George Mudie

February 19, 1999

Lifelong learning minister George Mudie takes his brief so much to heart that he once took private French lessons from a fellow backbencher and, more recently, signed up for a Saturday afternoon computer course in Leeds.

There can be no firmer proof of dedication from the Leeds United fan, who could be spending Saturday afternoons on the terraces.

His enthusiasm comes from experience. Born in Dundee 54 years ago, he started his career as an engineer on Dundee's city transport system and studied social studies as a mature student at Newbattle Abbey in Scotland.

A Labour Party member aged 17 and trade union official at the National Union for Public Employees, he called his eldest son Keir, after the first Labour candidate Keir Hardy.

Aged 35, Mudie became the youngest leader of Leeds City Council, where he was described as innovative and steady but sparked criticism for his use of "fast track" methods to contract council services.

He beat 60 applicants to selection for Denis Healey's former seat in Leeds East in 1992 and secured it with an enhanced majority.

As an MP he has revealed himself to be politically correct - opposing cuts to lone-parent benefit, supporting a ban on hunting and complaining about plans to re-build the Commons' men-only salon when it could not fork out for a nursery.

He reached the post of deputy chief whip, and apparently turned down a post in Northern Ireland, before his education appointment.

Married to the head teacher of a primary school, he is described as "convivial", someone who enjoys being a man of the people and genuinely interested in learning.

A good place to set up a study group, he suggested recently, could be a local pub.

People is edited by Harriet Swain and researched by Lynne Williams.

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