Ken Graves: Industrial journalist and trade unionist

 

There are few journalists who had a contacts book that Fleet Street would have killed for, but the Morning Star's industrial correspondent Ken Graves belonged to that select group. Born in Birmingham into working class family, he didn't get much of an education due to his father having to move around to get work. Like most young people until the Thatcher era, Graves was expected to get an apprenticeship in a factory, but when he was 15 a road accident broke one of his arms. This never healed fully, so restricted the work he would be able to do. He left school with no qualifications and set about educating himself with a gusto that was a trademark of his professional life.

He joined the British Communist Party during the Second World War and the party's education programme helped fill in the gaps in his schooling. He became a party organiser as well as a journalist on the Daily Worker, later relaunched as the Morning Star.

Graves excelled at building up contacts in factories throughout the Midlands which often lasted a lifetime. He was trusted by both sides of industry and regularly landed national exclusives. His work covering disputes helped to strengthen his belief in the William Morris ideal that workers could live in harmony with nature. His approach to live was based on a deep humanity to all his fellow men and women irrespective of religion, race creed or colour.

He married his wife Joan in 1962; his son David (1963-93) became one of the first pupils from a state school in Coventry to win an Oxford scholarship. Graves never had much money, but such was the respect in which he was held by the Labour movement that in 1969 friends raised the deposit on his house in Earlsdon, Coventry. From that day, he and his family were neighbours of mine.

I first met him in a professional capacity as a junior reporter on the Coventry Journal. He was never afraid to remind the TUC leadership and Labour front bench who they were representing. One thing we did agree on was that I should always follow Tony Benn's advice of telling the truth and keeping a carbon copy and my notebook.

In the 1970s, he started working for union papers, including the T&GWU Record. He was often unofficially invited into the Joint Shop Steward Committee meetings at many Midlands plants and he maintained his record for scoops. This included the sleeping bag dispute at Rover, the Ansell's Brewery strike and what the Edwardes' reorganisation plan for British Leyland really meant. The latter regrettably proved to be wholly accurate.

Disillusioned with the CP, Graves joined Coventry South Constituency Labour Party. This was partly because their MP, Jim Cunningham, had risen through the shop stewards' movement to become Leader of Coventry Corporation, which is still regarded as one of the more progressive local authorities.

When Tony Blair led the country into the invasion of Iraq, Graves immediately proposed a resolution calling for an Emergency Conference of the Labour Party to condemn the Prime Minister. Passions were high at the Party meeting and, typically of Graves, he bore no ill will towards those who voted to support Blair. He believed to the end of his days that ordinary people could better themselves via collective action through their trade unions or parties.

I found out early on that Ken Graves had a nose for a good pub. He once made me walk to another pub when covering a dispute because he knew that lorry drivers drank there – and they didn't put up with bad beer. He also enjoyed the countryside and spent family holidays in the Lake District. Anyone who accompanied him could affirm that he could find a real boozer in the middle of nowhere.

This helped fill the gap in his work when union amalgamations reduced the number of newspapers he could work for. He was editor of the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust's magazine formany years – his first scoop was the first red kite spotted in the county since records began.

Graves' proudest moments were when he was made an Honorary Life Member of the National Union of Journalists in July 1990; the T&GWU General Secretary Jack Jones presented him with Certificate to mark his 25 years' service to the union. He was a journalist for over 60 years and, no matter whether stories were big or small, he looked after them all.

Kenneth Graves, trade unionist, journalist and politician: born Birmingham 31 January 1923; married 1962 Joan (one son, deceased); died Coventry 9 January 2012.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A PHP Developer with knowledge ...

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Software Engineer - PHP

£33000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas