Our Local History
Organised by the Wolverton and District Trades Council, a Labour Conference was held in a small hall at the Wolverton Science and Arts Institute (now the Wolverton Agora Car Park) on Saturday 5 May 1917 to consider forming a Labour Party in North Bucks.
Over 100 delegates attended including representatives from the National Union of Railwaymen, National Union of General Workers, National Union of Printing and Paper Workers, National Union of Teachers, the Olney Branch of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, and the Wolverton, Bletchley, Stony Stratford, Newport Pagnell and Olney Co-operative Societies.
After a lot of debate on the matter, Oliver Wells moved “That a Labour Party for North Bucks be formed and that the meeting pledges itself to do all it could to ensure its success” and Albert Brown seconded.
The first officers of the party were appointed as follows: President, Mr A Brown (Stantonbury), Vice-Presidents Mr Oliver Wells (Bletchley) and Mr O.H Bull (Newport Pagnell), Secretary Mr A Wells of 38 Albert Street, Bletchley, and Treasurer Mr J.R Brassett (Wolverton).
Since that time Labour Party candidates have stood for election and held elected offices at various times in local government and as members of parliament. Local party members have supported election campaigns, grown the party, and worked in the community to improve the lives of local people.
Our real story, and what we’re most proud of, is the positive difference we’ve made to the people, environment, economy and culture of Milton Keynes. Our volunteers have worked hard to make our community a better place for all and we see it all around this place, but this page tells our internal story of how we’ve developed as a local political party alongside the growth of MK.
Bletchley Labour Hall
The North Bucks Labour Party purchased the then St.Mary’s Hall on Buckingham Road, Bletchley as their Divisional Headquarters at a cost of £25,000 (which included the cost of equipment and adding extensions to the main property). On Saturday 23 June 1962 Labour Leader Mr Hugh Gaitskell was invited to open the building in front of 3,000 supporters, he received a cheque for £1,000 for the Nye Bevan Memorial Fund. After the speeches Mr Gaitskell performed no fewer than three unveilings, first was the big plaque on the front of the building proclaiming “Labour Hall 1962” with the badge of the party inscribed on it, then he moved in to the entrance hall for a private unveiling of a photograph of Mr Robert Maxwell and Mr Bryan Barnard which was inscribed “The two that made it possible Bob Maxwell who negotiated the purchase and Bryan Barnard the promoter of the Tote that provided the money” then Mr Gaitskell moved to the side of the building to unveil the foundation stone which read “Buckingham Constituency Labour Party this Labour Hall was opened by the Rt. Hon Hugh Gaitskell C.B.E M.P 23rd June 1962.”
The hall accommodation consisted of a reception office, a central committee room which was also hired out to other organisations, a fully equipped kitchen and access to the main hall which seats up to 400 people. A further wing of the building comprised of a committee room for the Bletchley Labour Party, a bar and cloakrooms and a film projection room. Upstairs consisted of a general office, the party agent’s office and a small kitchen. Outside there was a car park for up to 150 cars along with grounds, and all the extension works were carried out by a small Bletchley firm called Jackman and Cottington.
Designation of a New Town
In 1967 the future of the area was changed significantly as the Labour government designated an area of 21,870 acres covering the northernmost part of Buckinghamshire to become the United Kingdom’s biggest new town, frequently called a new “city” even though city status had not yet been awarded. The new town was to be called “Milton Keynes” after one of the existing villages within the area and had a target population of 250,000.
New Bradwell Labour Hall
On Saturday 25 November 1967 there was a Golden Jubilee celebration of the formation of the North Bucks Labour Party at Wilton Hall in Bletchley with the guest of Honour Mr Richard Crossman Leader of the House and speeches from the then Labour MP Mr Robert Maxwell, Mr Bob Haydock, President of the Constituency Labour Party, with a toast proposed by Mr R.G Bellchambers. The deeds of the New Bradwell Labour Hall were also presented to Mr Arthur Geen, Chair of the Bradwell party, followed by a collection that raised £100 for the Earl Attlee Memorial Fund.
There had been a Hall on the Newport Road New Bradwell site (where today’s Labour Hall sits) and for many years before that there was a small factory building. It was the Divisional Headquarters until the move to Bletchley, and after the move there was a lot of debate as to what to do with the site. After several meetings with the Bradwell party it was agreed that they would meet there and maintain the building and were given £500 by the Buckingham Labour Party to sort out the outstanding repairs that needed doing.
A Milton Keynes Council
The Milton Keynes Council was formed on 1 April 1974 by the merger of the Bletchley, Newport Pagnell and Wolverton Urban District Councils, the Newport Pagnell Rural District Council and the part of the Winslow Rural District Council that was within the designated New Town area. The district council applied for and received borough status that year entitling it to be known as Milton Keynes Borough Council and to annually appoint a Mayor of Milton Keynes. The council had responsibility for many public services including housing, planning, waste collection, leisure and environmental health services.
Labour candidates stood, were elected and served the people of Milton Keynes, as they had before on the previous councils and would continue to do. The first Mayor of Milton Keynes was one of the Labour Councillors.
The Move from Bletchley to New Bradwell
After a number of years it was difficult for the party to afford to maintain and decorate the Bletchley Labour Hall and upkeep the grounds and so in 1976 the General Management Committee meeting decided by an “overwhelming majority” to put the Buckingham Road hall and site up for sale. This did not go down well with the Bletchley party members, but none the less the Salvation Army bought the hall and ran it for many years. They sold the site again in the 1990’s to a developer who then demolished the hall and built flats on the site.
After the Bletchley site had been sold in 1977 it was agreed to use the proceeds from the sale to demolish the existing hall in New Bradwell (where the car park is today) and build new premises at a cost of £27,000.
On a wet Wednesday 9 August 1978 the Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer Mr Denis Healey MP cut the ribbon on the entrance porch along with the then prospective parliamentary candidate Mr John Fryer to open the new building.
The Haydock Room
On Thursday 8 March 1980 a plaque was unveiled commemorating the service of Mr Bob Haydock (who died in 1978) to the Labour party the unveiling was carried out by Mr Robert Maxwell in front of his daughter Mrs Alwyn Metcalfe, Margaret (Mr Haydock’s widow) and Mr Haydock’s son Roger. The plaque was placed above the doors of the ground floor meeting room and which was called the Haydock Room (the room was divided in to two offices in 1997 to accommodate the MP’s staff but is now generally used as the party office and meeting room respectively.) 63 people attended including members of the Bingo Club who had raised money for the plaque.
The Bradwell Labour Club
On Friday 19 December 1981 a Labour Club was opened and operated from the Haydock Room with the first pints pulled by Councillors Roger Hutchinson and Kevin Wilson. 60 members attended on that opening night, the club was affiliated to the National Union of Labour and social clubs so that they could join in on the activities of “sister and “brother” clubs. Sadly due to the location and size of the room the club was not viable and a few years later it closed.
Local Government Reorganisation
In the 1996 local government reorganisation Milton Keynes Council was designated a unitary authority and took on additional responsibility for other public services including education, social services, transport and libraries which until then were the responsibility of Buckinghamshire County Council (BCC). BCC was a Conservative party controlled authority, but the new unitary authority commenced in 1997 as a Labour party controlled Milton Keynes Council responsible for council services in the whole of the area.
Some parts of Milton Keynes already had Parish Councils and by 2001 the remaining areas of the borough were also parished giving every part of Milton Keynes a Parish Council. Parishes are the first tier of local government operating at the most local level. Some parishes are called “Town” or “Community” Councils or a “Parish Meeting”. Many of these Parish Councils have Labour Party Councillors.
From the 1889 by-election until the first world war the north Buckinghamshire constituency called “Buckingham” had been held by the Liberal party. Since the creation of a local Labour Party in 1917 the contest to represent the constituencies in this area have since been fought between Labour and Conservative (sometimes called Unionist) candidates, with the exception of the 1980s when the Social Democrat Party temporarily pushed Labour into 3rd place. The only parliamentary election where we have not nominated a Labour Party candidate since our creation was for the 1943 parliamentary by-election, which was unopposed due to being during the Second World War.
By the 1983 general election the growth of Milton Keynes was such that it had also qualified for it’s own member of parliament and the ‘Milton Keynes’ constituency separated from Buckingham. By 1992 the further growth in population required the constituency to be split into two constituencies named ‘North East Milton Keynes’ and ‘Milton Keynes South West’. The boundaries of the two Milton Keynes parliamentary constituencies were amended in 2010 and they were renamed ‘Milton Keynes North’ and ‘Milton Keynes South’.
Similarly the European parliamentary constituency which included Milton Keynes changed a number of times until the 1999 election when the proportional representation system, allocating seats on a regional basis from a list of candidates from each party, was introduced.
A New Labour Government
The Labour Party had achieved a landslide win across the UK in the general election on 1 May 1997. In that election Milton Keynes South West was a key target seat for the party and as such almost all campaigning efforts from the local party went into that seat. However, the scale of the Labour victory was such that we also won the North East Milton Keynes – much to our own surprise. In 1997 this gave every part of Milton Keynes a Labour MP supporting a Labour government in Westminster and working alongside a Labour controlled Milton Keynes Council and the Labour Member of the European Parliament for Milton Keynes. Even the Mayor of Milton Keynes was a Labour Councillor.
In 1999 local European Parliamentary constituencies were replaced with larger Regional seats with Milton Keynes included in the South East England region. The Two Labour MEPs elected under the proportional representation list system understandably had less time to spend in MK as they now covered a huge geographical area, but continued to serve the people of MK.
From the peak of influence in 1997 the election results gradually moved power to the other parties. In the 2000 local elections Milton Keynes Council became under no overall control, but Labour continued as a minority administration until 2002.
In January 2004, Labour Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott announced the government’s proposals to further expand development in Milton Keynes, and planning for further development began.
In the 2004 euro-elections the number of Labour MEPs representing South East England region reduced to one. In the 2005 General Election we lost the Milton Keynes North seat, but retained power in Westminster. In 2010 we lost the Milton Keynes South seat and the period of a New Labour government came to an end. A coalition excluding Labour formed the national government and after 13 years Labour was once again in opposition.
Labour was gaining seats on Milton Keynes Council and in 2014 Labour became a minority administration and formed the Cabinet once more.
Following the loss in the 2015 General Election, the party started a new chapter as Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader and inspired membership numbers to increase locally and nationally to levels not seen for many decades.
The majority vote to leave the EU in the “BREXIT” referendum, both in MK and nationally, in June 2016 meant that the scheduled elections for Members of the European Parliament in 2019 were unlikely to happen and the MEP elections in 2014 may have been the last in the UK.
Completing our first centenary and starting our second 100 years
The Milton Keynes Labour Party celebrated our first centenary in 2017, the same year that the new town of Milton Keynes marked its 50th anniversary.
The Milton Keynes Labour Party completed it’s first 100 years as it had began, as an active political party with members across the Borough of Milton Keynes working together to improve the lives of local people.
Our second century started with an unexpected General Election in June 2017. Labour, under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership produced a strong, fully costed manifesto which resonated with an increasing number of voters.
It saw a shift back towards a two-party political landscape. Voting for other parties fell away and both Milton Keynes seats became marginal contests between Labour and the Conservatives. Both those parties added percentage and number of votes in each constituency and although the Conservatives retained both seats their majorities were significantly reduced.
In the 2017 General election, the MEP for South East England, Anneliese Dodds was elected as an MP in Oxford East and hence the second named candidate from our 2014 Euro-election list of candidates, John Howarth, replaced her as the Labour MEP for South East England.
The next boundary commission review of constituencies will result with the Milton Keynes area being covered by three parliamentary constituencies either in full or partially because of the growth in population numbers. Such a review was due to conclude in 2018, delivering the Conservative policy to remove 50 parliamentary seats, however their lack of a majority makes this now unlikely.
Making More History
As we look forward we know that we will continue to nominate and support candidates for election as Parish Councillors, Milton Keynes Councillors, Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner and Members of Parliament for constituencies covering Milton Keynes. Once elected into these positions our members will continue our long tradition of the Labour Party making a positive difference in Milton Keynes.
Getting elected into positions of authority allows us to implement our policies to help the community, but we’re not just about that. We govern efficiently where we are in power and are an effective opposition where we are not, as part of all levels of the government of the country. Alongside elections we also support local, national and international campaigns to tackle the wider issues impacting on the people of Milton Keynes.
Over the years a large number of men and women have stood for election as official Labour Party candidates for Council or Parliament. Those that won their seats have then served Milton Keynes in those positions. We’ve listed the most high profile representatives and candidates here:
Members of Parliament (MPs)
The following Labour Party members were elected as Members of Parliament for constituencies covering Milton Keynes:
1945 – 1951 Flight Lieutenant Aidan Crawley MP
1964 – 1970 Captain Robert Maxwell M.C MP
Milton Keynes North East
1997 – 2005 Mr Brian White MP
Milton Keynes South West/Milton Keynes South
1997 – 2010 Dr Phyllis Starkey MP
Members of European Parliament
The following Labour Party members were elected members of the European Parliament for the constituency or region that included Milton Keynes:
Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes
1994 – 1999 Mrs Eryl McNally MEP
South East England European Region
1999 – 2004 Mr Mark Watts MEP
1999 – 2014 Mr Peter Skinner MEP
2014 – 2017 Ms Anneliese Dodds MEP
2017 – Mr John Howarth MEP
Mayors of Milton Keynes
The following Labour party Councillors were elected as Mayor of Milton Keynes by the members of Milton Keynes Council:
1974 – 1975 Cllr Ernie Fryer
1975 – 1976 Cllr Cecil Bowden
1983 – 1984 Cllr William Jones
1984 – 1985 Cllr Frank Atter
1989 – 1990 Cllr Roger Bristow
1990 – 1991 Cllr Betty Hanks
1991 – 1992 Cllr William Harnett
1992 – 1993 Cllr Fred Smith
1993 – 1994 Cllr Les Hostler
1996 – 1997 Cllr David Lewis
1997 – 1998 Cllr Val Squires
1998 – 1999 Cllr Grant Gillingham
1999 – 2000 Cllr Ken Beeley
2000 – 2001 Cllr Alf Woodcock
2004 – 2005 Cllr Norman Miles
2008 – 2009 Cllr Jan Lloyd
2013 – 2014 Cllr Brian White
2016 – 2017 Cllr Steve Coventry
2018 – 2019 Cllr Martin Petchey
Leaders of Milton Keynes Council
The following Labour party Councillors were Leaders of Milton Keynes Council. NB: The Council did not have a formally designated Leader until 2001 when Cabinet structures were introduced. Under the previous Committee structures the Chair of the Policy and Resources Committee was technically “assumed” to be the Council Leader.
1973 – 1976 Cllr Robert (Bob) Swepston
1986 – 1987 Cllr David Flook
1990 – 1991 Cllr Kevin Wilson
1991 – 1992 Cllr Rob Gifford
1993 – 1994 Cllr Rob Gifford
1994 – 1996 Cllr Kevin Wilson
1996 – 1997 Cllr Brian White
1997 – 2000 Cllr Kevin Wilson
2000 – 2002 Cllr Norman Miles
2014 – Present Cllr Pete Marland
Other Parliamentary Candidates
In addition to those who successfully became or retained their position as Members of Parliament listed above, the following party members also stood as Labour candidates at parliamentary elections over the years. Despite receiving the backing of thousands of local residents they did not become Members of Parliament on these occasions.
1923 Edward Pay (2nd place in “Buckingham” with 11,824 votes)
1929 James George (2nd place in “Buckingham” with 11,718 votes)
1931 James George (2nd place in “Buckingham” with 11,736 votes)
1935 Joseph Sparks (2nd place in “Buckingham” with 14,928 votes)
1937 James Delahaye (2nd place in “Buckingham” with 12,820 votes)
1951 Aiden Crawley (2nd place and lost seat in “Buckingham” with 22,634 votes*)
* Lost by just 54 votes
1955 David Evans (2nd place in “Buckingham” with 22,110 votes)
1959 Robert Maxwell (2nd place in “Buckingham” with 20,558 votes)
1970 Robert Maxwell (2nd place and lost his seat in “Buckingham” with 25,567 votes)
February, 1974 Robert Maxwell (2nd place in “Buckingham” with 24,056 votes)
October, 1974 Robert Maxwell (2nd place in “Buckingham” with 23,679 votes)
1979 J S Fryer (2nd place in “Buckingham” with 27,752 votes)
1982 Jim Thakoordin (3rd place in “Milton Keynes” with 13,045 votes)
1987 Yvonne Brownfield-Pope (3rd place in “Milton Keynes” with 16,111)
1992 Maggie Cosin (2nd place in “Milton Keynes North East” with 12,036 votes)
Kevin Wilson (2nd place in “Milton Keynes South West” with 19,153 votes)
2005 Brian White (2nd place and lost his seat in “Milton Keynes North East” with 18,009 votes)
2010 Andrew Pakes (2nd place in “Milton Keynes North” with 14,458 votes)
Phyllis Starkey (2nd place and lost her seat in “Milton Keynes South” with 17,833 votes)
2015 Emily Darlington (2nd place in “Milton Keynes North” with 17,491 votes)
Andrew Pakes (2nd place in “Milton Keynes South” with 18,929 votes)
2017 Charlynne Pullen (2nd place in “Milton Keynes North” with 28,392 votes)
Hannah O’Neill (2nd place in “Milton Keynes South” with 28,927 votes)
1) The Wolverton Science and Arts Institute was the second ‘mechanic’s institute’ in the United Kingdom. In 1840 the Mechanics Institute started without a permanent building until 1864 a dedicated building was available and provide its new name the Wolverton Science and Art Institute. The building was located on the corner of Church Street and St. Georges Way and it offered 12 classrooms, a library, an auditorium and a lecture theatre. Evening classes were also available here in a range of academic and practical disciplines. The building was destroyed by fire in 1970 and is now a public car park.