Elected to West Midlands County Council – Still a Highlight 38 Years On!

Thirty-Eight Years Ago-I Was Elected for Wednesfield!

It was a friend Dr John Fletcher himself a former West Midlands County Councillor, that contacted me recently to point out that 38 years ago, I stood for election to the now abolished West Midlands Metropolitan County Council. The election took place on 7th May 1981

I was the Labour candidate and standing in the Ward of Wednesfield North & South. Wolverhampton Number 10 Ward.

My election agent was my friend and workmate on the railway Mr Joe King. Joe was a Labour Party stalwart. We both served in the National Union of Railwaymen, and then when the Union changed its name, The Rail Maritime and Transport Union.Joe lived in Darlaston at the time he became my agent, because he was such a Labour Party veteran all we did when we met in the mornings before we started our work as Rail Parcels drivers was talk Labour politics. Looking back, it was the best thing I could have done at that point. There were no takers for being agent in the two Wednesfield Labour Party’s. I am not sure if it was me? Or the job that they didn’t want!

But I had already got my agent in my head, and Joe didn’t need to be cajoled too much before he agreed to do the job. Joe had a young family, he lived in the Borough of Walsall he had family commitments. But he was a tremendous guy, sadly no longer with us. I owe such a lot to Joe he was a great inspiration.

I set about the campaign with Joe in great gusto. What wasn’t on the public information about the candidate at that time ,was that I was still recovering from testicular cancer. In honesty I thought that I would have a short life! It was an immense strain on our family and on Mary in particular when the disease was first diagnosed. That was in 1977, in fact I went to the 1977 Labour Party conference still having treatment. But I spoke three times at conference, once on Vietnam and on Nuclear Free Zones.

This election for the West Midlands County Council was a hard-fought affair.

Transport was a key platform, and the County Labour Party prepared a vote winning manifesto. The Labour Party delegates from Wolverhampton played a central role in its development. I was proud to stand by it. In my Union role I was always talking up the need for good and modern public transport. Take a look at the personal address it majors heavily on bus services rail links and good roads!

Travel Our Way 1981IMG_6348

The Chairs of both Wednesfield North and South are and were, prominent Local people. Clarice Nicholls in Wednesfield south was a former Wednesfield South and Wolverhampton Councillor . As was Margaret Benton. Margaret was a former school teacher of mine at Wards Bridge, and she later became Mayor of Wolverhampton. Looking back what doyens of socialist politics these two icons were!

At the time of my election I was still involved in sporting activities with Local Football and Angling with Wednesfield Social angling Club.

The election came on the 7th May 1981 – I remember the days in the run up to the election. They were hectic days, trying to control some Maltese Labour Party visitors, who in Malta painted the streets literally! Trying to persuade me that we should do it on Ashmore Park…scared me to death! I had one of the Maltese Labour Party members stay at my house for a few days. I remember taking a call at home in the week before the election and it was Dom Mintoff the Prime Minister of Malta trying to connect with his Education spokesman Joe Grech who was in our spare bedroom at Bargery Road. Great memories, great experiences.

The election was a truly memorable occasion for me. It was the first time I was elected into a seat, and 4,544 Wednesfield folks turned out and voted for me, which equated to a massive 62.1% of the vote.

That election day returned 10 Councillors that went to Birmingham to represent Wolverhampton …Eight were Labour Councillors and just two were Conservatives.

If there is more interest in this bit of Wednesfield social history I will write a little more. However please read the information here and let me know or ask questions…happy to help If I can….

Phil Bateman

Phil Bateman is Married to Mary and lives in Wednesfield North. He was a long serving local politician having served previously on the now defunct West Midlands County Council... read more