Lives Remembered: Harry Baldwin
Tuesday 06 April 2010
When Harry Baldwin was growing up in south London, political meetings on Sunday mornings and evenings were a feature of social life. His father introduced him to these popular events, in which the Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB) held up to 1,000 meetings a year. Harry, who was born in Brixton on 17 October 1930 and was a conscientious objector to National Service, became a party member in 1950. He was a plumber by trade throughout his working life.
For the next 28 years he was an active party member and spoke at SPGB meetings, particularly at East Street in Walworth, Trebovir Road in Earls Court and in Hyde Park. His mentors were speakers such as Tony Turner and Harry Young, whose oratorical skills attracted large crowds. On the day the Second World War was declared, Turner addressed a Hyde Park crowd of 10,000.
The popularity of such outdoor events declined in the 1950s and '60s, though the SPGB fielded 14 candidates in both the 1967 and 1970 Greater London Council Elections. At the first they polled 3,694 votes or 0.2 per cent of the total cast; at the second there was a decline to 1,656 or 0.1 per cent. Harry achieved the highest number of votes for an individual candidate, but modestly claimed that this was due to the "alphabetical effect", with his surname being close to the top of the ballot paper.
He left the SPGB in 1978, but returned some time after a split in the Party in 1991. His allegiance was to the "reconstituted" party based on a group of members in the Camden and North West Branch. His style as a speaker was in the soap-box tradition of confidence, quick-witted thoughtfulness and occasional abrasiveness. He became a regular attraction on Sunday afternoons at Speakers' Corner and at the Conway Hall lectures.
Harry George Baldwin's quest for a society encompassing peace, socialism and common ownership was evident throughout his political life. The death of his partner, Pat Andrews, three years ago, sapped some of his personal vigour. He died on 14 January, and at his funeral his brother Leslie and Pat's daughter-in-law, Jan, recalled a man who had a great passion for family values, a compelling desire for fairness in society and an absorbing delight in the music of Elvis Presley.
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