Stan Thorne, British ‘Old Labour’ MP, dies

This is a music video of Robert Wyatt – Shipbuilding, on the Falklands war. With Elvis Costello, co-author of the song, on backing vocals.

By Tam Dalyell, former Scottish ‘Old Labour’ MP, in daily The Independent:

Stan Thorne: Politician of the extreme left

Stanley George Thorne, politician: born Donaghadee, Co Down 22 July 1918; MP (Labour) for Preston South 1974-83, for Preston 1983-87; married Catherine Rand (two sons, three daughters); died Liverpool 26 November 2007

Published: 30 November 2007

It is hardly conceivable that Stan Thorne, a principled politician of the extreme left, would have been selected as a Labour candidate today. And the House of Commons would have been the poorer for his absence.

Late into the night, when we were waiting for votes to take place in the small hours, Stan Thorne would sidle up to me and say in that gentle voice, “How about a game?” He was one of the best chess players in the House of Commons and it was on this account that, although we had many different political opinions, I got to know him well and so to value him highly. …

Born in Northern Ireland, the son of a postman and a dressmaker, Stanley Thorne went to school in Manchester. Naturally tough, he volunteered for the Royal Marines and went with them to Singapore. He told me that the beginning of his political attitude came when he spoke out to the officers about what he considered to be the inhuman treatment of some of his fellow marines who, in conditions of extreme heat, were made to wear full battle-dress and kit. Thorne suffered solitary confinement.

After the war, Thorne became a coal-miner, then a semi-skilled fitter, a chartered accountant’s clerk, a railway signalman in Bedford, an office manager, an auditor and a commercial manager. Then, at the age of 48, yet again he was sacked, from a construction company, for speaking out on behalf of his fellow workers. His wife, Catherine, told him that he should try to get in to Ruskin College, Oxford and, on reading his 3,000-word essay, they accepted his submission. In the next couple of years, he was taken under the wing of Peter Donaldson, a lecturer in economics at Ruskin, who became Thorne’s lifelong mentor. …

At the age of 53, Thorne was selected for the election of February 1974 for the marginal seat of Preston South held by the Conservative minister Alan Green. He was by no means favourite at the selection conference, though at the time he was a very popular lecturer in politics at the Bolton College of Technology. Given his views on defence, and his vehement opposition later on to adventures such as the Falklands War, it was perhaps surprising that an area so dependent on the defence industries should have selected such a candidate.

However, he proved to be an extraordinarily good constituency MP, with a reputation for inviting down-and-outs into his home at Christmas and on other occasions. …

When Labour seats were tumbling all around in 1979, it was a matter of huge surprise that Stan Thorne clung on to his seat. Perhaps his most important contribution to parliamentary debate came at the beginning of the Thatcher government when he opposed the British Aerospace Bill. Thorne retired in 1987, not because anyone suggested that he should do so, but because he wanted to leave Parliament while he was still fit and able.

In his retirement, he was a familiar figure in his area of Liverpool, going for four or five walks a day with his inevitable pipe. I shall remember him with respect and affection as he represented a part of society which is almost unrepresented in the House of Commons today.

2 thoughts on “Stan Thorne, British ‘Old Labour’ MP, dies

  1. Pingback: Pro peace protest songs pre Iraq | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Vote No to state funeral for Margaret Thatcher | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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