Letter - A tribute to Walter Harrison

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I was indeed very sorry to learn of the death of the late Walter Harrison and would like to join the tributes paid to him through the Wakefield Express.

I knew Walter Harrison from the early days of the 1950s when he was elected to the Castleford Council. He was a campaigner for new and better housing in those post war years when house building was regulated with local authorities being restricted as to how may new homes could be built.

Walter realised the problems of overcrowding and slum-clearance in Airedale and Castleford and fought for special consideration for Castleford and new housing.

In parliament, Walter was appointed deputy chief opposition whip by Harold Wilson following the election in 1970, an election Labour was expected to win. His task as the deputy chief whip was to organise a much new and younger Parliamentary Labour Party.

I recall him explaining to me how parliament had changed following the election in 1970. Fifty Labour MPs had decided not to seek re-election, 61 Labour MPs had lost their seats, there was quite a generational shift in parliament in 1970 that Walter had to deal with, which he did.

Some of the new Labour MPs entering parliament in 1970 learnt a great deal from Walter, including Neil Kinnock, John Smith, Gerald Kaufman, Dennis Skinner, John Prescott and others.

Walter assisted me in many ways when I entered parliament in 1983, so he had been around the Palace of Westminster doing a great job, helping new MPs for many years and was never recognised for all the hard work he did.

Walter should have been elevated to the House of Lords in recognition for his dedication to duty to the Labour Party in parliament. Myself and others made representations on his behalf and at one time it was thought he would become a life peer, but sadly it was not to be.

Sir William O’Brien

Limetrees, Pontefract