overcome in your own career?
I have been very lucky, but I have seized the moment. There is still quite a lot of resentment of women, especially the London feminists.
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