Audrey Wise

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Audrey Wise (4 January 1932[note 1] – 2 September 2000)[1] was a British Labour Party politician and Member of Parliament.


She was born Audrey Brown in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the daughter of a former Labour councillor. She married her husband John, a dispensing optician, in 1953. At the age of 21 she became a Tottenham borough councillor. She served as MP for Coventry South West from February 1974 to 1979, a period of tenuous Labour Government with marginal or no majorities. Despite the left-wing government, "at Westminster in the 1970s she was regarded as something of a left-wing nuisance, a state of affairs that she viewed as necessary and desirable."[1] During the 1970s she was a leading member of the Institute for Workers' Control.[2] She visited Portugal in 1974 to report on and participate in the Carnation Revolution that overthrew the fascist dictatorship, recording her experiences and analysis in Eyewitness in Revolutionary Portugal. [3] She was famously arrested on the picket line during the Grunwick dispute where Asian women workers were striking for union recognition.[4]

With Jeff Rooker she co-authored the Rooker-Wise Amendment to Denis Healey's 1977 budget which sought to freeze many annual fiscal changes to mitigate global inflation; this amendment introduced retrospective inflation-proofing on personal tax allowances (the tax-free portion of individuals' earnings), and resulted in £450 million being returned to taxpayers.[1]

Losing her seat in the 1979 general election, she stood unsuccessfully in Woolwich in 1983. She was then elected as MP for Preston at the 1987 general election, which she held until her death. Wise was a member of the left-wing Campaign Group of Labour MPs. She was president of the shop staff union USDAW between 1991-97.[2] As a member of the health select committee, she persuaded the committee to hold an inquiry into maternity services. The report,[5] endorsed by the Conservative government, called for services to become more woman-centred, and recommended increased access to home births and water births.

The conflict between Audrey Wise and the Labour Whips was highlighted in the National Theatre play "This House" by James Graham in 2012.

She had a son and daughter, Ian Wise and Valerie Wise, who is also a political activist.


  1. ^ Wise gave her age as thirty-nine when nominated for the Coventry parliamentary seat, though she had just turned forty-two when she was elected in February 1974. Her date of birth was routinely reported as 1935 after this date, which often caused her "enormous difficulty" when asked in later years. See Jeuda, Diana (2004). "Wise, Audrey (1932–2000)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/74643.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.) and Chris Mullin in A View from the Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin (Profile Books, 2009, p127)


  1. ^ a b c Langdon, Julia; Wainwright, Hilary (5 September 2000). "Obituary: Audrey Wise". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Macfarlane, Alison. "Obituary: Audrey Wise". Radstats Journal (75). Retrieved 17 January 2009. 
  3. ^ Wise, Audrey (1975). Eyewitness in Revolutionary Portugal. Nottingham: Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation for Spokesman Books. ISBN 0851241336. 
  4. ^ "Obituary: Audrey Wise". The Daily Telegraph. 5 September 2000. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  5. ^ House of Commons Health Committee (1992) Second Report on the Maternity Services (Winterton report). HMSO: London

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Coventry South West
February 19741979
Succeeded by
John Butcher
Preceded by
Stan Thorne
Member of Parliament for Preston
Succeeded by
Mark Hendrick
Political offices
Preceded by
Sydney Tierney
President of USDAW
Succeeded by
Marge Carey