Gwyneth Dunwoody, the longest serving female MP, died this week aged 77. Mrs Dunwoody, who had served as Member of Parliament for Crewe and Nantwich since 1974, had been ill for the past week.
The outspoken MP chaired the transport select committee, but was best known as a prominent backbencher, fighting for the rights of her constituents and, more recently, taking up the cause of Senior Carer Work Permits working in the care industry.
Tributes have come from all parties including Prime Minister Gordon Brown who described her as “politics at its best” and said “So many people will be so sad to hear of the death of Gwyneth Dunwoody. She was always her own person. She was fiercely independent.”
David Cameron, the Conservative leader, told the BBC that he was “incredibly sad” to hear news of her death and described her as “an extraordinary MP, a real battler. Someone who was never prepared to just take the establishment view”.
Ms Dunwoody’s son David described her as a wonderful mother and grandmother. He told the BBC she had died “in a gentle and calm way” on Thursday evening after being ill for about a week.
He said: “She was a woman who stood up and said what she believed was true. She defended people who didn’t have anyone else to defend them”.
Gwyneth Dunwoody will be remembered by readers of Immigration Matters for defending the rights of overseas Senior Carers against the unfair treatment by the Home Office.
Last year she launched a blistering attack on Minister Liam Byrne and the Home Office over its “shambolic and incompetent handling of Senior Carer Work Permits” during a 30 minute Parliamentary Debate.
Shortly afterwards, The Home Office or BIA announced further transitional measures giving Senior Carer Work Permit holders the opportunity to change employers paying the “going rate”.
Last month, in a further concession, the BIA announced that they will consider ‘out of time’ (expired visas) applications for Senior Carers, giving hope to those migrants caught up in the Work Permit transition fiasco.
Watching the speech, I was struck her energy and power as she tore into the Minister’. Mrs Dunwoody was like a battling warhorse, her words striking at the heart like a lance, making the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.
Mrs Dunwoody was one of a rare and disappearing breed of parliamentarians who were not afraid to go against the ‘party line’ and speak out for the vulnerable or under privileged, who never forgot why she was elected – to serve, and represent her constituency – and who always stuck to her principles.
There was no political capital to be gained by speaking out, against her own Labour party, on behalf a few Filipino care workers who didn’t even have the right to vote.
But Gwyneth Dunwoody did not help them for her own benefit. She did it because she cared.
You can hear and see tributes by visiting the BBC website: