Retiring MP's advice: "Keep your foot in the door"

For almost half her Westminster career, Ann Clwyd was the only Welsh woman MP. First elected at the 1984 Cynon Valley by-election, she was only the fourth woman ever elected for a Welsh constituency - and the first for an industrial seat.

"It was very difficult for women to break in, she says, "but the more difficult it was the more determined you became to really get your foot in the door. And this is what I always say to people: 'Keep your foot in the door. Don't take it out'. And as you get your foot firmly wedged in, the door will open wider as it did of course for me."

She says it was difficult for women to get selected in "quite macho" old industrial areas, where seats were often decided by backroom deals - "and women were not so good at backroom deals at that time".

Reflecting on her parliamentary life, she adds: "I was never quiet. Sometimes people said I said things not for my own good but actually I've always believed that if you've got something to say, say it regardless of the consequences for yourself".

She was sacked twice from the opposition front bench by Labour leaders Neil Kinnock and Tony Blair ("not many people can say that"), but blames "one particular whip" for both dismissals. "The whips operated in a very strange way here."

The second sacking came as whips said she was absent from Westminster without their position. She was visiting Turkey and Northern Iraq at the time in her role as a foreign affairs spokeswoman: "Someone once said 'if you're looking for Ann Clwyd, she's not on holiday, she visits the hellholes of the world'.".

She hopes to spend her retirement from the Commons travelling in warmer climes (avoiding hellholes) and enjoying her passion for photography.

She will also continue to "shout long and hard" for improvements to the NHS, campaigns that have won her two awards.

But what about the House of Lords?

"Well what about the House of Lords?"

Would you like to go there?

"I have no aspirations to go anywhere except the things I've talked about already, to stand and stare, to get my breath back and hopefully to still be able to do some good in the world and in my own constituency."

I suspect I may just have interviewed the future Baroness Clwyd of Cynon Valley.