Rotherham MP’s secretary honoured for four decades of service

John Healey MP with Irene Hartley.
John Healey MP with Irene Hartley.
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From the reign of Thatcher to New Labour to today’s coalition – there have been many changes to the face of UK politics over the past 40 years.

But throughout the years Irene Hartley has remained a constant presence in Wentworth and Dearne constituency.

The 71-year-old has celebrated her fourth decade as secretary to the area’s MP, making her the longest-serving in Great Britain.

And there’s no danger of her calling it a day anytime soon.

Irene said: “I like meeting people and helping solve problems.

“You don’t always get the result you want, but it’s rewarding knowing you have tried and often really helped somebody when they have nowhere else to turn.”

Irene, of Wath, began work for MP Peter Hardy in 1974, when the constituency was known as Rotherham and Dearne, before current MP John Healey was elected in 1997.

The 40-year landmark comes four years after she was awarded an MBE at Buckingham Palace.

She said: “There were two general elections in my first year, 1974, and I worked through the winter of discontent and the miners’ strikes.

“Over the years I’ve had to embrace changes in technology – I used a typewriter when I first started and now I receive hundreds of emails a day.

“Now, many more people are contacting their MP more regularly.”

Irene, who lives at home with husband Alan, aged 77, first worked from home but for nearly 17 years has been based at Mr Healey’s office in Wath High Street.

She has been invited to a reception at the House of Commons later this year to mark long-serving members of constituency staff from across the UK.

Mr Healey said: “Irene is extremely loyal, dedicated and hard-working. She has provided outstanding advice to people who have contacted the office.”