Cheltenham Labour Party – the first 100 years
The Labour Party in Cheltenham was founded in 1918 by the Cheltenham and District Trade and Labour Council with the purpose of electing Labour representatives to the Town Council.
Creation and early days of the local party
Cheltenham Trades Council formed, 6 November, at a meeting in St George’s Hall with 375 building workers in attendance. George Skey elected as President. This first attempt to organise representation for the labour movement in Cheltenham is short-lived.
Workers representatives hold inaugural meeting of Cheltenham and District Trades and Labour Council at the Rose & Crown and select Charles Fisher, Stonemason, as President.
Meeting of Cheltenham and District Trade and Labour Council calls for creation of local Labour Party in order to elect direct representatives of workers onto the Town Council.
1912: Keir Hardie in Cheltenham
1918: Birth of Cheltenham Labour Party
80 people in attendance as meeting of Cheltenham and District Trade and Labour Council in March votes to establish Labour Party in the town.
Meeting on 11th August votes to adopt constitution and rules of national Labour Party and elects a Provisional Working Committee. 13 men and five women chosen to carry out business of newly-founded Cheltenham branch of the Labour Party.
Parliamentary candidates and campaigns
1928: Florence Widdowson
Widdowson’s selection as candidate comes just two months after Royal Assent granted to Representation of People Act, giving women the right to vote, age 21, for the first time.
1935: Lady Elizabeth Pakenham
Known also as Lady Longford (through her marriage to Frank Pakenham, Seventh Earl of Longford) she achieves national reputation in later life as historian and biographer.
Her niece, Harriet Harman, former shadow Deputy Prime Minister, is currently the longest continually-serving woman MP in the House of Commons.
1974: Prof. Frederick Inglis
Fred Inglis chosen as Cheltenham Labour candidate in general election.
An internationally-renowned academic in Cultural Studies, Media and Anthropology, Prof. Inglis takes on advisory role to Labour Government on Higher Education matters, and establishes reputation as leading print and radio commentator on social issues.
1984-97: Mike Grindley
Mike Grindley, technical Mandarin Chinese linguist at Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham, leads mass protests after Conservative government bans trade union membership and sacks workers.
Grindley spearheads unrelenting 13-year GCHQ campaign for rights and reinstatement with support from Labour. The ban is abolished in May 1997 when Labour returns to power. Labour Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, announces compensation for loss of pension rights to sacked GCHQ workers, February, 2000.
“It’s been a mixture of tenseness, tiredness, excitement and endurance. We always knew in our heart of hearts that we would win our rights back, but if we had been told it would take 13 years, the prospect would have been daunting indeed.”
Mike Grindley, May 1997
2005: Chris Evans MP
Following Chris Evans‘ unsuccessful bid to become MP for Cheltenham in the 2005 general election after being selected in April 2004, Evans was elected as MP for Islwyn in 2010, standing as Labour and Co-operative candidate. Re-elected for Islwyn in 2015, 2017, and 2019, Chris Evans was appointed as the Shadow Minister for Defence Procurement in the minor May 2021 reshuffle.
Since 1928, five women have stood for election as Labour parliamentary candidates in Cheltenham, across 21 elections and by-elections held in our town. In addition to Florence Widdowson and Elizabeth Packenham, Phyllis Warner (1945), Judith James (1983) and Pam Tatlow (1992) have stood for our Party in Cheltenham.