Sunday, May 31, 2009

The NUM On The BNP

Here is a free, special edition of the NUM journal "The Miner" which no-one should miss.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Newcastle Police Suspect The Culprits Are Sunderland Fans


Excuse the triumphalism. I am a Sunderland Fan and I am obviously greatly relieved that Newcastle United and Middlesborough have just been relegated from the Premier League rather than the Mackems.

But unlike many Sunderland Fans I am not massively opposed to our team's fellow North East rivals. I would be over the moon if Middlesborough were Premiership runners up and the Black and Whites finished third, as long as Sunderland took the title.

When I was 15 I had a very happy Easter watching Sunderland defeat Huddersfield Town 7-1 at Roker Park on the Good Friday, Newcastle defeat Man City 1-0 at St James' Park the following day and Middlesborough defeat Newcastle 2-1 at Ayresome Park on the Easter Monday. That seemed to me to be the natural order of things.

Mind you Len Shackleton played for Sunderland in those days and is the footballer I have seen play more games than any other. Having played for both the Black and Whites and their Red and White striped rivals, his take on the rivalry was "I'm not biased when it comes to Newcastle, I'm not bothered who beats them!". Not even Aston Villa, I assume.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Sheffield FC Blather

"Club 1857" is the Sheffield FC Supporters' Club. Its name arises from the facts that (a) Sheffield FC is known as "The Club" and (b) it was founded in 1857 and is recognised as being the oldest football club in the world.

Yesterday "Club 1857" held a Presentation Evening in a packed room at the White Swan in Dronfield. Before presentations were made to those whom the members had voted for as players of the season, we had a fine question and answer session with Dave McCarthy and Lee Walshaw.

Dave was a highly successful Manager of Sheffield FC for 10 years, whose final game in charge was a great end to his career. I reported on the match here. Over the recent season Dave has been the team's Operations Director and a Committee Member. Lee was Assistant Manger for 7 years and is now the Community Development Manager. Sheffield FC have a proud record of community involvement.

The question and answers were frank, entertaining and great fun.

Chris Dolby, the Sheffield FC Manager then made the presentations to the successful players. Mat Outram was third choice, Steve Wooley was second choice and Paul Smith was the winner. They have all had a fine season and were also my top choices.

I am, however, completely biased in favour of Paul Smith (Smudge) - see photo. We both lived at one time in the same street of miners' houses at Easington Colliery in County Durham. Both of our father's being local miners. I am nearly 40 years older than Smudge and I had moved on before he was brought up in Baldwin Street at Easington. But he lived just a few houses away from my parents, whom I visited regularly.The pit at Easington was closed in 1993 and many of the former miners' houses have been knocked down. Smudge's former home has gone, but for the moment my former home still stands. When I observed this on a recent visit to Easington, I was keen to tell Smudge my findings. But he knew all about this as he had visited Easington even more recently then I had. His parents now live elsewhere in what is still known as a Colliery.(The photo above is of my late father, myself and next door's dog in the yard in Baldwin Street.)

Yet it isn't just bias that made me vote for Smudge. Every Sheffield FC supporter knows about his abilities. When it comes to taking free kicks, we all know that it isn't so much that he can "Bend them like Beckham", but more that "Beckham can almost bend them like Smudge".

Sheffield FC finished in a mid-table position. On the surface this seems to be a disappointment as they just missed out on promotion the previous season - see here. But Sheffield FC had been a team which pulled in a great deal of sponsorship. When the credit crunch hit much of this financial backing went. Players were transferred and replaced, with some being drawn on from the youth and reserve teams. At first the Club suffered a dip, but then it developed. We have high hopes for the future, especially as it is our League rivals who will now be the ones to trim their sails and try to follow our pattern.

Note : By clicking into the "Sheffield FC" label at the close of this thread you will see that I used to provide regular reports of their games and activities. These started with a report of a 2-1 victory over Mickleover Sports in August 2006. They ended with a game against Lincoln City last November which was abandoned due to fog at half time when we were leading 1-0. I posted 55 such items in that period.

There are two main reason why I have dropped such reporting. First of all, Sheffield FC's activities are catered for admirably by (a) the Club's official web-site here, and (b) a supporters' group web-site here. Secondly, I needed to find some space to pursue other matters. I am trying to write a political biography which involves research and is time-consuming. (In fact, I have a day booked at the Durham Records Office to research matters about Smudge's Easington Colliery). Then fellow Sheffield FC supporter Martin Brader has set up a blog for a Labour Party Discussion Group which operates in Dronfield. As I am responsible for organising these meetings, I need to make regular contributions to his blog which is called "Dronfield Blather".

So my bits and pieces on Sheffield FC are likely to be restricted for some time.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

100 Not Out - Labour In North East Derbyshire

This is the statue of William Edwin Harvey which stands in front of the former Miners' Offices at Saltergate in Chesterfield. Harvey helped to establish the Derbyshire Miners' Assocation (DMA) and held various key positions with them, becoming their Financial and Corresponding Secretary in 1906. This was a position he continued to hold following his election to parliament for the then North Eastern Derbyshire in a by-election in 1907. For MPs weren't then paid. He was initially elected as a Lib-Lab MP with the backing of the local Liberal Party. But following a national ballot, when the Miners' Federation of Great Britain decided to affiliate to the Labour Party he joined the Parliamentary Labour Party. This was in 1909, a hundred years ago. He then stood successfully as Labour in the two General Elections of 1910. He died in 1914.

The article below initially appeared on this blog in December 2006. Harvey's main interests were trade unionism, politics, methodism and cricket. So it has turned out to be appropriate that I used cricket analogies for the headings. Warning - the following is 6,000 words long.


The Labour Party burst onto the national political scene over a century ago with a breakthrough at the 1906 General Election.

To work for this success it had initially been formed under the title of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) at a Conference in London in 1900. But in that year’s General Election it barely got started, only running candidates in 15 seats. Just 2 of these were successful.

One of the victories came in Merthyr with the election of the legendary Keir Hardie. The other win was in Derbyshire, with the election of Richard Bell in Derby itself. He was a member of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants and the first Treasurer of the LRC.

The LRC was soon on the move, however, and achieved three subsequent by-election successes.

As we will see in our own area of Derbyshire, the struggle for the working class vote was particularly keen between the long established Liberal Party and the newly emerging Labour Party.

At the 1906 Election, the LRC ran 50 candidates and 29 of these won seats. Their Parliamentary Group then immediately adopted the title of the Labour Party. A new force had entered British politics.

At the time Labour had not set up its stage in the area covered by the current North East Derbyshire Constituency, yet some significant local moves were taking place.


Before we examine the birth of the Labour Party in our area, we need to reflect upon just how difficult things were for Labour to gain a foothold.

In the 19th Century, Parliamentary politics had been dominated by the Conservative and Liberal Parties and labouring people weren’t in a position to directly influence election results until a whole set of changes began to take shape in the final quarter of that century. Even then, the changes which occurred were limited and they only provided restricted possibilities.

It wasn’t until the 1874 General Election that the vote was first exercised in secret. Prior to that the limited number of workers who qualified to vote were aware that news of how they voted would feed back to their bosses and landlords. To use a vote as one thought fit or in one’s own interests, could prove costly.

Even when Reform Acts in 1867 and 1884 expanded the vote to wider numbers of working men, many were still excluded. Women did not even obtain the vote at all until legislation changed this is two stages in 1918 and 1928.

The franchise prior to 1918 was, however, still based upon property forms of qualifications, including household rate payments.

The 1884 legislation was important in our area as it enabled numbers of miners and farmers to qualify to vote for the first time. Yet even after this legislation, less than 60% of the men in the country had the vote, with the unenfranchised invariably being concentrated amongst the poor, including the unemployed.

As our corner of Derbyshire was strong mining (and farming) territory, miners in particular had an opening to effect the outcome of local parliamentary contests. What was needed to achieve this was organisation and mobilisation, including action to ensure that miners registered to vote.

A further assistance to these influences was the redrawing of Parliamentary Boundaries on a fairer scale in 1885. In our area, this meant that the former seat of Northern Derbyshire which returned two members on a highly restricted franchise was replaced. It had lapped over into the High Peak and had been under the influence of the Duke of Devonshire, returning Liberal MPs including members of his family.

From 1885 three seats returning a single member each were established. These were entitled North Eastern Derbyshire, Chesterfield and Mid-Derbyshire. Moves could now start which would eventually lead to each seat being represented by a miner in the Labour interest.

There remained, however, a further hurdle to overcome before labouring people could begin to embark on a parliamentary career. MPs weren’t paid. This wasn’t introduced until 1911, over a quarter of a century after the 1884 and 1885 reforms had given mining and (the less united) farming communities some voting influence.

The landed and business classes could find the funds to allow their MPs to exercise parliamentary power and influence at Westminster. But how could a labouring man meet his travel, accommodation, living and electioneering expenses ?


Two conflicting approaches emerged to tackle the problem of how MPs from labouring communities could be found a livelihood. The two approaches were, of course, linked in with contrasting political interests. One was the Liberal approach, the other was the Labour approach.

The Liberals across the north of Derbyshire had traditionally been in the driving seat, but now they had to come to terms with a growing registration of miners votes. Some were prepared to enter into deals to keep the Liberals in control in the area.

Their approach was to be willing to provide the necessary financial and organisational backing to a Miners Association candidate, if the person concerned looked as if they could deliver the miners’ vote and would agree to take the Liberal whip if elected.

Such candidates were known as Lib-Labs. On a national basis, the first two were elected in 1874 and the number was to rise to 24 by 1906. The latter election was the same one at which Labour first broke through with 29 seats. So Lib-Labism and Labourism were in competition with each other for which would eventually take the radical wing of the workers’ votes.

The alternative approach to Lib-Labism was adopted by Keir Hardie, whose early involvement was with his fellow miners in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire. He came to argue for the establishment of a Party for labouring people which would be independent of both the Liberals and Conservatives, who at the time dominated the political scene between them.

He was first elected to parliament in a West Ham seat in 1892 as an Independent Labour candidate. The following year he helped establish the Independent Labour Party (ILP), who acted in line with his above approach.

Large sections of the Trade Union movement came to be attracted to the notion of running their own candidates, free from the entanglements of Lib-Labism . So a variety of national and regional sections of Trades unions, plus local Trades Councils and the ILP helped form the LRC in 1900. This is the body which went on to adopt the name of the Labour Party in 1906.

Affiliations fees and contributions from these bodies could then form a pool to pay for the running of candidates where prospects appeared good for victory, and also towards their upkeep when elected. By passing the hat round the Labour and Trade Union Movement, labouring people could cut themselves free from the restraints attached to Liberal funding.

Although the Lib-Lab and Labour approaches were in competition with each other, there were some behind-the-scenes arrangements made between the two camps in the run up to the 1906 election in numbers of two seat constituencies. If the Liberals and Labour ran a candidate each, they believed that they both stood a better chance of defeating the Conservatives who would normally run two candidates against them.

The tactic worked well in 1906. It aided the Labour break-through, so we need to be aware that similar deals today could backfire against us.


In our corner of Derbyshire it is the Lib-Lab approach which first succeeded, but it soon came to be subsumed by the position pursued by Keir Hardie and the Labour Party.

There are two statues outside the former Miner’s Offices on Saltergate at Chesterfield of the first two Miners’ MPs in the area. James Haslam was elected for Chesterfield in 1906 and William Harvey for North Eastern Derbyshire at a by-election the following year. They had both served as leading officials of the Derbyshire Miners’ Association (DMA) since its inception some 30 years earlier.

They illustrate the nature of the Lib-Lab versus Labour struggle, for whilst they were both initially elected with Liberal backing they went on to win at the two General Elections of 1910 as Labour candidates.

The explanation for this is to be seen in a shift in the approach of the DMA’s parent body, the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain (MFGB). So why did the MFGB first favour the Lib-Lab approach ?

This occurred because the franchise which grew following the reforms of the mid 1880’s benefited the miners more than most sections of the working class. They were living in solid mining communities in coalfield areas .which dominated what were otherwise rural constituencies. Yet at the time, the Labour Party wasn’t in operation and the Lib-Lab option seemed to be the only feasible avenue that was open.

Haslam, for instance, narrowly failed to win the nomination of the Liberal Party to stand with their backing in Chesterfield in 1886. The Chesterfield Constituency at that time included a wide surrounding area pockmarked with pits.

Some other areas of the MFGB outside of Derbyshire were having more success and numbers of their candidates were returned to parliament under the Lib-Lab arrangement.

So when the LRC was finally set up in 1900, the MFGB did not affiliate as a national body. The dominant view within the Miners Union was that they were doing rather well under the alternative Lib-Lab tactic.

The Labour break through in 1906 helped to challenged such reasoning. A shift in attitudes was now on the cards, especially as the whole of the Trade Union Movement was radicalised in that period by legal judgements which hit at its funds. The Labour option began to look more relevant to miners interests. Eventually a national ballot was held by the MFGB in which it was decided to affiliate to the Labour Party. In 1909 Haslam and Harvey then dropped the Liberal whip in the Commons and joined the Parliamentary Labour Party.

In all 12 Miners made the move and the Lib-Lab strength in the Commons was cut in half, whilst Labour’s ranks were boosted to over 40.
This was how Haslam and Harvey came to be Labour Candidates in the 1910 elections. They do not, however, have the distinction of being the first Miners to win for Labour at the polls. That distinction goes to John George Hancock, the agent for the Nottinghamshire Miners Association who was elected as Labour in Mid Derbyshire in a by-election in 1909. Keir Hardie canvassed on his behalf .

Mid Derbyshire included a section of the modern North East Derbyshire Constituency at North Wingfield.


In 1906 there were no less than 176 pits throughout Derbyshire. Even areas which now have large middle class populations , such as Dronfield and Holymoorside had pits. Whilst 50 years later there were still 30 deep mines in North Derbyshire alone, with the Collieries at Markham employing over 3,000.

But although the area was mostly mining, it was not exclusively so. Mining itself requires support industries and miners pull in linked communal services. In particular, areas such as engineering, railways and ironworks made ready use of the local output of coal.

As a town, Chesterfield had a variety of services and trades, whilst mining in the nearby areas was surrounded by farming.

The dominant pattern was one of people living together in separate closely knit communities. The men, in particular, often walked to work to the pits or factories. They and their families later socialised together. Some would meet up again in the pubs. Others in the chapels. Then there were the connected communal activities around local football clubs and allotment holdings. These were all local avenues of mutual support where labour values could flourish.

Whilst the town of Chesterfield was something of a variation on the above theme, with its trading and market characteristics, the surrounding Derbyshire areas were to produce a clear pattern of political development. They became solid Labour Constituencies often persistently returning DMA nominees to Parliament as their Labour Members. Although as we shall see later, every rule has its exception.


North Eastern Derbyshire with its successor in name (if not fully in territory) of North East Derbyshire became a prime example of a Miners seat.

Harvey was its MP from 1907 until his death in 1914. In the subsequent by-election Labour was badly defeated. A consequence of the defeat was the first establishment of a Constituency Labour Party in the area, for it was felt that too much had previously rested upon Harvey’s personality and influence.

Few other Constituency Labour Parties existed at the time. To adopt Labour Candidates and to fight elections, use was made of local Trades Councils or ad hoc committees of local Trade Unions and local ILP branches.

It was only in 1918 that Labour nationally set up an individual membership scheme, plus a modern style Constituency Party structure. So on the latter, North Eastern Derbyshire was in the lead over many other areas.

At that time, the Constituency included Dronfield, Eckington, Killamarsh, Clowne, Barlborough, Staveley and Bolsover as well as areas which were later moved into Sheffield, such as Beighton. Its shape differed considerably from the current North East Derbyshire Constituency.

In seven General Elections from 1918, the Labour Party ran Frank Lee as its candidate. He was an official of the Derbyshire Miners and won five of these electoral contests, serving in parliament for a total of 16 years until his death in 1947.

He lost narrowly in his first contest in 1918. He also failed in 1931, which was a crisis year for Labour. Ramsey MacDonald, the Labour Prime Minister left the Party to form a National Government as a response to a massive financial crisis. After carrying out a programme of cuts, he called a General Election at which the defeat of Lee was one of over 200 losses sustained by Labour.

The first of Lee’s five victories came in 1922. It was an incredibly close result. Six recounts took place, then the boxes were resealed. Numbers of fresh counting clerks were employed and two further recounts took place. There was no agreement as to the result and the matter ended up before the King’s Bench Division of the Courts. Lee was finally declared the winner by 15 and was finally able to make a belated entry into parliament. On the second count his majority had been down to 2..

At a Clowne Labour meeting in 1918 he had been an early advocate of the nationalisation of the coal industry and was claimed to be a Communist by local Conservatives in 1931.

Lee was followed by Henry White, who was also from the Derbyshire Miners. White held the seat from 1942 to 1950. The Constituency Boundaries were then redrawn and a North East Derbyshire seat was established which formed something like its current “C” shape around Chesterfield. White also represented the new seat until 1959. In all he served 17 continuous years as an M.P.

Two other Derbyshire Miners’ officials followed. The first was Tom Swain, from 1959 to his death in 1979. Then Ray Ellis from 1979 to 1987.

Swain was a powerful personality. He was killed when a Coal Board lorry hit his Mini. Otherwise the Callaghan Government would have survived the vote of confidence four weeks later which led to the 1979 election which Margaret Thatcher won. This is because the Speaker’s casting vote goes to the Government in the case of a tie. But if this had happened, it would probably have merely delayed a Thatcher victory.

Ray Ellis was the last Miner to represent North East Derbyshire. Within the Derbyshire Miners he had at one time been the Secretary at High Moor, which was to be the last deep mine in the County.

The old North Eastern Derbyshire when added to by the current North East Derbyshire was represented by Miners only in the Labour interest for a total of 66 years, until I became MP in 1987.


The other seat in the area which has had long term representation from Miners’ nominees is the current Bolsover Constituency. It first came into existence for the 1950 General Election, with Harold Neal as its first M.P. Then the present Member, Dennis Skinner took over in 1970. He originates from Clay Cross and prior to his election to Parliament chaired the North East Derbyshire Constituency Labour Party. He needs no introduction to anyone interested enough to read this article.

Neal had also represented a former Clay Cross Constituency (which covered the town of Bolsover also) from 1944 to 1950. So the Neal-Skinner representation in the area has, to date, covered a period of 62 years and by the next General Election could reach the 66 year Miners record held by the North East Constituencies.

Mid Derbyshire seemed to be setting out on its own long term pattern of Mining representation in our area when Hancock was elected in the by-election of 1909. But the seat was abolished in 1918, with its replacement’s boundaries falling outside of our area. Nor did the two other seats in our area follow the above pattern. One was Chesterfield and the other was the Clay Cross seat which operated from 1918 to 1950. The latter’s deviation from this Mining pattern is particularly surprising as (in its time) it was the strongest Coal Mining area in our corner of Derbyshire.


The only Miners to stand for Labour in the Clay Cross Constituency were Frank Hall and Harold Neal. Hall obtained 45.9% of the vote in its first contest in 1918, losing to a Liberal Coalition Candidate who was part of the successful effort by Lloyd George (the Prime Minister who had run a Wartime Coalition Government) to continue in office with some form of a Coalition remaining in power. Although this worked for a period, the Coalition was dominated by Conservatives and the tactic merely advanced a split which had developed in the Liberal Party. This was all to the long term advantage of Labour.

As we saw above, Neal was MP between 1944 and 1950 before moving over to the new Bolsover seat. But in eight successful electoral contests for Labour between 1922 and the arrival of Neal in 1944, not one of Labour’s four different candidates came from the Miners Union.

One of the reasons for the breaking of the mould in Clay Cross was because it was such a powerful Labour seat and it, therefore, attracted the attention of influential Labour outsiders. None more so than Arthur Henderson who was elected at a by-election in 1933. As we will see below, he was a huge figure on Labour’s national stage.

Passionate socialist commitments were also probably even stronger in the Clay Cross Constituency than elsewhere in the area. The ILP, for instance, had a keen branch of activists at Bolsover which formed part of the Constituency. It had Miners amongst its membership, but whilst these were also active in their trade union, their first loyalty was to their political ideals. The Methodist Chapels in the area also provided another network for Christian socialist visionaries. Lay preachers doubled as local Labour Councillors. And whilst all this was a common pattern throughout our area, it was even more concentrated in the Clay Cross seat; exactly because it was an extreme version of the communal strengths of mining areas.

The Constituency included Clay Cross and surrounding areas such as Tupton, Holmewood and North Wingfield. It also included Blackwell, Glapwell, Pilsley, Pinxton, Pleasley, Shirebrook, Stonebroom and South Normanton. Pits abounded.

Its first Labour MP was Charlie Duncan of the old Workers’ Union; a body which had been present at the founding of the LRC in 1900. He went on to hold the seat until his death in 1933. He even triumphed in 1931, which was a disastrous year for Labour as explained above in connection with the loss of Frank Lee’s seat in North Eastern Derbyshire. Duncan’s majority was 9,552 and was one of the best Labour results anywhere in the country at a time when Labour only held onto 52 seats.

Duncan was the first in a series of four Clay Cross Labour Members who died in office over a period of only eleven years. He was succeeded by Arthur Henderson.

Henderson had been the General Secretary of the Labour Party and had produced the 1918 rule changes at national level which set in motion the modern structure of the Labour Party. He twice took over the leadership of the Labour Party from Ramsay MacDonald. First in 1914 when MacDonald adopted a pacifist position in relation to the First World War. Then for a short while in 1931 and 1932 after MacDonald deserted the Party.

Henderson served in Lloyd George’s Coalition War-time Cabinet as one of its select five members and was in MacDonald’s Labour Cabinets, becoming Foreign Secretary in 1929. Whilst he was the MP for Clay Cross, he received the Nobel Peace Prize.

In winning the 1933 By-election, one of the candidates he defeated was Harry Pollitt who was the General Secretary of the Communist Party. Pollitt with 10.8% of the vote lost his deposit, whilst “Uncle Arthur”(as he was widely known) took nearly 70% of the vote.

The seat was highly prized and after Henderson’s death in 1935, hopefuls included Ernest Bevin (who became Foreign Secretary in Attlee’s post-war Government) and R.H. Tawny (the leading socialist intellectual). But neither won the candidature.

Alfred Holland (a local Methodist) was elected MP from 1935 to 1936. On his death he was followed by George Ridley of the Railway Clerks Association, who was locally known as being “the Labour Party’s leading pamphleteer”. He also died in office in 1944 and Harold Neal was then elected. Neal was the first and only Miner to hold the seat. In the Labour landslide victory of 1945 he took 82.1% of the vote, with a Clay Cross record majority of 21,517.

By 1948, 40 of the 46 County, Urban and Rural District Council seats in the Constituency were held by Labour, whilst Labour controlled 14 out of 16 local Parish Councils. The majority with 100% representation.


Although Chesterfield took in mining areas such as Markham and housed the home of the Derbyshire Area of the Miners’ Union, its municipal and town characteristics also provided it with some countervailing tendencies to the rest of the North East of Derbyshire. Engineering and General Workers’ Unions had strengths in the area which could either challenge or supplement that of the Derbyshire Miners.

It was not able to shake itself free from the influences of Lib-Labism as easily as in neighbouring Constituencies. Haslam had started out back in 1885 as a form of independent Labour Candidate, well before the ILP came on the scene. But after his defeat in that year’s election, he decided to seek the Liberal nomination for the 1886 General Election. He lost out in a short list of two, but kept looking out for the opportunity of being a Lib-Lab candidate. It came his way in 1906. When the MFGB voted to affiliated to the Labour Party in 1908, he supported the DMA in its unsuccessful efforts at the 1909 MFGB Conference to allow associations such as his own to opt out of the requirement. It was only when the DMA lost the day, that he came to terms with the MFGB’s decision for its parliamentarians to move over to Labour.

When Haslam died in 1913, his successor Barnet Kenyon was even less accommodating to Labour. Kenyon had held posts as President, Assistant Secretary and General Agent of the DMA and was nominated to stand for Labour in Chesterfield. But due to his close links with the Liberal Party, the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party withdrew his endorsement as being their candidate. A move which was then confirmed by the MFGB. The DMA also criticised his approach. Kenyon was then elected with Liberal financial and organisational backing.

The subsequent Annual Conference of the MFGB spent a whole day discussing the problem and then the Labour Party Conference also covered the issue.

In the elections of 1918 and 1922 Kenyon was able to manoeuvre himself into a position where he was elected unopposed . It was not until 1923 that the Labour Party in Chesterfield finally opposed him. He won elections against Labour opposition, however, in both 1923 and 1924. It was only when he retired in 1929 that George Benson took the seat for Labour.

Benson had been educated as a Quaker and had worked in his father’s land and estate agency in Manchester. Both he and his father had been National Treasurers of the ILP. He fought the seat for Labour ten times in all. Losing to Kenyon in 1923 and 1924 and failing in the Labour collapse of 1931. But in all, he served as Labour MP for Chesterfield for 31 years, receiving a knighthood in 1958 for his work on penal reform. The period from his first candidature until his departure as an MP spanned a period of 42 years.

Benson was followed by Eric Varley, who served as MP from 1964 to his surprise resignation in 1984. He served in Labour Governments as Secretary of State for Energy then for Industry. He was a former Miner who as a Minister dealt with the consequences of a Miners’ Strike which had helped bring down the preceding Conservative Government of Edward Heath. He was the only Miner ever to serve the Labour interest in Chesterfield who had never spent time in the Lib-Lab camp.

Tony Benn won the Chesterfield By-election of 1984, when no less than 17 candidates stood. Like Dennis Skinner, he will need no introduction to readers. In the circumstances of the time, his initial victory was seen as a sound Labour achievement. Little notice was made of the fact that the Liberals moved into a poor second place over the Conservatives at that time. A position then developed in which the Liberals gradually squeezed out much of the Conservative vote, allowing any disaffected Labour voters to move into the Liberal camp without any fear of letting in a Conservative candidate.

The trend in Chesterfield can be seen in what happened to its voting pattern between the depth of Labour’s post war national performance in 1983 and the height of its post war performance in its landslide victory of 1997. Nationally the Labour’s share of the vote improved by 15.6% (17.7% in Bolsover and 19.7%. in North East Derbyshire). Yet in Chesterfield it only improved by 2.7%. Also the Conservative vote went down to a dismal 9.2% in 1997., The writing was on the wall. The Liberals taking the seat in 2001 and then holding it in 2005.

But just as Chesterfield returned to Labour in 1929 with George Benson, it stands the chance of bursting back again. Everything is still to play for.


In the 1960s and 1970s there were large number of pit closures, including those at Parkhouse near Clay Cross, Morton, Shirland, Holmewood, Williamthorpe, Oxcroft, Glapwell and Langwith. What was significant was that replacement pits were no longer being established.

At the same time, external and internal changes were altering Constituency make-ups, especially in North East Derbyshire.

Dronfield trebled in size in the 1970s, at one time seeing the second largest private housing development in Europe taking place on its Gosforth Valley. It then became a town of 20,000 with many of its new voters working in middle class occupations in Sheffield. Wingerworth developed in a similar way as did estates scattered throughout the Constituency in what had once been Mining areas.

For the 1970 General Election, Labour areas such as Halfway and Beighton were placed into Sheffield. Whilst for the 1983 election, areas which formerly had pits such as Stonebroom were transferred to the Bolsover Constituency in exchange for sections of the north of Staveley from the Chesterfield Constituency . So in a bad year for Labour nationally in 1983, the majority fell to 2,006.

A sign of the changing make-up of the Constituency was that when I was selected as candidate in 1986, the Derbyshire NUM only had 17 delegate places out of the 87 attending the Selection Conference. I became the first non-Miner to represent Labour in the Constituency. Perhaps my role was transitional as I had taught politics to Derbyshire Miners on Day Release Classes for 21 years before being elected, and my Wife and I came from solid Mining stock.

The final closures of Markham pit in 1994 and of High Moor the following year ended deep mining in Derbyshire. The Miner’s Strike of 1984 had proved to be the final struggle to try to save pits in Derbyshire and in many other areas.

Such changes were added to by the closure of a swathe of manufacturing and other industries in the area, which in North East Derbyshire included Biwaters at Clay Cross and Avenue Cokeworks at Wingerworth.

The days of tightly knit communities were being quickly eroded. Political and industrial struggles such as the Clay Cross Rent Rebellion of the 1970s and the lengthy Miners’ Strike of 1984 were probably the last major final flings of such approaches in the modern era.

Those who lost jobs often moved into temporary and low paid work and had to travel to work, often over increasing distances. Newcomers and the newly trained shared similar patterns, but were usually better paid and had greater prospects.

These moves took place in an overall national shift to a more mobile society which was undergoing widespread technological change within a world wide pattern of globalisation. Even friendship networks began to cut across communal links and often came to be based on chance or shared specialised interests.

North East Derbyshire has changed over time from having mainly a common make-up to having a variety of distinctive arrangements. It came to have a mix of deprived communities, working class areas with relative prosperity where many were purchasing their own homes, middle class commuter territory and a rural mix of prosperity and poverty. The past links have not, of course, been fully eliminated. But a new form of lifestyle rubs shoulders with older traditions.


Natascha Engel became the new Labour MP for North East Derbyshire following my retirement in 2005. In a parliamentary area formally dominated by Mining, it is perhaps understandable that she is the first woman MP. It is not, however, defensible that we have had to wait the best part of a century for this to occur. But there couldn’t have been a clearer change to show we have moved into new times.

Change does not, of course, need to jettison tradition. It can draw from it in meeting new challenges. Natascha’s past work with the Trade Union Movement and her current connections with them fit in well with the areas’ past.

There is also a tradition of there being numbers of powerful and effective women who have always been at the forefront of Labour activity in our area. Ethel Lenthall from Dronfield Woodhouse, Dot Walton from Halfway and Thelma Lide from Grassmoor are just three names from the recent past who illustrate the point.

As Labour moves into its second century, we can only speculate how we will go forward. But without being stuck in the past it is still possible to draw inspiration from the tradition which Keir Hardie and many other dedicated people in the Labour and Trade Union Movement set in motion.


“The Derbyshire Miners” by J. E. Williams (George Allen & Unwin. 1962).

“Memories of the Derbyshire Coalfields” by David Bell (Countryside Books, 2006).

“Guide to the Coalfields 1953” (Colliery Guardian).

“The Common People” by G.D.H. Cole & Raymond Postgate (Methuen, 1938).

“British Political Facts 1900-1967” by David Butler & Jennie Freeman (Macmillan 1968).

“The Labour Party Foundation Conference and Annual Conference Reports 1900-1905” (The Hammersmith Bookshop, 1967).

“Charles R. Dod’s Electoral Facts from 1832 to 1853” edited by H.J. Hanham (Harvester Press, 1972).

“Clay Cross Divisional Labour Party, Souvenir 1918-1948 (A. Else, Printer, Pilsley).

“Boundaries of Parliamentary Constituencies, 1885-1972” compiled and edited by F.W.S. Craig (Political Reference Publications, 1972), along with a series of Parliamentary Election Results by the same editor and publisher.

Maps of Derbyshire Parliamentary Constituencies, including UK Genealogy Archives and Kelly’s 1922.


Where areas covered by current Local Labour Parties in North East Derbyshire have been situated for Parliamentary Electoral purposes since 1885.

NED(1) = North Eastern Derbyshire Constituency (1885 to 1950)
NED(2) = North East Derbyshire Constituency (1950 onwards)
C = Chesterfield Constituency (1885 onwards)
CX = Clay Cross Constituency (1918 to 1950)
MD = Mid Derbyshire Constituency (1885 to 1918)

Current NED(2) Local Labour Parties

1885-19181918-19501950-19831983 to date
Clay CrossCCXNED(2)NED(2)
North WingfieldMDCXNED(2)NED(2)
Staveley (North)NED(1)NED(1)CNED(2)#

* Barlow was in the Chesterfield Constituency at these times.
# At the next General Election Holmewood will be transferred to the Bolsover Constituency and there will be alterations to the make up of Staveley North.

(a) NED(1) also covered areas now in Sheffield plus Bolsover and areas to its north. It also included the whole of Staveley.
(b) NED(2). Between 1950 to the 1983 election the Constituency was the same shape as the NE Derbyshire District Council‘s area. Both the Council area and the Constituency were, however, reduced in size in time for the 1970 General Election when areas were transferred to Sheffield.
(c) CX included Glapwell,Blackwell,Holmewood,Langwith,North Wingfield,Pilsley,
Pinxton,Pleasley,Shirebrook,Stonebroom,South Normanton,Tibshelf,Wessington and
Clay Cross itself.
(d) C has always included the town of Chesterfield, but its additional areas have
(e) MD. A new seat is being established using this name at the next General Election.
(f) The Bolsover Constituency at its introduction in 1950 was the same shape as the Bolsover District Council area. From the 1983 election, areas in NED(2) to the south and east of Clay Cross were moved into the Bolsover Constituency.

Friday, May 01, 2009

May Day Greetings From The Iraqi Communist Party


Hundreds of millions of workers and people around the world and also in Iraq will celebrate International Workers Day, the 1st of May, which has been associated with the revolutionary and democratic movement and the struggle to end all forms of exploitation and subjugation by the classes that control wealth and dominate political power and society. It is an occasion to highlight the pioneering role played by the workers, since the dawn of history, as the main force in building human civilization and as the real creators of material wealth.

The 1st of May entered the annals of the history of international class and political struggle after the strike organised by trade unions in Chicago on 1st May 1886, when protesters clashed with the police that were acting on behalf of big business, resulting in large numbers of casualties among the workers, with many arrested and several of them sentenced to death.

Since that day, the 1st of May has become a symbol of the struggle against poverty, hunger, unemployment, social injustice and marginalization in all its forms, and to raise the standard of living, improve working conditions, reduce working hours, regulate wages and enjoy social security.

In Iraq, the workers celebrated this glorious day openly for the first time after the 14th July 1958 Revolution, when the 1st of May was declared a national holiday. Baghdad still remembers, to this day, that million-strong demonstration organised by the Iraqi workers and their trade unions, supported and backed by the Iraqi Communist Party, on the 1st of May 1959. That historic event was echoed in towns and provinces all over Iraq with carnivals and celebrations unparalleled in the history of our country.

Before the 14th July 1958, Iraqi workers used to celebrate this occasion, dear to their hearts, in clandestine conditions, away from the eyes of the secret police of the monarchic regime. Since the formation of the first trade union organisations and the birth of the Iraqi Communist Party in 1934, the emerging Iraqi working class led the struggles of the people and their strikes, economic, social, political and class battles and courageous uprisings. These struggles have become shining landmarks in Iraq's contemporary history and a memory that haunts dictatorial rulers, parasitic elements and the enemies of freedom, democracy and social justice. The role played by the Iraqi Communist Party in those demonstrations and uprisings, by coordinating with the patriotic and democratic forces, was instrumental in deepening the content of those battles and giving them a broad national and democratic character.

Under Saddam's dictatorial regime, the Iraqi working class was subjected to various forms of exploitation, political repression and the falsification of its will. Trade unions and professional associations were turned into "yellow" organizations and empty fronts for the ruling Baath party and its security and intelligence organs. In the aftermath of the war and collapse of the dictatorship on 9th April 2003, despite the extremely difficult and complex conditions that existed under occupation, trade union work and other forms of political and social activity began to emerge and develop. But exceptional circumstances, especially the vicious terrorist campaign waged against our country and the presence of occupation forces, curtailed that promising start and prevented the Iraqi working class and people from reaping its fruits on the level of organisation and in the broad arena of labour.


In addition, government interference in the affairs of the General Federation of Trade Unions in Iraq, and other associations and unions, played a negative role that hampered its activities in defense of the rights of workers. For example, successive governments have continued to give a deaf ear to persistent workers' demands for abolishing Decree No. 150 (1987) that was issued by the so-called "Revolution Command Council" under Saddam's dictatorship, which turned state sector workers into government employees, prohibiting them from setting up their own trade unions.

Decree No. 45 (2003), issued by Bremer's occupation authority, which suspended the election activities of trade unions and put them under the mercy of a ministerial committee, is still in force. Furthermore, the government is still insisting, till this day, on its unjust Decree No. 8750 (2005) that called for freezing of the movable and immovable assets of the unions, in a blatant manifestation of interference in their affairs that resulted in paralysing unions' work and activities. The position of the government has regrettably remained unchanged in spite of many appeals and several meetings between the representatives of the General Federation of Trade Unions in Iraq and key government officials, and despite the many promises given by these officials to find quick solutions to these outstanding issues.

Iraqi workers and our people in general have been following closely the positive steps witnessed by our country in terms of pursuing the networks of terrorism and acts of sabotage and tightening the noose around criminal elements and outlaws. They are also aware of increased stability, the acceptance of the peaceful political process, and Iraq's expanding regional and international relations. While expressing support for these developments, they also look forward to practical, quick solutions to the problems of unemployment, high prices, health and education, providing protection for national products, restoring the status of industry and agriculture in Iraq, finding solutions to the crisis of housing, transport, water and electricity, developing social welfare programs and the laws of retirement and health insurance, and addressing the disparity between the salaries of senior officials and those of government employees.

In addition, millions of workers are looking forward to bold steps to be taken by the government in order to strike with an iron fist at the corrupt, big and small, who are stealing people's food and wealth, and who are hostile to the aspirations of the poor, the widows and orphans, and the families of martyrs and the "disappeared".

Today, as the spectre of unemployment creeps and the gains made by broad strata of the population in advanced capitalist societies are eroded because of the nature of the capitalist system and its mechanisms, and as a result of the new global financial and economic crisis, the struggle of workers' unions and professional associations in the developed capitalist countries is intensifying. This struggle enjoys broad support and active participation of all the forces that are opposed to savage capitalist globalization and are calling for a truly humanitarian globalization. There is an escalation of struggles to preserve the gains that the workers, those with low income and wage-earners in general, had achieved through struggles for more than a century, particularly the gains made in the areas of reducing working hours, increasing wages, obtaining health and social security and to strive to enrich these achievements in line with the development of society and the requirements of modern life. We have great confidence that the workers and toilers of our country, Iraq, will spare no effort to contribute to these struggles, for a better future for themselves and for all mankind.

We salute, once again, the Iraqi working class people, as well as the workers of the world, on their International Day.. the 1st of May.