Wilfrid Andrew Burke, Labour M.P Burnley 1935 - 1959

Wilfrid Andrew Burke, Labour M.P Burnley 1935 - 1959
Wilfrid Andrew Burke, Labour M.P Burnley 1935 - 1959
Wilfrid Andrew Burke, Labour  M.P Burnley 1935 - 1959
Wilfrid Andrew Burke, Labour M.P Burnley 1935 - 1959
Wilfrid Andrew Burke, Jean Burke, Arthur Henderson, Gordon Campbell, Earl of Listowel, Bevan
Born in Liverpool on 23.11.1889, Burke was initially a teacher, as were two of his older sisters. Appalled at the poverty and social conditions he encountered, he became a socialist, joining the Independent Labour Party in 1910 and the Labour Party in 1918. Also in 1918 he moved to Manchester and became involved in commerce which led him to a lifetime's involvement with what became the Union of Shop Distributive and and Allied Workers, and the Co-operative movement.

When he was adopted as Parliamentary Candidate for Burnley in 1932, he was already a seasoned campaigner, with many years' experience organising with NUSDAW and the Labour Party in Manchester. He had also stood unsuccessfully in the previous three elections in Blackley. Arthur Henderson the then Labour leader had lost the Burnley seat in 1931, to Vice Admiral Gordon Campbell, an unattached National candidate. Campbell stood again in 1935, as a National Liberal, and lost to Burke by 4,195 votes. Burke comfortably retained the seat in the general elections of 1945, 1950, 1951 and 1955, and stepped down in October 1959. The seat was then held for Labour by Dan Jones.

In Parliament his main focus was trade and commerce, social welfare and education. He was an acknowledged expert on the cotton industry.

After the 1945 election, he was appointed Assistant Postmaster General in the Labour Government, tasked with restoring the post war communication network of GPO and Royal Mail, the Postmaster General being the Earl of Listowel who sat in the Lords. As such, there is a photographic portrait of him dated 1946 in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery. He left office in 1947, ostensibly, the Burnley Express reported, because he wanted to concentrate on his constituency and Party/Union responsibilities. He was a dedicated worker for the Burnley constituency, assisted in his many social obligations by his wife, Jean (Jane?), also from Liverpool whom he had married in 1920. She had a keen interest in local government politics having been at one time Vice Chair of Irlam U.D.C.

He was a member of Labour's NEC from 1944 being repeatedly re-elected until he retired in 1956. He was elected Chairman in 1953 after holding several senior positions despite being considered right wing, and clashing with the left wing "Bevanite" faction.

He was an internationalist and much interested in foreign affairs and trade, and over his long career served on many Labour Party committees and fact-finding delegations, most notably the remarkable delegation to Communist Russia and China in August/September 1954. He used his speech to the Labour Party Conference to report eloquently on the visit and his view of the future, as reported in the Burnley Express on 2.10.1954.

His home for many years was 79 Crow Hill, Alkrington, Middleton. He died in Middleton on 18.7.1968.
Photographic print
11 x 15
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