Clare Short: Reunion with my son was the happiest event of my life

Extracted from 'An Honourable Deception?'
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Indy Politics

In September 1996 there came an absolutely wonderful development in my life. Thirty years previously I had gone to university at the age of 17, become pregnant and married, but we had decided the baby should be adopted. I had regretted this ever since.

It had seemed so rational ­ a difficult husband, no income or security, shame at having become pregnant, a better future for the baby ­ but I had missed him ceaselessly.

Phillip Whitehead, who was himself adopted, had helped to bring in legislation to enable parents who wanted to contact their adopted children to register and, having done so, I had been waiting for my son's contact ever since, always feeling he would get in touch. And then at last it happened and the explosion of happiness and love was unstoppable. We met up frequently and were completely obsessed with each other, but then gossip started to flow about me being seen mooning over a good-looking young man and I knew we would have to make some kind of announcement.

I arranged to see Tony and said it was something personal and he guessed that I was getting married, but once I told him my story he was happy for me and very supportive. My long-standing researcher, Virginia Heywood, was a friend of Suzanne Moore, whose mother had been adopted and who was working for The Independent, so we gave her an interview and some photos.

I told the Labour Party this was my plan. Both Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson were supportive and the party organised an event for the media to take photographs. At first I said we did not want this, but they warned us the media would follow us everywhere. It was daunting but we were grateful for their help, otherwise we would have had the photographers camped outside our houses.

My expectation was that I would be drummed out of politics as a wicked woman ... Instead, with one notable exception, I received a mountain of letters, cards, blue socks and messages of congratulations and good will. It was the happiest event of my life.

We are very close and my son and his family are strongly integrated into the rest of the family. I am also good friends with his adoptive father. My son's return has healed a hole that had been at the centre of my life ever since he left. His existence is a source of enormous joy and happiness for me.

Our story also led to a big growth in adopted children seeking contact with their natural parents.