Tessa Jowell

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The Right Honourable
Dame Tessa Jowell
Tessa Jowell.jpg
Minister for the Olympics
In office
6 July 2005 – 11 May 2010
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Gordon Brown
Preceded by Office Created
Succeeded by Jeremy Hunt
Minister for the Cabinet Office
In office
5 June 2009 – 11 May 2010
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Liam Byrne
Succeeded by Francis Maude
Paymaster General
In office
28 June 2007 – 11 May 2010
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Dawn Primarolo
Succeeded by Francis Maude
Minister for London
In office
5 June 2009 – 11 May 2010
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Tony McNulty
Succeeded by Office Abolished
In office
28 June 2007 – 3 October 2008
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Jim Fitzpatrick
Succeeded by Tony McNulty
Secretary of State for Culture,
Media and Sport
In office
8 June 2001 – 27 June 2007
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Chris Smith
Succeeded by James Purnell
Minister for Women
In office
5 May 2005 – 5 May 2006
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Patricia Hewitt
Succeeded by Ruth Kelly
Member of Parliament
for Dulwich and West Norwood
Dulwich (1992–1997)
Assumed office
9 April 1992
Preceded by Gerald Bowden
Majority 9,365 (19.4%)
Personal details
Born (1947-09-17) 17 September 1947 (age 67)
Marylebone, London, England, UK
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Roger Jowell (divorced)
David Mills (separated)
Children 2 (+ 3 stepchildren)
Alma mater University of Edinburgh
University of Aberdeen
Goldsmiths, University of London

Dame Tessa Jane Jowell DBE (born 17 September 1947) is a British Labour Party politician, who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Dulwich and West Norwood since 1992. Formerly a member of both the Blair and Brown Cabinets, she was Shadow Minister for the Olympics and Shadow Minister for London until 11 September 2012, resigning two days after the end of the London 2012 Olympic Games. In November 2013, she announced that she intended to stand down as a constituency MP "after the next (2015) election".[1] In 2014 she was reported to be planning a bid to run in the election for Mayor of London in 2016.[2]

Early life[edit]

Tessa Jane Helen Palmer was born in Marylebone, London to Dr. Kenneth Palmer, a physician, and his wife, Rosemary, a radiographer.[3]

She was educated at the independent school St Margaret's School for Girls in Aberdeen, the University of Aberdeen, the University of Edinburgh and Goldsmiths College, University of London. She became a social worker and eventually administrator of the mental health charity Mind. In 1978, she was Labour Party candidate in a by-election in Ilford North but lost Labour's majority to the Conservatives. She also stood in Ilford North, again unsuccessfully, at the 1979 general election.[citation needed]

Member of Parliament[edit]

Elected as MP for Dulwich at the 1992 general election, she was successively appointed as an opposition spokesman on health, an opposition whip and spokesman on women before returning to the shadow health team in 1996.[citation needed]

In government[edit]

Jowell was appointed as Minister of State in the Department of Health after the 1997 Labour electoral landslide. She moved, again as Minister of State, to the Department for Education and Employment in 1999. She was appointed Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport after the 2001 election, replacing the sacked Chris Smith.

One of her main concerns as Culture Secretary was television broadcasting. She blocked the BBC's original plans for the digital channel BBC3 on the grounds that they were insufficiently different from commercial offerings, and imposed extra conditions[4] on BBC News 24 after it was criticized on the same grounds by the "Lambert Report".[5] She was responsible for the Communications Act 2003 which established a new media regulator, OFCOM. It also relaxed regulations on ownership of British television stations, though a "public interest" test was introduced as a compromise after a rebellion in the House of Lords. In 2004, Jowell faced resistance to proposals for a series of Las Vegas-style casinos. She dealt with complaints that the National Lottery has been directed to fund programmes that should be covered by mainstream taxation. She oversaw a restructuring of the Arts funding system but lost out in the 2004/5 spending round resulting in a cut in her departmental budget and the loss of tax credits for British Film production. In 2007 Jowell introduced a new governance system for the BBC - the BBC Trust which replaced the established board of governors. In 2012 The BBC Trust was shown to be not fit for purpose and lead to the resignation of the Director General.[6][7]

Jowell was a strong supporter of the then Prime Minister Tony Blair, reportedly saying on one occasion that she would "jump under a bus" for him.[8][9]

In Gordon Brown's reshuffle in June 2007 following his succession as Prime Minister, Jowell was demoted from her position as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. She retained her Olympics portfolio and was also appointed Paymaster General and Minister for London, being allowed to attend the cabinet, but not as a full member. She was further demoted on 3 October 2008, losing her Minister for London role to Tony McNulty, and only being allowed to attend cabinet when her responsibility is on the agenda, as opposed to always attending. Brown promoted her back into the cabinet in his 2009 reshuffle, to the position of Minister for the Cabinet Office.

Jowell was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2012 Birthday Honours for political and charitable services in particular the Olympics.[10][11]

Political positions[edit]

Jowell was very supportive of New Labour and was fully loyal to its agenda, earning herself a strong reputation as a Blairite. In 2007, she supported Hazel Blears for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party. In 2009, she was touted as a possible Cabinet minister who could resign over the leadership of Gordon Brown in order to trigger a leadership contest, however she never did. In Opposition, Jowell supported David Miliband's campaign to become Leader of the Labour Party but remained in Ed Miliband's shadow cabinet. She has been involved in the Blue Labour movement in the Labour Party and was a contributor to The Purple Book, drawing on her background on the right of the Labour Party.

London 2012 Olympics[edit]

Jowell notably was in charge of London's successful bid to host the 2012 Olympics. She came up with the idea, during her time as Culture Secretary in 2002 when there was said to be very little support from within the Cabinet with many thinking that Paris would win. However, Jowell convinced the Government to support the bid and went ahead with it. In 2004 she launched the bid and then when it was successful she was appointed Olympics Minister, on top of her post as Culture Secretary, with full ministerial responsibility over the Olympics bid in 2006. In the bid, the cost of the Olympics was estimated to be £2.47bn this had jumped to £9.3bn by 2007.[12] Despite being moved from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in 2007, she kept her job as Olympics Minister throughout Labour's time in office. In May 2010, she was made Shadow Olympics Minister and spoke on behalf of the new Labour Opposition on the Olympics a job she has done ever since. She remained on the Olympics organising committee with Lord Coe and Jeremy Hunt even though she was no longer a Government minister. She was made Deputy Mayor of the Olympics Village because she was responsible for making the Olympics take place. She resigned from her role as Shadow Minister for the Olympics in September 2012 and returned to the backbenches. She will step down from Parliament in the 2015 election.


Jowell, Mills and Berlusconi[edit]

Jowell's husband David Mills, an international corporate solicitor, has acted for Silvio Berlusconi, Italian Prime Minister. Mills was investigated in Italy for money laundering and alleged tax fraud.[13][14]

Jowell was investigated by the Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell over the allegations surrounding her husband because of a potential clash of interest between her personal life and ministerial duties. However, O'Donnell stated that "it is the Prime Minister, not me, who, constitutionally, is the right and proper person to take a view on matters arising based on the Ministerial Code" in his letter,[15] and Tony Blair decided she was clear of any wrongdoing.[16]

On 4 March 2006, it was announced that Jowell and Mills had separated after the allegations began to damage Jowell's political reputation. Jowell said "although we are separated I have never doubted his innocence."[17] Mills allegedly admitted to being an "idiot" and has expressed his remorse about the impact of his dealings upon Jowell, who has continued to claim she was not in on the deal. (The separation had effectively ended by September 2012.)[18]

On 17 February 2009, an Italian court sentenced David Mills to four years and six months in jail for accepting a bribe from Silvio Berlusconi to give false evidence on his behalf in corruption trials in 1997 and 1998. His defence counsel said that the sentence went "against the logic and dynamic of the evidence presented". The judgment was appealed by Mills. On 27 October 2009, the Italian Appeal Court upheld his conviction and his sentence of 4½ years prison. He confirmed that he would initiate a second and final appeal to the Cassation Court[19]

On 25 February 2010, the Italian Cassation Court (the second and last court of appeal under Italian law) ruled a sentence of not guilty because the statute of limitations expired.[20][21] The supreme court judges ruled that he received the money in 1999, and not 2000 as prosecutors had previously argued. He was ordered to pay €250,000 compensation to the office of the Italian prime minister for "damaging its reputation".[22]

Other controversies[edit]

In 2001, Jowell was widely criticized for interfering in ITC rulings on complaints regarding Brass Eye. The Guardian newspaper suggested that "for the culture secretary to speak directly to the head of a TV network about a specific programme smacks of the Soviet commissar and the state broadcaster".[23][24][25] The ITC reminded Jowell that she should not be interfering in their processes, resulting in a Channel Four interviewer suggesting Jowell and her colleagues "must feel like idiots".[26]

In 2006, Jowell was heavily criticised for likely cost over-runs on the London 2012 Summer Olympics project, which came under the umbrella of her former department.[27] She was among a number of ministers accused of hypocrisy for opposing Post Office closures in their own constituencies while supporting the Government's closure strategy at the national level.[28]

Jowell was Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport during the News of the World phone hacking scandal (pre-2007).[29] No evidence has been presented that she knew or played a role in the phone hacking practices. Clive Goodman, an editor, was jailed for four months in January 2007, and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator, was jailed for six months.[30]

In May 2014 a temporary personal assistant to Richard Scudamore, Chief Executive of the UK Premier League, read private emails between Scudamore and colleagues and friends which included comments about women's football, which the PA felt to be inappropriate. She passed them on to national newspaper, the Daily Mirror. Jowell defended the reading and passing on of the emails, claiming that, "In the world of social media and email, there is no public and private."[31]

Personal life[edit]

Jowell's first marriage was to fellow Camden councillor Roger Jowell in 1970. This was dissolved in 1976, but she continues to use his surname.[32] Roger Jowell co-founded and directed Social & Community Planning Research (SCPR), now the National Centre for Social Research,[33] known for its British Social Attitudes Surveys. She married Mills on 17 March 1979. They separated in March 2006, following the controversy over Mills links to Berlusconi. Their professed hopes to "restore their relationship over time" rather than seek divorce caused some to regard this as merely a politically expedient gesture to save her political career at the expense of her husband.[34][35] Jowell said on Radio 4's Woman's Hour programme in September 2012 that she was seeing Mills regularly, saying that they had "reached a state of stability which I never thought possible."[18] She has a son and daughter, as well as three stepchildren from Mills' first marriage.

In January 2011, during the News of the World phone hacking affair, it was revealed that Jowell had contacted lawyers as she attempted to find out who hacked into her phone on 28 separate occasions in 2006. Jowell contacted police in late January 2011 to inform them that there had recently been an unsuccessful attempt to listen to messages on her phone.[36] She became a Dame of the British Empire in the 2012 Birthday Honours list.[37]


  1. ^ "Labour's Tessa Jowell to stand down as MP at next election". BBC News Online. 21 November 2013. Archived from the original on 21 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "Jowell plans to run for London mayor". bbc.co.uk. 2014-11-22. Retrieved 2014-11-22. 
  3. ^ Profile in The Observer by Martin Bright, 22 February 2009
  4. ^ "BBC news channel told to change". BBC News. 5 December 2002. Archived from the original on 14 August 2003. 
  5. ^ Lambert, Richard (2002). "Independent review of BBC News 24" (PDF). Dept. for Culture, Media and Sport. OCLC 52120057 
  6. ^ Dyke, Greg (23 November 2012). "The BBC can get out of this hole". The Daily Telegraph (London). Archived from the original on 24 November 2012. 
  7. ^ Bbc#cite note-34
  8. ^ Tweedie, Neil (28 February 2006). "Time for Jowell to jump may be near". The Daily Telegraph (London). Archived from the original on 12 November 2012. 
  9. ^ Bright, Martin (22 February 2009). "Profile: Tessa Jowell: A loyalist to the bitter end". The Observer (London: The Guardian). Archived from the original on 1 March 2009. 
  10. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 60173. p. 6. 16 June 2012.
  11. ^ "DBE". BBC News Online. 15 June 2012. Archived from the original on 16 June 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2012. 
  12. ^ Boykoff, Jules (4 April 2012). "What is the real price of London Olympics". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 4 April 2012. 
  13. ^ Richard Owen and Sam Coates (22 February 2006). "How Jowell's husband played host to Berlusconi at the Garrick Club". The Times (London). Archived from the original on 11 February 2008. (registration required (help)). 
  14. ^ Tweedie, Neil; Clarke, Hilary (22 February 2006). "Jowell has nothing to do with Italian bribe allegations, insists her husband". 'The Daily Telegraph (London). Archived from the original on 10 February 2009. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  15. ^ "In Full: Tessa Jowell inquiry letter". BBC News. 2 March 2006. Archived from the original on 21 February 2009. 
  16. ^ "Blair clears Jowell of wrongdoing". BBC News. 2 March 2006. Archived from the original on 29 May 2006. 
  17. ^ Popham, Peter; Brown, Colin; Beard, Matthew (2 March 2006). "Jowellgate: Italian judge will press charges over bribery allegations". The Independent on Sunday (London). Archived from the original on 4 June 2008. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  18. ^ a b "Dame Tessa Jowell reconciles with husband David Mills". The Daily Telegraph (London). 19 September 2012. Retrieved 14 December 2014. 
  19. ^ Guy Dinmore. "Italian judges reject Mills appeal". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. (subscription required (help)). 
  20. ^ "David Mills bribery conviction quashed by appeals court". BBC. 25 February 2010. Archived from the original on 1 March 2010. Retrieved 27 February 2010. 
  21. ^ "Mills decision a boost for Berlusconi". The Irish Times. 27 February 2010. Archived from the original on 29 October 2010. Retrieved 22 August 2010. 
  22. ^ Pisa, Nick (26 February 2010). "Tessa Jowell's estranged husband David Mills 'very relieved' after Italian court quashes bribery conviction". Daily Mail (London). Archived from the original on 27 February 2010. 
  23. ^ "Brass Eye was degrading: But the government is wrong to interfere". The Guardian (London). 31 July 2001. Archived from the original on 30 March 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  24. ^ Ward, Lucy (30 July 2001). "TV spoof to bring tougher regulation". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 9 April 2008. 
  25. ^ "Programme causes predictable storm". BBC News. 30 July 2001. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. 
  26. ^ Jury, Louise (30 July 2001). "It was C4's most vetted programme. So how did it attract a record number of complaints". The Independent (London). Archived from the original on 8 September 2011. 
  27. ^ Campbell, Denis (19 November 2006). "Revealed: the true cost of Olympics". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 24 April 2008. 
  28. ^ Wintour, Patrick; Allegra Stratton (13 November 2008). "£1bn contract will save 3,000 post offices from closure". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 4 February 2009. 
  29. ^ "Q&A: News of the World phone-hacking scandal". BBC News Online. 17 August 2011. Archived from the original on 7 September 2010. 
  30. ^ "Pair jailed over royal phone taps". 26 January 2007. Archived from the original on 30 March 2014. 
  31. ^ "Richard Scudamore comments 'undermine women's game'". BBC Sport. 11 May 2014. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  32. ^ "The Minister And A £350,000 'Gift'". tmc.net. 23 February 2006. 
  33. ^ "NCCR". Archived from the original on 4 September 1999. 
  34. ^ "Tessa Jowell splits from husband". BBC News. 4 March 2006. Archived from the original on 23 November 2006. The culture secretary and her husband are to separate after the 'strains' of allegations about their finances. 
  35. ^ "'She just wanted to lie down and rest. She was devastated'". The Daily Telegraph (London). 5 March 2006. Retrieved 25 May 2010. [dead link]
  36. ^ Nicholas Watt, James Robinson and Dan Sabbagh (27 January 2011). "Phone-hacking row escalates as Tessa Jowell speaks out". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 28 January 2011. 
  37. ^ "Birthday Honours 2012 - full list". The Independent (London). 16 June 2012. Archived from the original on 17 June 2012. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Gerald Bowden
Member of Parliament for Dulwich
Succeeded by
Constituency Abolished
Preceded by
Constituency Created
Member of Parliament for Dulwich and West Norwood
Political offices
Preceded by
Chris Smith
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
Succeeded by
James Purnell
Preceded by
Patricia Hewitt
Minister for Women
Succeeded by
Ruth Kelly
Preceded by
Office Created
Minister for the Olympics
Succeeded by
Jeremy Hunt
Preceded by
Jim Fitzpatrick
Minister for London
Succeeded by
Tony McNulty
Preceded by
Dawn Primarolo
Paymaster General
Succeeded by
Francis Maude
Preceded by
Liam Byrne
Minister for the Cabinet Office
Preceded by
Tony McNulty
Minister for London
Succeeded by
Office Abolished