JOSEPH CLEARY was one of the last of a long line of pioneers in the Labour Party in the city of Liverpool. He belonged to the generation of Bessie and John Braddock and Sir Harry Livermore and it was due to their efforts and many others that Liverpool became in the 1960s a Labour Party stronghold.
Cleary was brought up in the Anfield area of the city. Like his father, also Joseph, he became a magistrate at the early age of 25 and involved himself in electioneering. He tried for parliament in March and May 1929, when he was the unsuccessful Labour candidate for the seat of East Toxteth. In the 1931 general election he fought again unsuccessfully in the West Derby constituency. But in February 1935 he won the - then safe Conservative - Liverpool Wavertree seat in a sensational by-election, defeating Randolph Churchill. Ten months later, however, at the general election, he lost the seat.
Cleary continued his work on the City Council, serving as councillor and alderman for 47 years. His services were recognised by a knighthood in 1965. In 1970 he was made an honorary freeman of Liverpool, the first for 24 years.
Cleary gave tremendous support for work among young people and a youth centre in Toxteth was named in his honour. He was also associated in the inter-war years with Pembroke Place Baptist Chapel, a centre of the socialist movement since the 1890s. Its most radical minister, Vint Laughland, left for New York in 1924, but its flag was kept flying through the Thirties by two individuals, Joseph Golder and Joseph Cleary.
Sir Joseph Cleary was a kind, tolerant and endearing individual and through his long involvement in public life he never compromised his principles.