Determined political campaigner, Alice Mahon, lectured at Bradford & Ilkley College for 7 years prior to being elected as Labour Member of Parliament for Halifax in 1987.
Alice trained as a nurse but left to have a baby before completing her qualifications. She then worked as an auxiliary nurse for 9 years, becoming active in NUPE in 1972 and helping to set up their National Women’s Committee. As her eldest son went off to Oxford University aged only 17, Alice began a Social Policy degree at Bradford University, graduating aged 40. She then came to College to teach Health & Safety at Work and Trade Union Studies.
“I loved doing it. It was one of the best jobs I ever had. I used to tell
my students ‘Give ‘em hell! Don’t let them get away with anything!’
I particularly remember that throughout the whole of the miners
strike Maura, who worked at McMillan, and I stood on street corners
collecting for the miners and stood on freezing the picket lines at Emley
Moor at 5.30am every Tuesday morning.”
During the early ‘80s Alice had been elected onto Calderdale Council and gained a seat on the Health Authority. Standing as MP was a natural progression. “I was never a career politician and never planned to become an MP. Now many politicians map out their political careers while still at university. But if they don’t have life experience they cannot relate to the needs of their constituents and what they don’t know puts them at the mercy of the lobby groups. It was certainly a culture shock when I went to Westminster. I was told off in the House of Commons for having a Yorkshire accent! The Speaker, Bernard Weatherall was getting fed up of my constant questions and said ‘The Honourable lady would have receive better answers if she spoke the Queen’s English.’ Parliament gives you a voice and I was never afraid to use it.”
Alice stepped down from parliament in 2005 but continues to fight for causes she believes in. When she was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration she discovered that PCT policy was to deny NHS funded drugs until a patient had lost the sight in one eye. She mounted a high profile campaign to help others in her position. “I won that fight but if I had been Alice Mahon, ordinary citizen, no one would have listened. I am keen to keep a watch on PCTs, unelected quangos who decide who will lose their sight and who will not.
I am Vice President of the National Association of Women and I am working with them at the moment to raise the profile of the Lisbon Treaty that is going to take so many rights away from trades unionists without any debate. I have just accepted an invitation from the Italian Left to speak on the Lisbon Treaty at a meeting in Rome.”
Photograph by Trevor Griffiths