Michael Meacher

Michael MeacherImage copyrightGetty Images
Image captionMichael Meacher, seen at the 1985 Labour Party conference, had a long career as an MP and in government
Tributes have been paid to Michael Meacher, one of Labour's longest-serving MPs, who has died aged 75.
The member for Oldham West and Royton served as a minister under Harold Wilson, James Callaghan and Tony Blair, while during Labour's opposition years he sat in the shadow cabinet for 14 years and was tipped by some as a possible future leader.
In recent years, he was an outspoken backbencher to the left of the party, and maintained his seat with a 14,738 majority at May's general election.
He had two sons and two daughters from his first marriage in 1962 to Molly, now cross-bench peer Baroness Meacher. He wed again in 1988 to Lucianne, a charity director, who survives him.

Early politics

Educated at Oxford University and the London School of Economics, Mr Meacher first ran for Parliament in 1966 in Colchester. Four years later he was elected in Oldham West, the area he would serve for the rest of his life.
Formerly a close political colleague of Tony Benn, he stood as the left's candidate against Roy Hattersley for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party in 1983, but was soundly defeated.
Michael Meacher, then a health and social security minister, addresses pensioners at a rally in the mid 1970sImage copyrightGetty Images
Image captionMichael Meacher, then a health and social security minister, addresses pensioners at a rally in the mid 1970s
In 1988 he lost a libel action against the journalist Alan Watkins, who reported that Mr Meacher had invented his working-class roots, by referring to his father as a farm labourer, when in fact he was an accountant.
Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock once described Mr Meacher as Tony Benn's "vicar on earth".
Mr Kinnock could not bear the left-wing firebrand - and made no bones about the fact that, minutes after entering Downing Street, he would reshuffle the team which had been dumped on him - and out would go Mr Meacher, among others.

The Blair years

But the Oldham West MP proved remarkably resilient. He survived into government under Tony Blair's leadership when Mr Kinnock did not, and was even given a job by Mr Blair, who took a much more charitable view of him.
He moved closer to the political centre-ground after being made environment minister in 1997, though he remained one of the most radical members of Mr Blair's government.
Michael Meacher with an otterImage copyrightPA
Image captionMichael Meacher was environment minister under Tony Blair
Michael MeacherImage copyrightStefan Rousseau
Meacher and Prescott
Image captionHe helped John Prescott secure the Kyoto agreement to limit carbon emissions in 1997
Michael Meacher swimming in the seaImage copyrightGetty Images
Image captionHe also fulfilled a pledge to swim in the sea off Blackpool in 2002
As an environment minister he was credited as a skilled negotiator and with helping John Prescott in securing the Kyoto agreement to limit carbon emissions in 1997 and was a strong supporter of measures to cut carbon emissions and tackle man-made global warming.
He was involved with the "right to roam", a Labour manifesto pledge which opened up the large parts of countryside to the public.
In October 2002, he fulfilled a pledge to swim in the sea off Blackpool if it met European beach waters standard.
He had several brushes with the press - and was accused of hypocrisy in 1999 for suggesting a ban on owning a second home, at a time when he had three properties.

Back to the backbenches

Mr Meacher was sacked as environment minister in 2003, returning to the backbenches where he attacked the Labour government's record on the environment, foreign affairs and Trident.
He became an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, despite voting for it in March 2003 - something he "bitterly" regretted.
"That is the biggest political mistake I've made in my life. I believed what the prime minister said about weapons of mass destruction," he said.
In 2007, he contested the Labour leadership, stepping aside as part of an agreement with fellow left-wing Labour MP John McDonnell after failing to get enough Labour MPs backing him to be able to enter the full contest.
Meacher, McDonnell and BrownImage copyrightGetty Images
Image captionMichael Meacher withdrew from the 2007 leadership contest against Gordon Brown in favour of John McDonnell (centre)
Despite this, Mr McDonnell - now the shadow chancellor - still failed to get the 44 backers needed to join the official contest.
Mr Meacher's Parliamentary work included campaigning against the company carrying out fitness-to-work tests, and he criticised the "grinding austerity" policies of the coalition government.
His views on Tony Blair soured as he lamented the direction taken by the party under the former prime minister: "I underestimated how far he was going to take us," he said in 2012.
Mr Meacher attacked Mr Blair's interventions in the Labour leadership contest - where he backed eventual winner Jeremy Corbyn - accusing the former prime minister of "hijacking the party down a route utterly alien to its founders".
And when Lord Mandelson discussed the removal of Mr Corbyn as leader, Mr Meacher said the former business secretary should be thrown out of the party.


Michael MeacherImage copyrightGetty Images
  • "He was principled, kind, thoughtful and deeply committed to a fairer, more just world." Ed Miliband
  • "Michael Meacher was a man of great detail. He played a crucial role in securing the Kyoto Treaty - the world's 1st climate change deal. RIP." Lord Prescott
  • "He was a very honest and courteous man with a lucid and diligent manner that disarmed critics and earned admiration and trust." Lord Kinnock
  • "Socialism is once again fashionable and Michael would never have denied his socialism." Tony Lloyd, Greater Manchester's mayor and police commissioner
  • "He was a tremendous figure in the Labour movement, devoting his life to the advancement of working people and for that he will always be remembered with deep fondness." Unite general secretary Len McCluskey
  • "An independent thinker, Parliamentary reformer, committed campaigner and environmental champion". Conservative London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith