Once again I am most grateful to John Rudge for this fascinating piece of research into the very first member of the Socialist Review Group to stand as an election candidate.
Trevor Park – The Very First Candidate
Throughout its history the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and its predecessor organisations the Socialist Review Group (SRG) and the International Socialists (IS) have eschewed the ultra-left policy of avoiding the electoral field of politics. The organisation has always held that whilst elections are not the main field of battle for revolutionary socialists they are of great significance.
At the national level since the SRG was formed in 1950 seventeen UK General Elections have come and gone. During those 66 years I have calculated that current members of the organisation have stood for the UK Parliament 96 times. Only on 8 occasions in 1977-1978 has a party candidate stood under the “Socialist Worker” banner – other candidacies have been in the name of the Labour Party, Socialist Alliance/Welsh Socialist Alliance, Respect, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC)/Scottish TUSC and Cambridge Socialists. Only on one occasion has a party candidate been successfully elected – Syd Bidwell standing for Labour in Southall in the 1966 General Election. That did not end well – see McIlroy, 1998 for details (Rudge, 2015).
At the local level it is virtually impossible to calculate the number of members who have stood in council elections. The number is high and the success has been greater than in the national arena. Indeed, SWP member Michael Lavalette was a local councillor in Preston until very recently. If Michael Lavalette was the last, who was the first successful candidate? The answer seems to be Trevor Park.
Socialist Review Group founding member Trevor Park was the Labour Party candidate in local elections in the Chapel Ward of Tottington Urban District Council on Monday 5th May 1952. At the time Park was 24 years old and an “Assistant Master” at Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School. Here is the text of his election leaflet:
“To the Electors of Chapel Ward
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Your choice in this election should be for a principle – the principle which you think should be the basis of local administration.
Councillors Hodson and Darlington have been fine examples of efficiency and action on the Tottington Council. They have always championed the interest of those who elected them. It is my wish to be given the opportunity to continue and strengthen the tradition which they have established.
As a young man, it is my belief that our local authority is lacking in energy, drive and vision. If elected it would be my hope to remedy this deficiency.
As one who has studied the history of local government, and realises the importance of the sphere it covers, I state quite definitely that your Councillors should be concerned with one matter only: the welfare of the people they represent. Can you honestly say that this has always been the ruling principle of the Tottington Council in the past?
It is impossible for a representative to work effectively unless he maintains close contact with his electors. Should I be chosen your Councillor, I pledge myself to maintain such contact.
My opponent is a Conservative. Does he therefore support the cuts in the Health Service and in the food subsidies which the Tory Government has brought about? Is he in favour of the reduction in the quality of the education which your children receive? – for the Tory action in reducing educational finance can only have this result. As a teacher, I believe that every child has a right to the best possible education and no Government has the right to withhold it.
Many Government measures are implemented by local authorities. Fearless and progressive Councillors can fight against attempts to reduce the living standards of the people. Can you really believe that our opponents, in view of their political beliefs, will work in your interest in this respect?
In Chapel Ward the improvements which could be made are too numerous to mention. It is a scandal that in 1952 there should still be areas without an adequate water supply. This matter should have received the attention of our Council long ago. I pledge my support to the attempts which are now being made to remedy this position.
Councillors Hodson and Darlington are already fighting for these improvements – but they still need help. The forces of apathy and delay are still strong. You can help to weaken them on May 5th by voting Labour. If you, the electors, do your share, I assure you that I shall work fearlessly to do mine.
Make it 100% Labour representation for Chapel Ward
A vote for Park is a vote for Progress”
To see Trevor Park’s e election address go to
Whilst the election address does seem remarkably “middle of the road” it needs to be remembered that the SRG was, at this time, operating inside the Labour Party and revolutionary colours were often well hidden. A price that entrists were and are still forced to pay.
Trevor Park was standing against a Conservative candidate who was a local Company Director in a seat that was previously held by an Independent who was not standing for re-election. The turnout in the election was, by the standards of today, a quite extraordinary 81.61%. Park won the seat with the following result:
J.T. Park (Lab)…………..384
T.L. Aldred (Cons)………228
Labour gain from Independent.
(Source: The Bury Times Saturday May 10th 1952)
It is unclear when Trevor Park left the SRG but he was still a member in October 1952. He had, however, left before he unsuccessfully stood for Labour in the 1955 General Election. He was subsequently elected as Labour MP for South-East Derbyshire in the October 1964 General Election but did not re-stand in 1970. He served on Leeds City Council as a Labour Councillor from 1979 to 1986 and died in 1995.
My thanks to Keith Sinclair, Ian Birchall and Stan Newens for reviewing the article. The Bury Council Archive Services were extremely helpful in tracking down information from the Bury Times.
McIlroy, John. 1998. Adrift in the Rapids of Racism, Syd Bidwell (1917-1997). Revolutionary History Volume 7 Number 1, pp. 134-165.
Rudge, John. 2015. Out for the Count: The SWP and UK Parliamentary Elections. Unpublished manuscript, 59pp.