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JENNIFER LOUISE TONGE

M.P.

 

Jennifer Louise Tonge (nee Smith) was born in Walsall. Her parents were both school teachers and she attended 

Dudley Girls High School from 1951 to 1959. She trained to be a doctor at University College Hospital, gaining an 

MB and BS in 1964.

She is also MFFP (Membership of the Faculty of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care of the RCOG).

She holds an honorary FFFP. From 1968–78, she worked in General Practice and Family Planning. From 1980 to 1985,

she worked as Senior Medical Officer in Women's Services in Ealing. She was a manager of Community Health

Services in Ealing from 1992 to 1996.

 

Member of parliament

 

Baroness Tonge (as she is now), was a councillor in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames from 1981 to 1990, and served as chair of the Social Services Committee.

She was a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament (MP) for Richmond Park in London from 1997 to 2005. While in the Commons she was Liberal Democrat spokesperson on International Development from 1997 to 2003, and then the party spokesperson for children from 2003 to 2004.

In June 2005 she was made a life peer - Baroness Tonge, of Kew in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, which entitled her to a seat in the House of Lords.

Jennifer Tonge, as an MP was not one of the silent majority, following strict party rules and in 2002, during the Emmanuel College creationism controversy, she asked Prime Minister Tony Blair if he was "happy to allow the teaching of creationism alongside Darwin's theory of evolution in state schools". The Prime Minister replied that he supported a "diverse school system", and praised the teachers at Emmanuel College for their commitments to "deliver[ing] better results for our children". Tonge was concerned about Blair's response because it implied the government was "prepared to accept money from anybody, regardless of the doctrine or religious beliefs of the donor".

She has always stood her ground and questioned different governments approach and dealings with the Israel/Palestine situation and has subsequently been reprimanded by Liberal party leaders from Charles Kennedy to Nick Clegg. However, there is never an easy route to resolve every political situation and she has given the debate on the Middle East a different perspective to analyse.

In 2003, Tonge and Labour Member of Parliament Oona King visited the Gaza Strip. At a subsequent press conference after their return, Tonge compared Gaza Strip living conditions for Palestinians to conditions Jews had suffered in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. Tonge said "You are almost getting a situation like the Warsaw ghetto. People can't get in or out. They can't work, they can't sell anything. There is this gradual squeeze", adding "It was an apartheid system." Tonge recommended economic sanctions be applied against Israel and for European Union or United Nations troops be sent to Gaza.

 

In March 2009, Tonge joined a six-person delegation of British politicians which met with Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal in Syria. Tonge told an interviewer that their goal was to force the British government to talk to Hamas and press the United States to do likewise. She stated: "You don't make peace by talking to your friends. You make peace by talking to your enemies", and said she knew that her meeting with Meshaal might be considered illegal and lead to her arrest. "That is one of the risks that you take", she said.

Population, health and development

She is strongly in favour of stem cell research and has stated so in the House of Lords. She is pro-choice on abortion and has supported "Patient (Assisted Dying)" laws in the United Kingdom.

She has been chair of the "All Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health" for five years, which in November 2012 issued a report on child marriage, A Childhood Lost, which urged the British government to act to stop child marriage in Britain and abroad.

This followed other reports on Maternal Morbidity, "Better off Dead", and most recently, a new report has been published on Population Dynamics and Sustainable Development. She was President of the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development from 2011-15.

In November 2015, she was made a FRCOG (Honoris Causa) - Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists for services to women's health in the UK and in developing countries.

wikipedia.org

Baroness Tonge has published a book - Pit Banks to Red Benches

 

This book describes Jenny Tonge's journey from the pit banks and smoke of the Black Country in the post-war years, as a doctor working for thirty years in the NHS before she entered the House of Commons as MP for Richmond Park and became Spokesperson for International Development for the Liberal Democrats. In that role, she visited war zones in the Middle East, natural disasters in Africa and the Caribbean, and after a family tragedy, she went to the red leather benches of the House of Lords.

 

As the story unfolds, Jenny discovers the issues that she cares deeply about, remembering all those influences on her life that led her to her ultimate goals: fighting for women's reproductive rights in developing countries; and defending human rights worldwide, most famously (and controversially) in Palestine.

 

Be warned. It is not a standard political memoir or autobiography.

 

'From the Pit Banks to the Red Benches' features a foreword by Lord David Steel, the last leader of the Liberal Party before it merged with the Social Democrats.

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