Austin Mitchell

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Austin Mitchell
Austin Mitchell.jpg
Opposition Whip
In office
July 1979 – July 1985
LeaderJames Callaghan
Michael Foot
Neil Kinnock
Shadow Spokesperson For Trade and Industry
In office
July 1988 – July 1989
LeaderNeil Kinnock
Member of Parliament
for Great Grimsby
In office
28 April 1977 – 30 March 2015
Preceded byAnthony Crosland
Succeeded byMelanie Onn
Majority714 (2.2%)
Personal details
Born (1934-09-19) 19 September 1934 (age 85)
Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
Political partyLabour
Spouse(s)Linda McDougall
Alma materUniversity of Manchester
Nuffield College, Oxford

Austin Vernon Mitchell (born 19 September 1934)[1] is a British Labour Party politician who was the Member of Parliament for Great Grimsby from a 1977 by-election to 2015.[2] He is the Chair of the Labour Euro-Safeguards Campaign.[3]

Early life, education and educating others[edit]

Born in Bradford, Mitchell was educated at Woodbottom Council School in Baildon,[4] Bingley Grammar School, the University of Manchester (BA; MA) where he read History, and Nuffield College, Oxford, graduating with a Doctor of Philosophy degree on "The Whigs in opposition, 1815–1830" in 1963.[5]

From 1959–63, he lectured in history at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. While lecturing in sociology, from 1963–67, at the University of Canterbury, Mitchell wrote a popular book about New Zealand, The Half Gallon Quarter Acre Pavlova Paradise (1972). The book title became a phrase in the New Zealand English lexicon. In the 1960s and 70s, New Zealand remained a milder version of the socialist laboratory it had been since 1935. In the 80s and 90s, the same socialist Labour party's government transformed it into an open market economy. These drastic changes provided ample subject matter for social analysis and, 30 years later, Mitchell wrote Pavlova Paradise Revisited (2002) as well as a video series accessible on NZ on Screen, after another New Zealand expedition. From 1967–69, Mitchell was an Official Fellow at Nuffield College.[6]

Mitchell was a founding member of the University of Canterbury Political Science Department in 1963, supporting it breaking away from former conjoint with the History Department. In 2015, he returned to the University of Canterbury as a Canterbury Visiting Fellow. The Canterbury Visiting Fellowship is generously paid for by the University of Canterbury and administered by the Erskine Programme. Austin is lecturing on "Britain and New Zealand - The Great Unravelling' looking at the evolution of recent British politics, drawing analogies in each section with parallel developments and implications for New Zealand to examine all worldwide trends in the evolution of liberal English speaking democracies.[7][8][9]

He was a journalist at ITV company Yorkshire Television from 1969 to 1977, presenting their regional news programme Calendar, although he spent a short period at the BBC in 1972. During his period at Yorkshire, Mitchell chaired a tense live studio discussion involving Brian Clough and Don Revie, immediately following Clough's sacking by Leeds United in 1974.[10]

Political career[edit]

He was elected to Parliament at a by-election in 1977, following the death of the previous MP, the Foreign Secretary Tony Crosland. At the time Mitchell identified himself as a Gaitskellite.

Mitchell supported the introduction of television cameras to the House of Commons, raising it for discussion in 1983.[11] The move opened the proceedings of the House to the wider public, who previously had only been able to follow via newspapers and, from 1978, radio. In 1986, following the John Stalker inquiry to alleged Royal Ulster Constabulary "shoot-to-kill" policies in Northern Ireland, a policeman Chief Inspector Brian Woollard claimed he had been removed from the inquiry by a group of freemasons; Mitchell backed Woollard and argued that there should be a national register of all people in authority who are freemasons.[12]

In October 2002, he temporarily changed his name to Austin Haddock as haddock is a staple catch for his constituents that was suffering a decline and it was his wish to promote it.[13]

He was chair of the Parliamentary All-Party Photography Group and campaigned for the recognition of photographers' rights after an over-zealous police officer deleted photographs, without his permission from his camera's memory card at the 2005 Labour Conference in Brighton.[14][15][16][17][18][19]

In 2007, Mitchell wrote a front-page article for The Independent newspaper in which he criticised the treatment of a family of asylum-seekers in his constituency. This article quoted him as saying that certain correspondents on the subject to the website of the local newspaper, the Grimsby Telegraph, were "lumpen lunatics."[20] The Grimsby Telegraph covered the response in which it stood by the MP but also reported that a number of readers had called for his resignation.[21]

He is a member of the Socialist Campaign Group – although this affiliation did not prevent him from nominating Gordon Brown (rather than John McDonnell) for the 2007 Labour Party leadership election. As a supporter of the Better Off Out campaign, Mitchell is a Eurosceptic and he opposes the Common Fisheries Policy. He supported Leave in the 2016 referendum on EU membership, and he has commented that 'the EU is a racket run at Britain’s expense, a system bonding national elites together to ignore the people'.[22]

Mitchell is also a keen supporter of the Additional Member System, (the electoral system used in elections to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly), and called a Private Members' Debate on this issue on 1 December 2009.

During 2010, Mitchell participated in Tower Block of Commons, a Channel 4 documentary where MPs live in tower blocks and in with ordinary residents in deprived areas. Mitchell, who insisted on living in his own flat with his wife instead of living with the local residents,[23] was criticised for his apparent lack of engagement in comparison to his Liberal Democrat and Conservative counterparts. He claimed the production company misled him.[24] Mitchell is the President of the Debating Group.[25]

In April 2014, Mitchell announced that he would not be standing in the next general election.[26]

Expenses claims[edit]

As part of an independent audit conducted after the United Kingdom Parliamentary expenses scandal of 2009, in which expense claims between 2004 and 2008 for second homes were examined, Mitchell was discovered to have wrongly claimed £10,549 for mortgage repayments. He explained that this was as a result of an oversight in 2006; in January 2010, he issued an apology and repaid the funds.[27][28][29]

Twitter controversy[edit]

On 29 October 2012, Mitchell directed a tweet at former Conservative MP Louise Mensch, saying "A good wife doesn’t disagree with her master in public and a good little girl doesn’t lie about why she quit politics." He also referred to Mensch as "Menschkin." The comments were widely condemned as being sexist, with Mensch demanding an apology from both Mitchell and Ed Miliband. Mitchell responded that he was being "ironic".[30]

Personal life[edit]

Austin lives with his second wife, the journalist and author Linda McDougall, whom he married in 1976 in Rochdale and with whom he has a son and daughter. He was previously married to Patricia, with whom he had 2 daughters.

Mitchell has taken photographs for and co-authored the book Parliament in Pictures: Inside the House of Commons and the House of Lords (ISBN 9780500019597).

In July 2013, Mitchell underwent heart surgery at King's College Hospital, London, to repair a leaking valve.[31]


  1. ^ "Austin Mitchell". UK Parliament.
  2. ^ "Austin Vernon MITCHELL". Debrett's People of Today. Archived from the original on 11 November 2014. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
  3. ^ "Site de Rencontre Lacelibertine. Site de Rencontres Sérieux P Lacelibertine". Archived from the original on 26 January 2016. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  4. ^ Austin Mitchell, Reminiscing - WOODBOTTOM DAYS
  5. ^ ‘MITCHELL, Austin Vernon’, Who's Who 2014, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2014
  6. ^ Mitchell, Austin (2002). "Pavalova Paradise Revisted". Macdougal North Production. New Zealand. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  7. ^ Manager, Erskine (1 March 2014). "Information for Potential Erskine Fellows" (PDF). The University of Canterbury. Christchurch New Zealand. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  8. ^ Haywood, Bronwyn (1 January 2015). "Austin Mitchell is the Erskine Fellow for 2016". The University of Canterbury. Christchurch New Zealand. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  9. ^ Haywood, Bronwyn (1 January 2015). "Political Science Course 334 2016 Summer Course". The University of Canterbury. Christchurch New Zealand. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  10. ^ Part 1 of full program video on YouTube Broadcast on the documentary Yorkshire Gold, Yorkshire Television, ITV, 2004.
  11. ^ "The rise and effect of MP TV". BBC News. 2 May 2003. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  12. ^ "Power of the Masons - Myth of Menace?". Sunday People. 13 July 1986.
  13. ^ "MP changes name to Haddock". BBC News. 1 October 2002. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  14. ^ "'Isis' terror stop 'ridiculous', says Austin Mitchell". Amateur Photographer. 27 October 2014. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  15. ^ "BBC NEWS | UK | Magazine | Innocent photographer or terrorist?". 17 April 2008. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  16. ^ "Photography review 'a big advance', says Austin Mitchell MP - Amateur Photographer". Amateur Photographer. 2 February 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  17. ^ "Know Your Photography Rights | PhotographyBLOG". Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  18. ^ "BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | MP's anger after camera is seized". 28 September 2005. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  19. ^ "MP fights for photographers' rights | g7uk". 5 April 2008. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  20. ^ "Austin Mitchell: Treatment of model family makes me ashamed to be a Labour MP". The Independent. London. 1 February 2007. Archived from the original on 25 July 2008. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  21. ^ Grimsby Telegraph, Friday, 2 February 2007, pp. 1, 4–5
  22. ^ retrieved 3 January 2020.
  23. ^ Robert Epstein (7 February 2010). "Tower Block of Commons, Channel 4True Stories: Moving to Mars, More4 – Reviews – TV & Radio". The Independent. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  24. ^ Sparrow, Andrew (17 February 2010). "I was a fool to appear in Tower Block of Commons, says MP Austin Mitchell". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  25. ^ "The Debating Group". The Debating Group. 24 March 2014. Archived from the original on 5 April 2015. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  26. ^ "Veteran Labour MP Austin Mitchell to step down". BBC News. BBC. 16 April 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014.
  27. ^ "MPs' expenses: Austin Mitchell repays £10,000". The Daily Telegraph. London. 26 January 2010. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  28. ^ "Veteran Labour MP repays £10,500". BBC News. 25 January 2010. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  29. ^ Bentley, Daniel (26 January 2010). "MP apologises for £10,000 expenses error". The Independent. London. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  30. ^ Quinn, Ben (30 October 2012). "Labour MP defends 'ironic' Louise Mensch tweet". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  31. ^ "Austin Mitchell, Grimsby Labour MP, has heart surgery". BBC News. BBC. 23 July 2013. Retrieved 23 July 2013.

External links[edit]

News items[edit]

Video clips[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Anthony Crosland
Member of Parliament for Great Grimsby
Succeeded by
Melanie Onn
Party political offices
Preceded by
Andrew McIntosh
Chair of the Fabian Society
1986 – 1987
Succeeded by
Nick Butler