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Tributes pour in to ‘a real legend’ of the Labour Party

Walter Harrison, who was Wakefield MP from 1964 up to his retirement in 1987.

Walter Harrison, who was Wakefield MP from 1964 up to his retirement in 1987.

TRIBUTES have been paid to former Wakefield MP and Labour Party deputy chief whip Walter Harrison.

Mr Harrison, of Sandal – who was Wakefield MP from 1964 up to his retirement in 1987 – died on Friday, aged 91.

As Labour Party deputy chief whip between 1974 and 1979, Mr Harrison played a key role in holding Jim Callaghan’s government together.

Current Wakefield MP Mary Creagh, said: “Walter Harrison was a revered constituency MP, legendary deputy chief whip, and a wonderful man.

“He was a principled and passionate MP who loved Wakefield and he was a champion for local people. He was a great servant of the Labour Party who firmly believed in the power of politics to do good.

“Walter was a good friend to me and I know that tributes to his life will be pouring in this week. My thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”

Hemsworth MP Jon Trickett said: “Walter was an amazing man and an inspirational politician. Throughout the years he always remained interested in people and politics.

“He was a compassionate man with many friends. He will be missed by many.”

Mr Harrison’s role as a Labour Party deputy chief whip charged with keeping Harold Wilson’s minority 1974 government in power is currently the subject of a national Theatre stage show.

Ashes to Ashes TV star Philip Glenister is playing Mr Harrison in the production called This House.

The efforts of Mr Harrison and fellow whip Bob Mellish to keep the government going despite the lack of a majority and having to deal with crisis after crisis have passed into Westminster legend.

And as deputy chief whip in the late 1970s, Mr Harrison was the unsung hero of a series of knife-edge votes in which Jim Callaghan’s minority government just managed to scrape home.

Former electrician Mr Harrison served with the Royal Air Force in World War II. When given the Freedom of the City of Wakefield in 2003, he said: “I am delighted and honoured to be given the Freedom of the City which I love so much.”

 

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