Woman McDonagh obituary


The previous Labour Get together common secretary Margaret McDonagh, who has died aged 61 from mind most cancers, was a formidable political strategist answerable for the ways that received her occasion the landslide common election in 1997, sweeping Tony Blair and “New Labour” into workplace for a technology. A key determine within the modernisation of the occasion’s goals and values, 4 years later she helped to ship a document second landslide victory.

She was a fierce, devoted, single-minded girl whose political opinions had been fashioned by the influence of the devastating Labour occasion feuding of the late Nineteen Seventies and early 80s, and the electoral rout it suffered within the 1983 common election. She was a rightwing pragmatist whose personal background had taught her that successful assist from working-class and decrease middle-class voters meant that Labour needed to determine with their considerations, particularly on points resembling crime and safety.

When she was appointed common secretary in 1998, McDonagh was the youngest individual – and the primary girl – ever to carry the put up.

She was not a preferred selection. She demanded rather a lot from all people and anticipated to get it. In doing so, she received minds, if not hearts, and likewise regard and respect for her willpower. She listened to others, spoke her personal thoughts and was at all times ready to face up for what she believed to be the fitting factor to do.

Shortly earlier than retiring as common secretary after the 2001 election, having informed the prime minister beforehand of her intention, she refused a request from Blair to log out a £500,000 wage invoice to extend salaries for political employees at Downing Avenue. At a time when the occasion organisation was in debt and she or he confronted making redundancies from her personal far more poorly paid employees, she thought the proposal inequitable and unfair, and the prime minister had to make use of the authority of the loyalist nationwide government to order her to conform.

McDonagh had been a profitable fundraiser for the occasion, drawing on her sturdy relations with the commerce union motion, the place she had labored as a analysis officer for the Electricians’ union, the EETPU (now a part of Unite), earlier than becoming a member of the Labour occasion employees in 1987. She was criticised, nonetheless, for taking a donation of £100,000 from Richmond Desmond, then the proprietor of the Every day Specific which was used on Labour ads within the Specific newspapers within the 2001 election marketing campaign.

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Margaret McDonagh with John Prescott, left, and Tony Blair. She modernised the occasion’s goals and values, and was important to the success of New Labour. {Photograph}: Rebecca Naden/PA

Her critics included Labour MPs who objected on the grounds that the group revealed various smooth porn magazines. McDonagh took a put up as common supervisor of Specific Newspapers in 2001, after an eight-week enterprise course at Harvard College.

The opposite major controversy of her interval as common secretary was the chaotic incompetence that characterised the occasion’s try to stop Ken Livingstone standing because the official Labour candidate within the first mayoral elections in London in 2000. She took a lot of the political flak for the prime minister because of his ill-fated willpower that this could not occur. A sequence of unsuccessful political manoeuvres resulted in Livingstone’s victory as an impartial, with the Labour candidate, Frank Dobson, in third place behind the Conservative candidate. It was noticed that Blair’s mistake had been to decide to establishing the put up of a London mayor with out first having recognized the occasion’s candidate.

Margaret was the youthful daughter of Breda (nee Doogue), a psychiatric nurse, and her husband, Cumin McDonagh, then a constructing labourer. She and her older sister, Siobhain, now the Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden, south London, have been born in Mitcham and continued to dwell collectively in Colliers Wooden all through their grownup lives. Their Irish household have been staunch Labour supporters and Margaret joined the occasion at 17. The 2 sisters attended Holy Cross secondary college, New Malden, and Margaret then went on to achieve a BSc in authorities at Brunel College, Uxbridge. She later acquired a grasp’s diploma in superior advertising and marketing at Kingston Enterprise Faculty.

Labour’s political difficulties right now have been introduced house to Margaret when the then Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden, Bruce Douglas-Mann, joined the Social Democratic occasion and sought a renewed mandate from his constituents in a byelection in 1982. The seat was misplaced to the Tories’ Angela Rumbold, and the McDonagh sisters determined to marketing campaign to win it again for Labour. Within the 1983 common election, Margaret was the agent for the seat and in 1987 Siobhain first stood because the candidate. She received the seat on the third try, in 1997.

Margaret labored because the regional organiser for the Nationwide Affiliation of Licensed Home Managers earlier than becoming a member of the EETPU. In 1987 she was appointed because the assistant regional officer for the London Labour occasion and joined the top workplace employees in 1994, when Blair was elected chief. On this position she labored on the coverage to reform occasion goals, together with changing Clause IV, and she or he was the important thing seat taskforce chief within the run-up to the triumphant 1997 election. She was election co-ordinator from October 1996 till the election and was briefly deputy common secretary earlier than successful the highest job.

After leaving Specific Newspapers in 2002, McDonagh went on to work as a administration guide, changing into chair of iPublic in 2004, the yr she was appointed to the Home of Lords. She was additionally a director of the airport proprietor TBI (2004-14), Normal Life (2007-12) and the healthcare agency Care Capital (2008-10), and chaired Normal Life Charitable Belief (2009-12) and Sensible Vitality (2013-15). So as to help ladies in enterprise, in 2013 she based and chaired The Pipeline.

She was recognized with glioblastoma in 2021, and is survived by Siobhain.

Margaret Josephine McDonagh, Woman McDonagh, politician and administration guide, born 26 June 1961; died 24 June 2023


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