Obituary: Ernie Perry

FOR SOME of his contemporaries in the House of Commons, the abiding memory of Ernie Perry is standing at the entrance to the aye and no lobbies at divisions and with his broad smile coming up afterwards and saying: "I counted you in and I counted you out." Perry was enormously proud of being the first undertaker ever to become a Member of Parliament.

Ernie Perry - no one dreamt of calling him Ernest - was born in London, brought up in London and was thoroughly London. He left school at 14 and went into the textile industry. In the early Thirties, he became unemployed, but for the next 30 years made his way in the insurance industry.

In 1934, aged only 26, he joined the Battersea Borough Council. For the next third of a century, he served as a councillor, becoming Mayor of Battersea in 1955-56 and later an Alderman of the Borough of Wandsworth. He was the very essence of Herbert Morrison's London local government and all that it entailed.

Perry spent formative years during the Second World War as a gunner, becoming a troop sergeant in the Indian Artillery and serving throughout the Far East. For the rest of his life, he was extremely concerned about the conditions of servicemen and developed a lasting and sensitive interest in the working conditions of Asians. This extended to a real understanding of the problem of the immigrant Asian communities which came under Battersea Council's umbrella, and he met them in his work as a Member of Parliament.

In the 1964 general election in Battersea South there was the battle of the two Ernest Ps - Ernest Perry and the sitting Conservative Member Ernest Partridge; the labels were Labour Ernie vs Tory Ernest. Perry won in the small constituency by 12,253 votes to 10,615. Since the majority of the Wilson government was only five, later reduced to three, this was an important achievement. It owed a great deal to Perry's own popularity and also the fact that he was seen as a good counterfoil to the intellectual member for Battersea North, Harold Wilson's President of the Board of Trade, the Wykehamist and Oxford don Douglas Jay.

Apart from his sterling work in the whips' office, where he was very popular as London Whip, Perry made a real contribution to the House of Commons as a result of his expertise in the pensions industry, particularly the Policy Holders' Protection Bill of July 1975. He pointed out that it was necessary to differentiate between companies and friendly societies which deal in life insurance or general insurance only - of which over 95 per cent in Britain were stable and solvent - and companies which take over an insurance company and inject another sphere of activity into it, i.e. trying to link insurance with property bonds.

Repeatedly he told the Commons that the home insurance agent would give a person the advice to which he was entitled and which would suit his pocket. It was this kind of good advice in his professional capacity that endeared Perry as a councillor to so many in Battersea.

Behind the home service agent was a battery of unpaid officials who vetted his business. If they thought an agent had sold an industrial life policy when he should have sold an ordinary life policy, they would advise the impending policy holder to take an ordinary life policy. Sixty companies ranging from the Prudential Insurance Company to the Cooperative Insurance Society used to sell insurance on the doorstep. Perry argued that he and his colleagues had made it an honourable and useful profession, and indeed it was.

Ernie Perry was without ambition to be a minister and his purpose in the House of Commons which he served so well was that Labour in office should be a success and create benefit for those who put them there.

Tam Dalyell

Ernest George Perry, insurance agent, undertaker and politician: born London 25 April 1908; MP (Labour) for Battersea South 1964-74, Wandsworth, Battersea South 1974-79; Assistant Government Whip 1968-70, 1974-75, Opposition Whip 1970-74; married 1950 Edna Perks Mankelow (died 1998; one son); died London 28 December 1998.

Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
Arts and Entertainment
Crowd control: institutions like New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art are packed

Art
Arts and Entertainment
Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices