Alison McGovern, MP for Wirral South and Gordon Brown’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, talks exclusively to JMU Journalism about youth unemployment, the campaign for the release of Hillsborough files, what it is like working for a former PM... and life as an expectant mother.
Things could scarcely be more hectic for Alison McGovern at the moment.
Aside from her duties as the MP for Wirral South, and gaining widespread recognition for the powerful speech she made during the recent Hillsborough debate in the House of Commons, Ms McGovern has something quite momentous in her upcoming engagements.
Alison, who in 2010 became an MP for the constituency she
was born and grew up in, is expecting her first child with
husband, Ashwin Kumar, this week.
JMU Journalism caught up with her to talk politics and to
ask about the new challenge which is about to enter her life,
as the Labour MP prepares to go into labour.
Mum-to-be Alison predicts that at first it will be her role as a
new parent which will prove more challenging than the
demands of her job as an MP.
She said: “I think it will probably be harder in the beginning to
be a mum because when I became a member of parliament
I had been a local councillor. I knew how to do my case work
and I knew my way to Westminster. I didn’t know everything
but I knew how to make a speech and all of that, whereas
being a mum is totally new.”
Politics is something which appears to run in the family, as
she is the granddaughter of the late folk songwriter Peter
McGovern, who died in 2006. He wrote the famous song ‘In
My Liverpool Home’, along with being an active trade unionist
“A lot of his songs were about sort of political things,” said Alison. “In My Liverpool Home is about how rough it was and how he didn’t have very much. When he was growing up they didn’t have blankets on the bed or anything. They slept with whatever they could find.
“That whole song is making a point about the poverty that he experienced as a child and what that did do his life. He was trying to make a point that despite all of that, Liverpool is the best city in the world.”
He would surely have been proud of his granddaughter had he been alive to hear her speak during the House of Commons debate which led to the release of documents relating to the Hillsborough disaster.
Fighting back tears, the 30-year-old made a passionate
speech which earned an exceptionally rare round of
applause from the public gallery. She told JMU Journalism:
“It was a very difficult day in parliament. I think all of us from
Merseyside felt that it was probably one of the most difficult
things we will ever do.
“The reason is that it is such an important issue and it’s
such an emotional issue that you wanted to get it right. I’m
hopeful that we will have more good news next year that
we will have a report from the Hillsborough Panel that will
give people the true account that we’ve been looking for all
Since the speech she has had people approaching her to
tell her that they were really affected by the tragic events,
but they have never told anybody before.
Alison said: “The thing that has struck me most about the
parliament debate is that it has been an opportunity for
people who have kept their survivor’s story and their pain
inside to actually share it with somebody else.
“I think that’s got to be the right thing.There are a lot of people who have suffered in silence.”
Another matter which the MP cares deeply about is youth unemployment. It is an uncertain world for graduates, and indeed any young people looking for work at the moment.
Alison, who studied Philosophy at University College London, said: “It is a really tough time and probably the toughest for 20 years, easily. The first thing that I would say to unemployed young people who are struggling is to go and speak to your MP because I am far better as a politician if I’ve got real examples of people in my constituency or elsewhere.
“Not only do I want to listen to them but also I would be more effective in campaigning for them and championing their cause if I know what exactly the problems are. Don’t suffer in silence; go and tell your local member of parliament what it is like. “
Aside from constituency matters, Alison’s political hero is former Prime Minister, and Huyton MP, Harold Wilson. Part of her MP’s duties involves being the PPS to another ex-PM, Gordon Brown, assisting him at Westminster. She said: “He is one of the nicest people I have ever worked with. He really cares about you and really listens.
"He doesn’t do chit-chat and if he was here now we would have a serious conversation about a serious thing, but he is an incredibly genuine politician, and someone who is absolutely passionate about social justice and poverty.”
By Helen Dodd, Managing Editor
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MP McGovern made an emotional speech in the Hillsborough debate, featured here on BBC R4's Today
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YouTube: applause after McGovern's speech