Mary Helen Creagh (born 2 December 1967) is a British Labour politician who has represented Wakefield as its Member of Parliament (MP) since 2005.
In 2010 Creagh was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, before becoming Shadow Secretary of State for Transport in 2013. In November 2014 she was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for International Development.
On 14 May 2015, Creagh announced she would run for Leader of the Labour Party in the leadership election resulting from Ed Miliband's resignation, although she later withdrew her candidacy.
Of Irish descent, Creagh was born in Coventry, where her father was a car factory worker and her mother a primary school teacher. She was educated at the Bishop Ullathorne Comprehensive School in Coventry and read Modern Languages at Pembroke College, Oxford where she graduated as MA (Oxon). After pursuing European Studies at the London School of Economics (PhD), a fluent French and Italian speaker, Creagh has been elected a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Linguists (FCIL).
Creagh worked in Brussels for four years, first as an intern at the European Parliament and then for the European Youth Forum. She lectured in entrepreneurship at the Cranfield School of Management and served for seven years as a Trustee of Rathbone, a national charity.
Creagh was elected as a Councillor for the London Borough of Islington in 1998, and served as the Labour Group Leader for five years. She stood down from Islington Council in 2005 upon her election to parliament. During Creagh's time as Council Leader the Labour Party went from 25 councillors to 10 after the local elections of 2002.
In 2002 Creagh formally alleged cronyism in the appointment of the Islington Council chief executive by five Liberal Democrat councillors thus triggering an investigation by the Standards Board for England. After the longest ever investigation by the Standards Board her complaint was rejected. Creagh was criticised by the tribunal as being "heavily influenced by her political motives" and that she was an "insensitive witness, lacking in balanced judgment and one who was prepared to make assumptions about honesty and integrity of others without any proper basis". However, Creagh defended herself saying she "blew the whistle because I believed the Liberal Democrats were not meeting the standards we expect from people in public office. I invite people to look at my evidence and draw their own conclusions".
The Liberal Democrat councillors involved lost their seats at the 2006 elections as part of a wider set-back for their party which saw them lose control of the Council.
Member of Parliament
Creagh succeeded the retiring David Hinchliffe as MP for Wakefield. She won the seat in 2005 with a majority of 5,154, and held the seat - altered by boundary changes - with a majority of 1,613 five years later. She made her maiden speech in parliament on 25 May 2005 using the occasion to raise issues of poverty in her constituency. She also mentioned locally-born sculptor Barbara Hepworth.
She was a member of the Human Rights Select Committee from 2005 until 2007, and was Parliamentary Private Secretary to Andy Burnham, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, from 2006 until June 2009. In June 2009 she was made an Assistant Government Whip in the Department of Health. In 2007 she was among those MPs who backed Gordon Brown for the Labour Party leadership. In May 2010, Creagh was a supporter of David Miliband in his bid to be elected Leader of the Labour Party.
She has campaigned successfully on a number of issues since entering parliament. In 2005 she introduced a Children's Food Bill which sought to introduce minimum nutritional standards for all school meals and take fizzy drinks and sugary snacks out of school vending machines. Both of these measures were accepted by the Government and became law under the Education and Inspections Act 2006.
In 2006 Creagh launched a campaign aimed at preventing scalding injuries in the home. She brought together medical experts, campaign groups, and victims of scalding injuries to lobby the government to change the building regulations to prevent people being severely burned by scalding hot water. The coalition pressured the government to make the fitting of a water temperature regulating device, such as a thermostatic mixing valve (TMV), compulsory in new bathrooms in England. In 2009, after a 3-year "Hot Water Burns Like Fire" campaign, the Labour Government confirmed that, from April 2010, TMVs were to be a standard fitment in all new bathrooms.
From 2007 to 2009 Creagh was Chair of the Labour Movement for Europe, succeeding Chris Bryant MP and being succeeded by Richard Corbett MEP.
In 2009, as Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Prevention of Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity, Mary Creagh called on Justice Secretary Jack Straw to tighten British Law so that people accused of genocide could be prosecuted in the UK. She said there was an "impunity gap" which allowed people accused of terrible crimes in places like Rwanda and Bosnia to escape justice and live freely in Britain. As a result of this the Government agreed to amend the Coroner's and Justice Bill to tighten the law so that anyone suspected of war crimes anywhere throughout the world since 1991 and resident in the UK could be prosecuted in UK courts.
On 8 October 2010, Creagh was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. In February 2011 she secured a House of Commons debate on the Government’s plans to sell off 85% of public forestry. The Government subsequently abandoned these plans, it having become clear that the public "were not happy with the proposals".
In 2011, Creagh criticised the decision by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to cut flood defence spending in real terms by 32%. In addition to her involvement in campaigns calling for the banning of wild animals performing in circuses, she has opposed the Government’s policy of badger culling, claiming it was "anti-science" and that the option of vaccination should be explored. At the Labour Party’s Annual Conference in September 2011 Creagh launched the campaign Back the Apple. with Unite the Union. The campaign opposes the Government’s plan to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board which sets wages and conditions for thousands of agricultural workers. Creagh opposed the reintroduction of beavers to British rivers, on the grounds that "they would eat all the fish". Beavers are herbivorous.
In 2013, Creagh was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Transport. On 24 March 2014 she and Jamie Hanley opposed the train fares price increases in New Pudsey proposed by Patrick McLoughlin. The opposition spread throughout 18 West Yorkshire stations, forcing McLoughlin to scrap the plan. The same day she took part in the minibus opening ceremony which was hosted by Colchester Community Volunteer Service and two days later accused the Government of donating their time into privatising East Coast Main Line instead of worrying about high fare prices.
In November 2014, she became Shadow Secretary of State for International Development.
Labour leadership candidate
On 14 May 2015, Creagh announced her candidacy for Leader of the Labour Party, after Ed Miliband's resignation following the 2015 general election. On 12 June, Creagh announced that she was withdrawing from the leadership contest. At the time of her announcement she had only secured about 10 nominations from Labour MPs; this was fewer than any of the other remaining candidates and well short of the 35 required to take part in the final ballot.
Position on UK military action in Syria
On the BBC programme Newsnight (1 December 2015) Creagh argued in favour of military action in Syria stating :
"ISIL pose a clear threat to Britain", "it makes no sense to turn our planes back at the Syrian border" and "we must act to keep our country safe"
Creagh has been married to Adrian Pulham since 2001 and they have a son, Clement (named after the former Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee) and a daughter, Beatrice, named after Beatrice Webb, the socialist campaigner.