Mo Mowlam will go down in history for two things. She was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when the Good Friday Agreement, that benighted province’s best chance for peace, was signed, and probably had much to do with persuading the Republicans to engage in serious negotiation. That did not endear her to the Unionist side, who lobbied hard to have her removed, ultimately successfully. And she has weathered a brain tumour that left her exhausted, six stone heavier, and bald, while still carrying a full ministerial workload. She said nothing about it until a cruel woman journalist wrote that she resembled a Geordie trucker. Mowlam asked for no sympathy, merely remarking that she was rather fond of Geordie truckers.
Mowlam’s courage and character are not in doubt. Her popularity with the public was secured as the Ulster tragedy seemed, jerkily, to come to an end under her guidance. She was the epitome of New Labour: classless, able, hard-working, energetic, sincere, concerned about the welfare of all about her, famously