Wales politics

Battling MP who faces fight to keep seat

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Media captionAnn Clwyd spent 27 hours underground to save Tower colliery from closure

Although she has become well known in recent years for raising concerns about the NHS, perhaps the abiding image of Ann Clwyd for many dates back two decades to the many hours she spent deep underground.

In 1994, she staged a sit-in at Tower Colliery, near Hirwaun, in protest at British Coal's decision to close the pit.

The miners were given the go-ahead to re-open the colliery the following year, after pooling their redundancy money to take it over.

MP for Cynon Valley since winning a by-election in 1984, following five years as an MEP, Ms Clwyd has been sacked twice as a Labour spokesperson for failing to toe the party line.

In 1988 she lost her job as shadow minister for education and women's rights after defying the whips over the Conservative government's spending on nuclear weapons.

Seven years later she was dismissed again, as opposition spokesperson on foreign affairs, for missing a Commons vote without permission from party whips after travelling to the Iraqi-Turkish border to witness the plight of the Kurds.

Persistent critic

As a member of the International Development Select Committee from 1997 to 2005, Ms Clwyd again raised concerns about the situation in Iraq, and the then Prime Minister Tony Blair made her a special envoy on human rights there in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.

Image caption Ann Clwyd was first elected Labour MP for Cynon Valley in a by-election in 1984

Elected chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party in 2005, it was suggested her perceived closeness to Mr Blair was behind her failure to get re-elected to the position the following year.

More recently, Ms Clwyd's concerted campaign over standards in the NHS began when she complained movingly in the House of Commons in 2012 about the care her husband received at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff in the days leading up to his death.

An internal health board inquiry upheld many of her complaints, but not her claim that he died "like a battery hen".

Last year, David Cameron put her in charge of a review of how hospitals in England handled complaints, after an inquiry at Stafford Hospital found failings in care which it said may have contributed to the deaths of patients.

While leading that review Ms Clwyd also received numerous complaints about standards at hospitals in Wales, prompting her to become a persistent critic of the Welsh NHS.

Free run?

In February 2014, she announced she would stand down at the 2015 general election, calling the decision "not her swansong" but a "pause for breath".

There followed a row over Labour's decision to use an all-women shortlist to select her successor, which was strongly opposed by the local party.

Then, in September, she said she wanted to contest the seat after all, after "many requests from Labour voters in the Cynon Valley".

But Labour has now decided she must face re-selection, saying the process of choosing a new candidate is underway and the party has to stick to the rules.

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