Labour’s ‘Mother of the House’ Harriet Harman to step down as MP

Labour MP Harriet Harman has announced her plans to step down as MP for  Camberwell and Peckham ahead of  the next general election.

Ms Harman, who has served as MP for the London seat since 1982, said leaving the Commons will leave her “enthusiasm for politics undimmed”.

“It’s been a great honour to be an MP and to represent Camberwell & Peckham since 1982. I will do that with complete commitment and enthusiasm up until the last day! My email to C & P Lab members,” she said via Twitter.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has also taken to Twitter to heap praise on Ms Harman, writing:

“Harriet, your commitment to Labour and Camberwell and Peckham for almost 40 years is phenomenal.

 “A champion for women and social justice – you’ve paved the way for future generations. 

“It’s been a privilege to work with you, I look forward to continuing to do so for a while yet.”

Harriet Harman was elected and served as the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party between 2007 and 2015.  In the course of a forty year political career, she is now one of the longest serving women MPs at Westminster.

Harman previously held a range of posts in the Blair and Brown governments.  She was Secretary of State for Social Security in the Cabinet between 1997 and 1998, Solicitor General between 2001 and 2005, Minister of State for Justice between 2005 and 2007; and Leader of the House of Commons, Secretary of State for Equalities, Minister for Women and Lord Privy Seal between 2007 and 2010.

Born in 1950, she obtained a degree in Politics from York University.  She then qualified as a Solicitor.

Before becoming an MP, she worked as the Legal Officer to human rights non-profit Liberty, then called the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL).

In 2014 she denied claims that she had supported the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) when the group was affiliated with Liberty during her tenure there between 1978and 1982. 

Harman said she had “nothing to apologise for,” in the wake of the claims, saying: “I very much regret that this vile organisation, PIE, ever existed and that it ever had anything to do with NCCL, but it did not affect my work at NCCL.” She also said she had never campaigned for the age of consent to be lowered below 16.

This was subsequently disproved by The Guardian newspaper who obtained a March 1976 NCCL press release, on which Harman’s name appears, stating that “NCCL proposes that the age of consent should be lowered to 14, with special provision for situations where the partners are close in age, or where consent of a child over ten can be proved.”

Harman stood unsuccessfully in the contest to succeed John Bercow as Speaker of the House of Commons in 2019, coming fourth.

Harman is a leading feminist, and wrote the book ‘Woman’s Work’, an examination of women’s progressive politics over the last thirty years.