The sound of New Labour

9th May 1997 at 01:00
Ngaio Crequer, profiles new ministers for lifelong learning and employment

If you wanted a snapshot of New Labour, then you don't have to look further than Kim Howells.

He is not a man afraid of speaking out and when at the end of last year he declared that "the word socialism should be humanely phased out", he clearly relished the opprobrium poured down upon him from some quarters, particularly the trades unions.

Then he was the Labour party's trade and industry spokesman, now he has been appointed to the Department of Education and Employment, as parliamentary under-secretary of state for lifelong learning.

He was born and brought up in the Cynon Valley in South Wales, the son of a lorry driver and Communist. He went to grammar school and then to Hornsey College of Art, and was a student rebel. The Labour party was right-wing and turgid, in his view.

But he joined in 1981 because he realised that "the institutions I had reviled so much were actually the only thing that we had and I came into the party rather like the penitent son in the Bible."

He worked in the pits, took a degree in English and history, and then a doctorate at Warwick on the coal industry. He became a researcher and radio and television reporter. He was sad when the mining industry in Wales ended, but as he said, the last thing his parents wanted for him or his brothers was to go down the pits.

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