26 July 1945 saw the formation of the Labour government led by Clement Attlee, Labour’s first majority government remembered for the creation of the NHS and many other achievements. The Labour Party is marking the 75th anniversary on social media, and we have joined in on Twitter by looking at how the election panned out in Brixton Hill.
The current Brixton Hill ward fell mostly into the Brixton seat, but part of the ward was then in the Borough of Wandsworth, so the parliamentary seats of Clapham and Streatham also cover part of today’s Brixton Hill. The Norwood constituency started on the other side of Brixton Hill.
The Brixton seat (including the area between Lyham Road & Brixton Hill) elected a Labour MP for the very first time. Marcus Lipton, a Lt-Col in the war, defeated the incumbent Tory, Nigel Colman, who had taken the seat over from his uncle. The youth centre in Loughborough Junction is named after Marcus Lipton.
Lipton would serve as Brixton then Lambeth Central’s MP until his death in 1978. The subsequent by-election would be a challenge for the minority Labour Government but eventually saw John Tilley keep the seat for Labour.
Back in 1945, the Norwood seat (which covered the area south of Brixton Water Lane) was also gained by Labour for the first time. Labour’s Ron Chamberlain would prove to be a maverick MP, on the left and opposing NATO, but favourable to Franco.
In the election Chamberlain beat Churchill’s son in law, Duncan Sandys, who had been the MP since 1935. Sandys would of course return in 1950 as the Conservative MP for Streatham. Sandys was rumoured to be the ‘headless man’, cited in the divorce of the Duchess of Argyll, a major scandal at the time.
The Clapham constituency took in the area across Lyham Road. It too elected its first ever Labour MP 75 years ago today! John Battley had grown up in poverty and became a printer. He was narrowly elected as LCC member for Clapham, then its MP. He left parliament in 1950 without ever having made a speech, and died shortly after.
The Streatham seat, covering today’s Roupell Park estate was the only local seat to remain reliably Conservative. David Robertson retained his seat, making way for the return of Duncan Sandys five years later by returning to his native Scotland as MP for Caithness and Sutherland.
So of four seats, three were won by Labour for the first time. All the new MPs were men – it would not be until 1964 with the election of Margaret McKay for Clapham that part of the ward would be represented in Parliament by a woman.
For more on Labour’s history, try the new book from @pdimoldenberg, with proceeds going to his local foodbank, or the Labour Party’s online learning module at https://achieve.labour.org.uk/tessello/#/category/4079/*/resources/123509/labours-legacy
And we think too today of our friend, Mark Bennett, who would have documented the borough’s political history so well.