The fiercely independent Labour MP Kate Hoey has announced that she will not be putting her name forward to her party for re-election.
Ms Hoey, who was born in the village of Mallusk in Co Antrim, first entered Parliament in 1989.
A staunch unionist, Ms Hoey was often close to the DUP’s positions and maintained strong links with Northern Ireland, frequently travelling home and speaking about Northern Irish issues.
However, she enraged many Labour supporters by her outspoken support for Brexit, despite her constituency strongly voting to remain in the EU.
Ms Hoey, who was facing the threat of deselection by her constituency association, tweeted this afternoon to say that she would not be standing again.
The 73-year-old former UK sports minister under Tony Blair said that she had stated at the 2015 General Election that she would not seek re-election in 2020 but “was persuaded to fight the unexpected General Election of 2017”.
In the brief letter to her constituents she added: “Now that the national Labour Party has started the process for the 2022 election I have decided that after 30 years as the MP for Vauxhall I will not seek re-election as a Labour candidate. “Until the next General Election I will of course continue every single day to give my all to help constituents in Vauxhall and to campaign for policies that make life better for residents.”
One of Ms Hoey’s early political activities was protesting against the Vietnam War and she was one of the minority of Labour MPs to oppose the Iraq War.
In an interview with the News Letter three years ago, Ms Hoey said that when she became the 39th female MP in 1989, “I didn’t go into it with a huge amount of feeling about the fact that I was a woman going into a profession typically considered male.
“Feminists get annoyed with me because I don’t really consider myself to be a feminist.
“I have never supported the idea of positive discrimination as a way of rectifying the gender imbalance in politics. I would rather feel as though I was in a job or a particular role because I was the best person for that job and the most worthy for that particular role.”
The maverick politician went on to say: “On his death bed my father said to me, ‘Always do the right thing’. And that’s what I try to do – what I believe to be the right thing.
“There are lots of times when it would be much easier for me as a politician to go along with something that I do not personally believe in, but that is just not possible for me. If I do not support something or believe in it then I
cannot vote for it.”
Writing in the News Letter in 2014, Ms Hoey said: “To me it is commonsense that a divided unionism can never be truly strong. The plethora of political parties that look for the votes of those who wish to stay part of the United Kingdom is shortsighted.
“Of course there are differences between them but for those looking in from London all they see is leaderships spending more time sticking knives into each other than working in a united way to strengthen the Union.”