DAME Tessa Jowell is to retire as an MP at the general election after nearly a quarter of a century in the Commons, the former Cabinet minister has told her local constituency party.
The Labour stalwart, who served in Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s Cabinets and as culture secretary played a central role in bringing the 2012 Olympics to London, is not seeking re-election in 2015.
The Dulwich and West Norwood MP stepped down from the Shadow Cabinet last year after seeing the hugely-successful Games through to their closing ceremony as shadow Olympics minister.
Dame Tessa, who was first elected to represent the south London area in 1992, said in a latter to her constituency party stepping down was “the hardest decision I have ever taken” but that it was time to “give somebody else the chance to take the next steps forward”.
Mr Blair said that, as well as being an able and determined politician, she was “kind, decent and loyal in a way I have seldom seen in politics” and had a “rare integrity”.
There were also tributes from British Olympic Association chairman Lord Sebastian Coe, who said she was the “political driving force” behind the 2012 bid and “an inseparable part of their ultimate success”.
As a minister she also set up the Sure Start children’s centre programme and was made a Dame last year for services to both politics and charity.
Labour leader Ed Miliband - whom Dame Tessa informed of her decision last week - said that, while the Olympics would be her “greatest legacy”, she was a “unique politician” of warmth, spirit, loyalty and generosity.
“You have set a very high bar for whoever is chosen by the local party to succeed you and fight for the seat at the general election,” he told her in a letter.
In her letter explaining her decision, Dame Tessa, 66, said it had been an “extraordinary privilege” to serve in government throughout the whole of Labour’s three terms in office from 1997.
It was rare, she said, to be able to see a major piece of government policy - the 2012 Games - through from start to finish.
“I know that you share with me a belief in the extraordinary responsibility of representation, the power of politics, the decency of politics and its capacity to make known, and put to use, the best of human nature,” she told local activists.