12/01/2012 08:29 GMT | Updated 12/01/2012 11:51 GMT

Having An Alcoholic As A Mother Made Me Tough, Says MP Flint

Shadow cabinet minister Caroline Flint has said that growing up as the child of an alcoholic toughened her up for life in the top ranks of politics.

The Labour MP revealed that she was just 12 or 13 years old when her mother Wendy, who died aged 45 from liver damage, developed a problem with drink.

While studying for her A-levels, the shadow energy secretary turned to a charity for help after home life became too difficult and moved into lodgings.

Flint told the London Evening Standard: "My mother was an alcoholic and it was difficult at home.

"Because of that, I got in touch with a charitable organisation, which gave me a grant in order that I could pay to live away from home for a while to do my A-levels.

"You know, I come from a sort of background where you didn't necessarily have support around you all the time. There was love but there wasn't all the practical support you might have hoped for.

"I think striving through that and getting through it helped to strengthen me up for today, but also to recognise how difficult it is for people when things aren't great."

Flint, 50, said it had not always been "easy in my childhood" and told the newspaper that she went to live with a family friend aged 16 when her mother briefly left London.

The Don Valley MP added: "Mum came back down again and we got together as a family but then during my A-levels there were some problems as well and I spent time in lodgings again. Coping with that while doing my exams wasn't always easy."

The Labour high-flyer, who had stints as a minister for housing, the Home Office, and Europe when the party was in government, thinks the term "welfare state" has had its day.

"Maybe we should start dumping the term welfare," she told the Evening Standard.

"I'm not sure that in the 21st century it really adequately talks about what we need to do to support people when they find themselves out of work or in difficult circumstances."