Manchester’s Labour Party from 1964 to 1984

This chapter details the intricacies of the ‘broad church’ of politics on the Left – the left-wing and right-wing of the Labour Party, the Hard Left and the Soft Left, and how the policies changed as a new wave of younger socialists gradually took over the balance of power in Manchester City Council. The Left gained a majority within the Labour Group, but not in the Council, leading to a situation where the right-wing of the Labour Group could vote with the Opposition to block policies and recommendations agreed at the City Party.
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The Change of Composition During the 1960s
1967 Tories Control Manchester City Council
1971 Swing Back to Labour
Local Government Reorganisation 1974
Manchester City Labour Party in the 1970s
Workings of the Labour Group on the Council
The Escalation of Conflicts between Left and Right
1978 Local Elections and Two By-elections
Local Reflection of National Labour Party Divisions
1979 General and Local Elections
Expulsions from the Manchester Labour Group
Left Caucus: A Party Within The Party
National Labour Party Split: the Birth of the SDP
More Labour Group Expulsions
1981 National Executive Committee Inquiry
1982 New Leadership of the Labour Group
The Left Make Gains in 1983 Elections, But Not Enough
1984: The Left Gain the Majority Within the Labour Group But Not the Council as a Whole
Council AGM May 1984
The Battle to Select Airport Directorships
Summing Up


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Editor’s Comments

I have added the sub-headings. There are a few corrections from information provided by Eddy Newman and Pete Keenlyside when this chapter appeared online in 2012. Some bits that were in parentheses have been moved to footnotes where the over use of asides made it hard to follow the meaning of the sentences. There is a lot of detail about the numbers of voting, but actually because of the tightness of the votes, the numbers are important.


[1] The 10 districts of GM were (and still are) Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan.

[2] As the districts remained in control of waste collection, the co-ordination between collection and disposal caused administrative headaches for many years.

[3] Longsight was in Ardwick CLP. Its officers were Irene Cohen (Chair), Kath Robinson (Secretary), Hilda Bickley (Treasurer) and Nilofar Siddiqi (membership secretary).

[4] Kath Robinson was the secretary of the Women’s Council and Gladys Marino from Wythenshawe was the chair.

[5] Harold Lever: 1945-1950 MP for Manchester Exchange; 1950-1974 MP for Manchester Cheetham; 1974-1979 MP for Manchester Central. His brother, Leslie Lever, was MP for Manchester Ardwick 1950-1970, and was also Lord Mayor of Manchester from 1957-1958.

[6] In 1983, Joe Dean was elevated to the House of Lords as Lord Dean of Beswick.

[7] Editor’s note: No reference recorded for the two Benn quotes.

[8] Fred Balcombe was a 6ft 7in tall, Jewish, ex-army, self-made millionaire who represented Collegiate Church ward (the worst in the city in terms of housing). He was very likeable, but was resented for driving around in a Rolls Royce, particularly by councillor colleagues, such as Rachel Finkel, who represented a similar ward, but had to earn a living by machining all day.

[9] Hilary Wainwright. “A Tale of Two Parties”, Hogarth Press, 1987

[10] Corrected from Barlow Moor ward by Pete Keenlyside and other corrections in the same paragraph.

[11] Roy Grainger was a regular at the Red Lion pub in Withington and was often to be seen holding forth on the topic of the day to a group of acolytes.

[12] A supporter of the left-wing Tribune newspaper.

[13] The seven left-wingers who were already on the council (Frances Done, Peter Hildrew, Arnold Spencer, Val Stevens, Jeff Wilner, Dennis Barker and Bill Courteney) were joined by Alf Home, Pat Karney, Eddy Newman, Kath Robinson, Graham Stringer and John Wilson (previously on from 1971 to 1974). Allan Roberts, who was sympathetic to the Left, had been elected to parliament, but remained on the council until May 1980.

[14] The following information and quote from Eddy Newman was received after putting the draft of the chapter online in 2012.

[15] Workers from MCRC were Patrick Cornwell, Chris Sumner and Cath Crausby. David Mottram was the first Secretary of MCRC.

[16] At time of writing, 2011.

[17] Local pubs such as the Briton’s Protection and the Hare and Hounds had upstairs rooms that could be booked, free of charge, for meetings.

[18] The six newly elected councillors were Nick Harris, Kevan Lim, John Maguire, Graham Martin, John Nicholson and Andrew Thomas.

[19] He was Secretary of the Moss Side CLP and he later defected to the SDP.

[20] It is interesting to compare this with Graham Stringer’s arguments in 1987 (see chapter 11).

[21] Including Jim Bradley and Ken McKeown.

[22] later to be Lord Mayor

[23] The Clay Cross Councillors had attempted to resist the Tories’ 1971/72 Rent Act which would increase Council house rents by 50p a week, and they were subsequently imprisoned.

[24] later to be first Chair of the Council

[25] Bill Courteney, John McGuire and Graham Martin stood down in 1982 making just 15 sitting left-wingers. The 15 new ones were John Byrne, Val Dunn, Tom Egan, Joe Holly, Pete Keenlyside, Eileen Kelly, Peter Morrison, Veronica (Ronni) Myers, Phil Openshaw, Sheila Robertson (later Newman), Margaret Roff, Nilofar Siddiqi, Ken Strath, Chris Tucker, Niel Warren.

[26] The 5 new left-wingers were – Frank Booth, Keith Bradley, Basil Curley, Sam Darby, Marilyn Taylor. The 2 retiring were Peter Hildrew and Jeff Wilner.

[27] This company had been set up on commercial lines by Roger Done and his second wife Sylvia, to provide the Labour party with a cheap option for printing election leaflets. The company rented a temporary building on the Moss Side Industrial estate for a number of years. Editor’s note: for the time-being I have left this paragraph in, but it doesn’t seem to be of any relevance to the rest of the section, other than an interesting fact.

[28] The 10 new left-wingers elected were Margaret Ainsworth, Paul Clarke, John Clegg, Rhona Graham, Brian Harrison, David Heald, Helen Johnson, Richard Leese, Neil Litherland and Tony McCardell. Joe Holly had stood down and so the net gain was only nine (from 33 to 42).

[29] He was elected in June 1984 as Labour MEP for Greater Manchester Central (consisting of Manchester and Trafford)

[30] Cliff Hilditch was due to retire on 31 March, with a new director starting on 1 April, but for some reason this hadn’t happened (see chapter 4)

[31] Corrected from estate agent, according Pete Keenlyside

[32] At this point Helen Johnson was missing from the Council chamber, the maximum Labour Left vote was only 44.

[33] Previous directors remaining on – Dennis Barker, Gordon Conquest, Norman Finley, Bill Latham, Winnie Smith. New appointments – Keith Bradley, Jack Flanagan, Frances Done, Kevan Lim, Graham Stringer, Arnold Spencer.

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1 Response

  1. David Mottram says:

    Footnote 15 identifies me in error as secretary of Manchester Community Resource Centre. In 1982 I was, briefly, the secretary of the Manchester Anti-Cuts Committee, to which reference is also made in the text.

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