Michael Meacher

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Michael Meacher
Official portrait, c. 1997–1999
Minister of State for the Environment
In office
2 May 1997 – 13 June 2003
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byJohn Gummer
Succeeded byElliot Morley
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade
In office
5 April 1976 – 4 May 1979
Prime MinisterJames Callaghan
Preceded byStanley Clinton Davis
Succeeded byNorman Tebbit
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security
In office
12 June 1975 – 5 April 1976
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byAlec Jones
Succeeded byEric Deakins
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Industry
In office
7 March 1974 – 12 June 1975
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byPeter Emery
Succeeded byGerald Kaufman
Shadow Cabinet portfolios
Shadow Secretary of State
1989–1992Social Security
1983–1987Health and Social Services
1993–1994Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Shadow Minister
1992–1993Overseas Development
1993–1994Citizen's Charter
1996–1997Environmental Protection
Member of Parliament
for Oldham West and Royton
Oldham West (1970–97)
In office
18 June 1970 – 20 October 2015
Preceded byBruce Campbell
Succeeded byJim McMahon
Personal details
Michael Hugh Meacher

(1939-11-04)4 November 1939
Hemel Hempstead, England
Died20 October 2015(2015-10-20) (aged 75)
London, England
Political partyLabour
(m. 1962; div. 1987)
Lucianne Sawyer
(m. 1988)
Alma materNew College, Oxford
London School of Economics

Michael Hugh Meacher (4 November 1939 – 20 October 2015) was a British politician who served as a government minister under Harold Wilson, James Callaghan and Tony Blair. A member of the Labour Party, he was Member of Parliament (MP) for Oldham West and Royton, previously Oldham West, from 1970 until his death in 2015.

Before entering politics, Meacher was a lecturer in social administration at the University of Essex and the University of York.

Early life and education[edit]

Meacher was born in Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire on 4 November 1939, into a family with links to brewing and agriculture. He was the only child of (George) Hubert Meacher and his wife Doris (née Foxell). His father worked in finance, before a breakdown saw him return to the family farm.[1][2] With the family having little money, his mother took in lodgers and worked for a local doctor; she had aspirations for Michael to become an Anglican priest.[3] Hubert Meacher's first cousin was the judge Clement Bailhache.[4]

Meacher was educated at Berkhamsted School, at the time an all-boys independent school, to which he won a scholarship. He then studied at New College, Oxford where he graduated with a first-class honours degree in classics and divinity,[5] and at the London School of Economics, where he gained a Diploma in Social Administration.

Life and career[edit]

Meacher became a researcher and lecturer in social administration at the Essex and York universities and wrote a book about elderly people's treatment in mental hospitals. He was the Labour Party candidate for Colchester at the 1966 general election, and fought the 1968 Oldham West by-election following the resignation of Labour MP Leslie Hale but lost to Conservative candidate Bruce Campbell.[6]

In Parliament[edit]

Junior minister and Shadow Cabinet[edit]

Meacher was first elected to Parliament in 1970 for Oldham West, reversing his previous defeat, and served as a junior minister under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan (Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Industry, 1974–75; Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Security, 1975–79).[1]

During Labour's time in opposition, he was in the Shadow cabinet for fourteen years, and concurrently lectured at the LSE. He was seen as a figure on the left and an ally of Tony Benn, and stood as the left's candidate against Roy Hattersley in the 1983 deputy leadership election.[1]

Blair Ministry[edit]

Meacher was an elected member of the Shadow Cabinet from 1983 to 1997, but Tony Blair refused to appoint him to the Cabinet, and instead made him Minister of State for the Environment, first at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1997–2001), then at the renamed Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (2001–2003).[1]

Despite Blair's hostility, Meacher gained a reputation for being a politician who was on top of a complex brief[7] and was one of the longest serving ministers in the same job in the Labour Government, from 1997 to 2003. He was criticised for hypocrisy when he condemned second home owners; according to the BBC and Channel 4's The Mark Thomas Comedy Product, he and his wife owned more than five homes themselves.[8]

Political activities after 2003[edit]

Meacher was sacked in June 2003, and replaced by Elliot Morley. He subsequently attacked the Labour government on a number of issues, particularly over genetically modified food and the 2003 Iraq War, though in the run-up to the invasion he had accepted reports by the intelligence services and government, saying that Iraq had chemical weapons.[9]

Meacher claimed that a supposed absence of prevention by United States authorities of the September 11 attacks was "suspicious" and "offered an extremely convenient pretext" for subsequent military action in Afghanistan and Iraq.[10][11] This was seen as giving "credence to conspiracy theories" as claimed by The Guardian.[12] Meacher also wrote a foreword for David Ray Griffin's book The New Pearl Harbor.[13]

In May 2005, Meacher introduced an early day motion on climate change, which called upon the government to commit to yearly CO2 emission reductions of 3%.[14]

In June 2006 various articles appeared in the British media claiming Meacher would stand as a stalking horse against Tony Blair in order to initiate a leadership contest; others suggested, especially after Gordon Brown came out in support of the Trident missile programme and nuclear energy, that Meacher would challenge Brown from the left.

Meacher in 2005

On 23 September 2006, Meacher became the sixth Labour MP to start a blog.[15] Meacher also wrote articles for ePolitix.com, which included criticism of Blair and Brown for perceived right-wing policies, including privatisation. He also called for a more conciliatory policy in the Middle East, attempts to tackle income inequality, and a greater commitment to reducing energy use.[16]

On 22 February 2007, Meacher declared that he would be standing, challenging Brown and John McDonnell.[17] However, on 14 May, after talks with McDonnell, he announced he would stand aside in order to back McDonnell as the "candidate of the left".[18]

In December 2013, Meacher attacked the firm Atos and its Work Capability Assessments of disabled people carried out on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions, in a sustained campaign documented through his blog.[19][20] Meacher was one of 36 Labour MPs to nominate Jeremy Corbyn as a candidate in the leadership election of 2015.[21]

Leadership bid[edit]

On 22 February 2007, Meacher declared his intention to stand for the leadership of the Labour Party. The decisions of both Meacher and John McDonnell to run for the leadership were controversial[citation needed] with many accusing Meacher of trying to split the nominations and keep McDonnell off the ballot paper, although neither candidate was thought to have any chance of winning the contest.[22][23]

On 21 April 2007, The Guardian claimed that Meacher had the support of no more than three MPs and that his campaign was "virtually dead in the water".[24]

On 27 April 2007, it was reported that Meacher had reached an agreement with McDonnell that upon the day Blair announced his resignation, whichever of the two had fewer nominations would step aside and allow the other to challenge Gordon Brown.[1] On 14 May 2007, Meacher agreed to stand aside to allow McDonnell to be the sole leadership candidate of the left. Subsequent articles reported that Meacher had 21 declarations of support while McDonnell had 24. In the Labour Party's leadership nomination process, McDonnell received nominations from 29 MPs.[1]

Outside Parliament[edit]

Meacher appeared as himself in one episode of the BBC drama serial Edge of Darkness (1985).

In June 1988, Meacher lost a libel action against journalist Alan Watkins, who had written an article in November 1984 that included the remark that Meacher "likes to claim that he is the son of an agricultural labourer, though I understand that his father was an accountant who retired to work on the family farm because the life suited him better."[25][26]

Meacher was a member of Political Leaders for 9/11 Truth, which petitioned President Obama for an independent investigation into the September 11 attacks not led by "individuals closely aligned with, or even employed by, the Bush-Cheney administration."[27][non-primary source needed]

Meacher was a member of the Fabian Society.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Grave of Michael Meacher in Highgate Cemetery

Meacher married Molly Reid in 1962; they had four children and divorced in 1987. The following year, he married Lucianne Sawyer.[1] In January 2001, he faced claims of political hypocrisy, when it was revealed that he and Lucianne owned at least nine buy to let properties as investments.[28]

Meacher died from lung cancer at St George's Hospital in London on 20 October 2015, at the age of 75, and was buried on the western side of Highgate Cemetery.[1][29]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Hyman, Gavin (2019). "Meacher, Michael Hugh (1939–2015), politician". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/odnb/9780198614128.013.110822. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ "Obituary: Michael Meacher, politician". 22 October 2015.
  3. ^ Julia Langdon (21 October 2015). "Michael Meacher obituary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  4. ^ "The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/30530. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ The Times Obituary, 22 October 2015. P59
  6. ^ "Michael Meacher: Biography". Archived from the original on 24 February 2007. Retrieved 24 October 2006.
  7. ^ "Breaking politics and political news for Westminster and the UK – PoliticsHome.com". epolitix.com. Archived from the original on 17 May 2005.
  8. ^ Home, second home, BBC News Online, 6 September 2001.
  9. ^ "Meacher attacks 'fantasy' case for war". BBC News. 3 July 2003. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  10. ^ Michael Meacher (6 September 2003). "This war on terrorism is bogus". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  11. ^ Michael Meacher (22 July 2004). "The Pakistan connection". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  12. ^ David Aaronovitch (9 September 2003). "Has Meacher completely lost the plot?". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  13. ^ Peter Barber (7 June 2008). "The truth is out there". Financial Times. London.
  14. ^ "EDM Details". parliament.uk. Archived from the original on 13 January 2006.
  15. ^ "Michael Meacher – Labour MP For Oldham West & Royton". Michael Meacher.
  16. ^ Michael Meacher. "Don't exclude the centre-left: The debate over Labour's new direction must go beyond the Brownite right and the Blairite far-right". epolitix.com. Retrieved 8 May 2009.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "Meacher enters Labour leader race". BBC News. 22 February 2007.
  18. ^ "Yahoo News UK".
  19. ^ "Programme for action over Atos". Michael Meacher. 4 March 2013.
  20. ^ "Atos Disability Benefits Row: Scottish Doctors Slam DWP's 'Fit To Work' Tests At BMA Conference". The Huffington Post UK. 16 March 2013.
  21. ^ "Who nominated who for the 2015 Labour leadership election?". newstatesman.com. 8 June 2021.
  22. ^ Meacher denies he has been pressed to stand, The Guardian (London), 30 October 2006.
  23. ^ This battle over the political crumbs is pathetic, The Observer (London), 25 February 2007.
  24. ^ Hencke, David (21 April 2007). "Brown shows his hand to stifle challenge from left". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  25. ^ Mount, Ferdinand (15 May 2010). "Raise a glass to Alan Watkins". The Spectator.
  26. ^ "Alan Watkins". The Daily Telegraph. 9 May 2010.
  27. ^ Petition and Members List Political Leaders for 9/11 Truth (27 February 2015 accessed)
  28. ^ Hencke, David; Evans, Rob (19 January 2001). "The many homes of Michael Meacher". The Guardian.
  29. ^ Maume, Chris (22 October 2015). "Michael Meacher: Politician who served as environment minister and helped keep Labour's socialist soul alive". The Independent. Retrieved 3 November 2023.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament
for Oldham West and Royton
Oldham West (19701997)

Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Minister of State for the Environment
Succeeded by