Albert Booth (1928-2010)
Albert Booth was a resident of Woodwarde Road for some fifteen years from 1968. He was described as one of the most modest and unassuming of Cabinet ministers and a steadfast left-winger who nevertheless faithfully backed the Callaghan Labour government’s controversial wage restraint policies during the famous ‘winter of discontent’. He was appointed Chairman of the House of Commons Select Committee on Statutory Instruments from 1970-74, Minister of State for Employment 1974 and Secretary of State for Employment 1976-79. Inside the Cabinet he was often at odds with fellow ministers over membership of the Common Market towards which he was hostile. After Labour’s defeat in the 1979 election he became the opposition spokesman on transport. He was elected Party Treasurer in 1984.
Booth was born in Winchester in 1928 and was educated at St Thomas’s School. His family moved to South Shields and it was there that Booth picked up his strong Tyneside accent and where he attended a technology college, studying to be a draughtsman. He was converted to the Labour cause at an early age, being a member of the National Consultative Committee of Labour League of Youth at 15 and an election agent at 23. The following year he was Secretary of the Constituency Party in Tynemouth and a member of the Borough Council from 1962-65. After proving himself in the 1964 parliamentary election he was selected two years later for the safe Labour seat of Barrow-in-Furness which he won comfortably over the local Tory candidate. He became a member of the Tribune group and a close confident of Michael Foot, whose campaign for party leader Booth managed.
Albert Booth represented Barrow-in-Furness from 1966 until he lost his seat in 1983. This seat was always going to be a test of Booth’s conscience because of his commitment to the cause of nuclear disarmament. Much of the employment in the town was connected with the defence industry and with the building of nuclear submarines. It was characteristic of Booth, and also political suicide, that he would lead a march through Barrow protesting against nuclear weapons. The electorate of Barrow chose the security of their jobs above the conscience of their MP. After his defeat he typically declined a seat in the House of Lords of which he had always been hostile, instead preferring to take the job of executive director of South Yorkshire Passenger Transport. After failing to win the Warrington South seat in the 1987 election, Booth and his wife Joan, who he had met when they were both teenage members of Labour’s League of Youth retired to Beckenham where his wife predeceased him in 2008.