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Tessa Jane Helena Douglas Jowell (born 17 September 1947) is a Britishmarker Labour politician, who has been the Member of Parliament for Dulwich and West Norwoodmarker since 1992. Since 2001, she has been a Cabinet Minister, and currently holds the positions of Minister for the Olympics, Minister for the Cabinet Office, Minister for London and the Paymaster General.

Early life

Tessa Palmer was born in Marylebonemarker, Londonmarker to Rosemary Palmer, a radiographer, and her husband Kenneth, a doctor. She was educated at the public school St Margaret's School for Girlsmarker in Aberdeenmarker, 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 Northmarker but lost Labour's majority to the Conservatives.

Member of Parliament

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.

In government

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.Jowell 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 the future of 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 on BBC News 24 after it was criticised on the same grounds by the Lambert Report. She was also responsible for the Communications Act 2003 which established a new media regulator, OFCOMmarker. It also relaxed regulations on ownership of UK television stations, though a "public interest" test was introduced as a compromise after a rebellion in the House of Lordsmarker. In 2004, Jowell faced resistance to proposals for a series of Las Vegasmarker style casinos. Jowell has also had to deal with complaints that the National Lottery has been directed to fund programmes that should be covered by mainstream taxation. Jowell 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 UK Film production.

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.

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.

Gordon Brown promoted her back into the cabinet in his 2009 reshuffle, to the position of Minister for the Cabinet Office.

Voting record

How Tessa Jowell voted on key issues since 2001( They Work For You):
  • Voted against a transparent Parliament.
  • Voted for introducing a smoking ban.
  • Voted for introducing ID cards.
  • Voted for introducing foundation hospitals.
  • Voted for introducing student top-up fees.
  • Voted for anti-terrorism laws.
  • Voted for the Iraq war.
  • Voted against investigating the Iraq war.
  • Voted for replacing Trident.
  • Voted for the hunting ban.
  • Voted for equal gay rights.



Jowell's husband David Mills has acted for Silvio Berlusconi, Italian Prime Minister. This has been a cause of controversy, as Mills is being investigated in Italymarker for money laundering and alleged tax fraud. Jowell was investigated by the Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell over the allegations surrounding her husband because of a potential clash of interest between her personal life and ministerial duties. However, Sir Gus 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, and Tony Blair decided she was clear of any wrongdoing.

On 4 March 2006, it was announced that Jowell and Mills separated after the allegations began to damage Jowell's political reputation. Their professed hopes to "restore their relationship over time" rather than seek divorce have caused some to regard this as merely a politically expedient gesture to save her political career at the expense of her husband. Allegedly David Mills had admitted to being an "idiot" and has expressed his remorse about the impact of his dealings upon Tessa Jowell, who continues to claim she was not in on the deal. The affair has been termed "Jowellgate" by parts of the press.On February 17 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[20]. His defence counsel said that he would appeal and that the sentence went "against the logic and dynamic of the evidence presented." Ms Jowell said "although we are separated I have never doubted his innocence."

Other Controversies

In 2001 Jowell received widespread criticism for interference in ITC rulings on complaints regarding the television programme Brass Eye. The Guardian newspaper was one such critic suggesting "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". The ITC reminded Jowell she should not be interfering in their processes, resulting in a Channel Four interviewer suggesting Jowell and her colleagues "must feel like idiots".

In 2003, she received unfavourable tabloid press who? coverage when her departmental "Christmas" cards avoided any reference to the Christmas story. More recently (2006), she has been heavily criticised for likely cost over-runs on the London Olympics project, which came under the umbrella of her former department. Jowell was among a number of ministers accused of hypocrisy by who? for opposing Post Office closures in their own constituencies while supporting the Government's closure strategy at the national level.

Personal life

Jowell's first marriage was to fellow Camden councillormarker Roger Jowell in 1970. This was dissolved in 1976. She continues to use his surname. Roger Jowell co-founded and directed Social & Community Planning Research (SCPR), now the National Centre for Social Research, known for its British Social Attitudes Surveys.

Jowell's second marriage, on 17 March 1979, was to lawyer David Mills. They separated in 2006. She has a son and daughter and three step-children.


  1. 'The Observer' Profile by Martin Bright 22.02.09

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