Tessa Jowell has said that she is to retire as the MP for Dulwich and West Norwood at the next general election. Photograph: Josh Kearns/Rex.
Dame Tessa Jowell, one of the driving forces behind the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics, has announced that she is to stand down from parliament at the next election.
The popular MP, who served as a minister for Labour‘s entire 13 years in office, won praise from across the political spectrum as she announced the move to allow her to concentrate on an academic career.
Jowell, MP for Dulwich from 1992-97 and Dulwich and West Norwood since 1997, will take up a post at the London School of Economics. But she will be seen as one of the frontrunners to be Labour’s candidate for London mayor in 2016.
She was a strong supporter of Tony Blair and was one of the ministers who urged him to stay as prime minister when he thought of resigning in 2004 after the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
But her greatest achievement was in persuading Blair – in her role as culture, media and sports secretary – to support the London 2012 bid in 2005. She served as the culture secretary between 2001-07 but held the additional post of Olympics minister from the announcement that London had won the Games in 2005 until Labour left office in 2010. She remain involved in the Olympics as shadow minister and as a member of the London 2012 organising committee.
Ed Miliband and Blair led the tributes to Jowell for her role in winning the 2012 bid and then helping to organise the highly successful games.
In a letter to Jowell, the Labour leader said: “Our greatest legacy is bringing the Olympics to Britain. Every great moment in a nation’s cultural or sporting life needs people who see the possibilities and dare to dream. That was you.
“It was your vision, ambition and imagination which won over Tony Blair and laid the ground first for our winning bid, and then for the creation of a truly remarkable team that delivered the most ambitious project this country has delivered. Your legacy is enormous. The Olympics would not have been possible without your determination and dedication, both in championing the bid and playing a major role in delivering the Games. For this, we owe you a huge debt of gratitude.
“I want to thank you personally for being a great friend and supporter to me. It is a great credit to you that the same would have been said by all my predecessors.”
Blair said: “Tessa Jowell is a very unusual type in the often brutal world of politics. She is immensely able, tough minded and determined. But at the same time and with the same people, she is kind, decent and loyal in a way I have seldom seen in politics. I always knew I could rely on her and trust her 100%. But I also knew she would never hesitate to tell me what she thought was right and true. That gave and gives her a rare integrity.”
Lord Coe, the double Olympic 1,500m champion who was the only other senior figure apart from Jowell to oversee the games from the moment London won the right to host the games in 2005, said: “I’m very sorry that Tessa has decided to step down from constituency life. It goes without saying that both her constituents and parliamentarians from all sides of the House will miss her.
“She was the political driving force behind our bid to host the London Olympic and Paralympic Games and an inseparable part of their ultimate success. I will be forever grateful for the role she played in both.”