WHEN Charles Loughlin was first elected MP for Gloucestershire West in 1959, the closure of deep mines in the constituency, in the Forest of Dean, was under way and Loughlin became a doughty fighter for the jobs under threat. With Yorkshire grit, he was determined that the miners' jobs would not be lost easily and he persuaded Rank Xerox to build a new factory in his constituency, at Mitcheldean, which at its peak employed more than 5,000 people. It was for this form of in-fighting that Loughlin was known and respected, and he could be extremely abrasive towards people who crossed him.
Since 1946 he had been an area organiser for the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw) and came to West Gloucestershire as a trade-union nominee in 1959. I first met him then and as each election came round got to know him and his wife, May, better: they were a united team working for the common man, encouraging other members of the Labour Party to campaign vigorously for him. His attitude to boundary changes, introduced in 1971, which brought in parts of other Gloucestershire constituencies, was: 'Well, we will just have to try a bit harder.' And each election Labour Party supporters did.
In the first Wilson government Loughlin held posts at the Ministries of Health, Social Security, and Public Building and Works. He had many friends among his colleagues in Parliament and this was amply shown when a young ginger-haired MP from the then Bedwellty division, Neil Kinnock, came to a May Day rally and talked of Loughlin with great affection.
After Loughlin retired, a dinner in his honour was crowned for all who attended, when Michael Foot told many stories of their working lives together in the House of Commons. It was a tribute to him that a collection made here for a retirement gift included money given by members of the opposition as well as by colleagues, a mark of a true constituency member. He helped many a caller to his surgeries and no case, if appropriate, was too small for his crusading tactics.
We talked many times, after constituency meetings or at his home, about life in general: what we both wanted to see for our futures; where the country was going. He had the happy knack of finding out what you wanted to know and do; even questions to him were turned around in the easiest manner.
He decided that to stay in the Forest of Dean after retiring as an MP in 1974 would be wrong. He moved back to Yorkshire, returning occasionally to meet old colleagues and once on the hustings for a general election where he received a tremendous reception.
True to form, though, Charlie Loughlin could not settle down in retirement and do nothing and as a very mature student he turned to studies and gained a degree in History and Politics in his seventies. His comment was, 'Well, I just wanted to extend my mind.' That really summarised the man. He could not keep still; he was always striving for the other man, increasing his knowledge to help whoever needed that help.
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