Austin Vernon Mitchell
(born 19 September 1934) is the Labour Member of Parliament
for Great Grimsby
Mitchell was educated at Woodbottom Council School, Bingley Grammar School
, the University of Manchester
and Nuffield College
From 1959-63 he lectured in History at the University of Otago
. While lecturing in sociology
, from 1963-7, at the University of Canterbury
, Mitchell wrote a popular book about New Zealand
, The Half Gallon Quarter Acre Pavlova Paradise
(1972). The book title became a phrase in the New Zealand English
lexicon. Thirty years later, in 2002 he wrote Pavlova Paradise Revisited
, after another New Zealand expedition. In the 1960s and 70's, New Zealand was a socialist
laboratory. In the 80's and 90's, it was transformed
into an open market economy. These drastic changes provided ample subject matter for social analysis. From 1967-9, he was an Official Fellow at Nuffield College.
He was a journalist at ITV company Yorkshire Television from 1969 to 1977, presenting their regional news show Calendar, although he spent a short period at the BBC in 1972.
He became an MP with a by-election in 1977, after the death of the previous MP, Tony Crosland
, at the time identifying himself as a Gaitskellite
Mitchell claims to be credited with bringing television cameras to the Houses of Parliament. The move opened the proceedings of the house to the wider public, who previously had only been able to follow via newspapers, and, from 1975, radio.
In 2007 Mitchell wrote a front-page article for The Independent
newspaper in which he criticised the treatment of a family of asylum-seekers in his constituency. This article quoted him as saying that certain correspondents on the subject to the website of the local newspaper, the Grimsby Telegraph
, were 'lumpen lunatics'. The Grimsby Telegraph covered the response in which it stood by the MP but also reported that a number of readers had called for his resignation.
He is a member of the Socialist Campaign Group - although this affiliation did not prevent him from nominating Gordon Brown (rather than John McDonnell) for the Labour Party leadership in 2007. As a supporter of the Better Off Out campaign, Austin could be considered a Eurosceptic and he opposes the Common Fisheries Policy.
In October 2002 he temporarily changed his name to Austin Haddock
is a staple catch for his constituents that was suffering a decline and it was his wish to promote it.
Austin has grown under increasing pressure to deliver changes in his constituency over recent times by local residents; some of whom have accused him of being overly vocal but taking no real action. There has also been jibes poked at him for his photography, taken as an amateur hobby, with the 'Have I Got News For You' satirical programme commenting on the confiscation of his camera during a Labour Party Conference, along with comments by constituents through the local press. According to TheyWorkForYou.com, Austin is 'below average' in speaking in debates; is 'well below average' in replying to constituents via the WriteToThem.com website; and is 'well below average' in parliamentary voting.
Austin lives with his second wife, the journalist and author Linda McDougall
, whom he married in 1976 in Rochdale
and with whom he has a son and daughter. He was previously married to Patricia, with whom he had two daughters.