A Brief History of Sutton & Cheam CLP
Over a century of campaigning for greater equality and social justice
As well as our In Memoriam page detailing local activists over the years, below is a brief history of Sutton & Cheam Labour Party which we will be adding more to as we research more.
Sutton and Cheam Labour Party have campaigned for greater equality and social justice for over a century. We are now one of the oldest continuously existing local community organisations and political institutions within the Borough of Sutton. And as we demonstrate below we are the oldest continuously active campaigning body within the borough.
We did not spring up from nowhere but came out of a meeting of national imperatives with local conditions and traditions of struggle by ordinary working people. These struggles locally can be traced back over 600 years as we show below.
Not only that but our recent research into our history has shown that both we and Epsom & Ewell CLP were set up by campaigners against Workhouses and the Poor Law who were also ahead of many in wanting to create what became the NHS we have today and they and many others across the UK succeeded within 27 years of our founding. That strong local commitment to those issues was likely geographically due to the “Epsom Cluster” of asylums and the harshness of local workhouses that we detail below. The local concentration on these issues also likely led to the foundation of the union COHSE, who actually had their HQ locally at Banstead and later merged with NUPE and NALGO to form Unison.
We can thus be proud that our modern campaigning on the NHS and against the austerity that leads to foodbanks is rooted in the founding ideals that led to people meeting to form a local Labour Party here over a century ago.
What follows is our CLP’s local history but much of it is shared with Epsom and Ewell CLP up until 1945 and Carshalton and Wallington CLP after 1964 as our population grew and we evolved from being a small town in part of a Surrey constituency to being one of two constituencies in a modern urbanized London Borough.
We also recognise the small part we also collectively play in a much wider movement of 395,000 Labour members, 6.7 million trade unionists and 14 million members of Worker and Consumer Co-operatives in the UK. Our local strength comes from that deep connection with institutions that are rooted in the wider community and can democratically seek power across the whole UK.
The research below also includes useful links to a number of databases and digitised records for further research, so this page can also be a toolkit for those conducting follow-up research into our history and wider local history.
This short history looks back and as we will see pandemics and Poll Taxes are not singular events! As a result this history may also have some pointers to our future too.
Traditions of Political Struggle Locally
- Prior to the Victorian era, both Sutton and Cheam were agricultural areas with a tough life for the poor who nevertheless gathered to protest. There is little recorded history, but what exists is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg.
- The substantial economic and social upheavals caused by The Black Death bubonic plague pandemic in Europe from 1347-1351 were followed by the financial demands of the Hundred Years’ War. This led to the government levying three poll taxes in four years. The third, that of 1380, demanded a flat rate of 12d per adult and was levied in April 1381 leading to the Poll Tax rebellion of June 1381 – also known as The Peasant’s Revolt. The king and his government initially agreed to the people’s demands, but after their dispersal the leaders were pursued, captured and executed, and the king’s concessions were revoked. This was followed by many court cases seeking to hold the rebels to account and local people from Sutton and particularly Cheam were punished for trespass at Courts held after the 1381 Poll Tax rebellion. This type of legal battle was of course replicated in 1990 when local campaigners delayed hundreds of court cases during the most recent attempt to bring in a Poll Tax by Mrs Thatcher. For those who want to research more on the People and Places of the 1381 Poll Tax Rebellion, this database is invaluable.
- Many years ago when Sutton Council was discussing an event commemorating the construction in 1538 of Nonsuch Palace on the edge of Cheam, a Labour Councillor posed the question: what was the Council doing to acknowledge the fact that residents of the village of Cuddington (which stretched into the Worcester Park part of Sutton) were forcibly cleared off the land they farmed and all their homes and their local church demolished? Sadly no chronicler of the time records what their reaction was and how they were treated during the clearance. Noted Sutton historian Doug Cluett in the 1990’s further speculated that people lost their land when the parkland and gardens of nearby Beddington Manor (now known as Carew Manor) were extended in the 16th Century.
- From 1730 various Inclosure Acts saw the privatisation of much formerly Common Land across Surrey and nearby Beddington saw its fields enclosed in 1812. This process led to many protests and riots across the country as a result of tenant farmer rent rises of between 33% and 300%. For those who want to further study Inclosure decisions, the National Archives have a database of records.
- William Cobbett documenting harsh agricultural conditions in the 1820’s in his book “Rural Rides” travels through Sutton along the Brighton Road from Belmont to Rosehill
- In 1830 it was recorded that there was hayrick-burning in Cheam as part of the protests during the Captain Swing agricultural rebellion.
- A number of factors demonstrated the need for a distinctive democratic political voice for the voiceless who had previously only had the option of rebellion to be listened to. Economic and Political Demands were rising from the new democratic institutions of working people that had developed in the 19th century such as trade unions, mutual benefit societies and co-operatives. With the 1832 Reform Act seen as inadequate, pressure was slowly paying off to expand the electoral franchise despite 6 Chartist petitions being rejected between 1839 & 1851, even though women were still not enfranchised at all. The database of 14,000 Chartist ancestors does not seem to list anyone from our area but others are welcome to search through it. At the same time as all this, political ideology had developed to broaden demands for a better future for working people. The Labour Party, as a party initially formed by trade unions and small social democratic and democratic socialist organisations to advance workers rights was itself evolving in response and by 1918 had adopted tenets of democratic socialism as its aims and values. In the period up to the World War One it was clear the existing rights people had and their conditions and welfare were seen as inadequate to meet the challenges of the period. Our formation came at a point after a terrible and very transformative global war but also after significant national and local institutional change too as is shown below.
- Whilst Sutton and Cheam had a lot affluence as a developing urban area in Victorian and Edwardian times, conditions for the poor were still harsh. An example is the reputation of the Belmont Workhouse that existed under Poor Law provision, with 300 residents rioting there in 1910, which was still well remembered when we were founded in 1918.
- The tragic death of Emily Davison at the 1913 Derby at the Epsom Racecourse within the Epsom Parliamentary Constituency meant Women’s Suffrage was a live local issue at the time. On the 100th anniversary of that sad event representatives of Epsom & Ewell, Sutton & Cheam and Carshalton & Wallington Labour Parties placed flowers at the plaque on the racecourse.
- Active Fabian Society member and future Labour Candidate, the famous writer H.G Wells lives in Sutton and Cheam at 25 Langley Park Road for a short time. The Fabians in a pamphlet recommend people read some of his non-fiction books.
- Nearby in Carshalton Beeches, Frank Dickinson, self- building Little Holland House, is influenced by John Ruskin, who had sought to preserve parts of Carshalton Village, (and who wrote about the local area in The Crown of Wild Olive). Frank is part of the local Arts and Craft Movement further influenced by the socialist ideas and aesthetics of William Morris and Walter Crane.
- Local Trade Unions are developing in this period and want political representation to secure their aspirations. This includes the National Asylum Workers’ Union (NAWU) established in 1910 and the Poor Law Workers’ Trade Union established in 1918 (both predecessor unions to COHSE and later Unison) who were well organised locally due to the “Epsom Cluster” of asylums. They were later strong supporters of Stanley Morgan – our 1929, 1931 and 1935 Parliamentary candidate.
- Sutton Co-operative Society was merging with Croydon Co-operative Society in 1918, which had already merged with Epsom Co-operative Society in 1916. This was creating the South Suburban Co-operative Society which had an active Political Committee for the sponsorship of candidates for elected office and would continue to exist until 1984 when it merged again. Co-operative Societies in the UK had already launched the Co-operative Party in 1917 which by 1927 had an Electoral Agreement with the Labour Party.
- In nearby Croydon Constituency the Labour Representation Committee had stood a candidate in the 1906 General election and later, as the newly re-named Labour Party, stood a candidate in a by-election there in 1909.
1918-1945: Foundation as part of Epsom Labour Party
- In February 1918 Labour Party Conference adopted a new constitution which allowed for the formation of Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs). Within months of this many CLPs started to form and the development of this localist institution is perhaps underestimated in the reasons for the rise of the Labour Party in the 1920’s. As far as can be seen there has been no systematic research into the speed of CLP creation but as a proxy we can use the number of Labour candidates in the field at each election and this rose from 361 in 1918 to 514 by 1924 and was up to 569 by 1929 when pretty much most of the country was covered by local CLP organisation.
- Organisational mergers to create larger more political local institutions plus the recent formation and specific concentration of trade unions in the area meant it was quite likely Epsom Labour Party and its Sutton and Cheam District Party were going to be in the first 361 CLPs to properly form and contest the 1918 General Election.
- We were founded in 1918 as the Sutton and Cheam District Labour Party of Epsom Constituency Labour Party at the Robin Hood Pub in Sutton. Jack Goossens was a founder member having been one of the founder organisers of Sutton United Football Club in the same local pub 20 years earlier. These were the days when local authorities were quite small and a large semi-rural constituency like Epsom could contain a number of local authorities. In this case the borough of Epsom and Ewell, Epsom Rural District, Leatherhead Urban District and the newly merged Sutton and Cheam Urban District – which with 1920’s growth became a borough itself in 1934. A map of the 1918-1945 Epsom constituency is here. As a result of all this District Labour Parties were quite an important intermediate body between the overall CLP and its ward based branches concerned with contesting local elections in their local authority area. Sutton and Cheam itself was perhaps a bit of a building site at the time as much farmland was sold for housing and population rose from 21,063 in 1921 to 73,593 by 1939.
- Epsom Labour stood James Chuter Ede in the 1918 General Election – one of only 361 Labour candidates in a Parliament of 707 seats. James Chuter Ede later wins the Mitcham by-election in 1923 (which includes Carshalton and Wallington constituency as well as the Mitcham part of Mitcham and Morden) which he holds for a year and then becomes an MP in the North East of England. He later serves as the Home Secretary in the 1945-51 Attlee Labour Government.
- 1919. First Labour Councillors elected to Sutton and Cheam Urban District Council where they soon became the principal opposition on the Council. We were the first political party to actively contest local elections in this area. We often win seats in Sutton East Central ward, and sometimes in Sutton West Central, Sutton North and Sutton North East wards.
- Labour locally focuses its early campaigns on better health and welfare provision. Our 1929, 1931 and 1935 Parliamentary candidate Stanley Morgan is strongly backed by the National Asylum Workers’ Union (NAWU) and the Poor Law Workers’ Trade Union. We are proud to be part of a movement that delivered the National Health Service (NHS) and abolished many means tests and remnants of Poor Law workhouse provision by 1945.
- The 1926 General Strike lasted for 9 days and whilst there has been published research on Kingston and Croydon, there is no detail as to what happened in Sutton. This may be an area for further research? From the experience of other local areas that local research may mainly show the recorded activity of the volunteers supporting the Baldwin government than it would the activity of those supporting the TUC strike call as due to the specific unions called out on strike it would have only been railway & other transport workers in this area of London. For those wanting to follow up on this, the Government’s British Gazette and the TUC’s British Worker along with other newspapers of the time have been digitised here.
- Helen Mary Keynes is the CLPs first woman parliamentary candidate standing in the 1928 Epsom by-election. She stood at a time when women had only had the vote for 10 years and only women over the age of 30 had a vote at all – which when you think of it, as well as being wrong, may increasingly sound very strange to all of us today. She was a novelist writing at least 3 books as well as a political activist serving on the Executive of the Fabian Society and was Secretary of the Society of Labour Candidates, which helped candidates network and share ideas.
- In 1931 the second Labour Government fell and a National Government was formed. Supporters of that Government split away to form National Labour. There is no evidence from our research that any local members signed up to it.
- 1933. Sutton District Labour Party purchased land and built its first Labour Hall.
- Fundraising and social activity is important and Party owns some land next to its Hall that is used for allotments for growing food. It even has a gardening trophy that it awards annually.
- Dr Somerville Hastings, our Parliamentary Candidate from the 1922 election, by now the Secretary of the Socialist Medical Association, (nowadays called the Socialist Health Association) successfully proposes a resolution at the 1932 Labour Party Conference and then sat on the follow up Party Committee that produced a Report endorsed by Conference in 1934 that the party should be committed to the establishment of a State Health Service. Just 11 years later the British people give Labour the opportunity to deliver on that commitment.
- Within the borough of Sutton, local members show solidarity with Spanish refugee children fleeing the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War and many are put up locally.
- 1938. A Labour Councillor, Jack Goossens, became Mayor of the Sutton and Cheam Borough Council. He was also Mayor again in 1940 as part of the war-time political truce.
- 1939-1945. The Labour Hall was used as a war-time British Restaurant to feed people bombed out of their homes or who had run out of ration coupons
1945-1970: The Sutton and Cheam Constituency Labour Party is created and thrives
- 1945. The District Party becomes a Constituency Party as the Epsom seat is split to reflect large population growth in the 1930s. A map of the new 1945 constituencies is here. Sutton and Cheam is nowadays a very rare constituency that has had very little boundary change for nearly 80 years.
- In the 1945 General Election we poll over 17,000 votes and Helen Judd narrowly misses being elected. She runs again for Labour in the 1950 General Election.
- In the 1946 Surrey County Council elections we win 2 out of 3 County Council seats in the constituency.
- We produce a local Labour Party Newspaper which we go door to door and sell to voters. It becomes a useful all-year round way to identify sympathetic Labour voters in the constituency due to more rigid rules over canvassing for votes outside elections that existed at the time.
- After the war, Sutton Labour Councillors campaign hard for the provision of more Council Housing. The local Party debates all the advances made by the Attlee Government and asks members and voters what challenges we should address next
- In the 1959 General Election Frank Judd stands as the Labour candidate. He later becomes an MP for Portsmouth, becomes the Minister for Overseas Development and after Parliament is Director of Oxfam. Later on he becomes Lord Judd and serves in the House of Lords.
- In 1964 we become part of Greater London and the new London Borough of Sutton is formed and we win Council seats in Sutton Central and North Cheam wards. Within the new borough, ourselves and Carshalton and Wallington Labour work closely together to seek to elect Labour Councillors.
- Our 1964 General Election candidate is Paul Derrick who writes Fabian Research pamphlets on the role of business in the community – developing ideas on Corporate Social Responsibility long before it is fashionable.
- Whilst the CLP had a wide range of views at the time from Gaitskellites to Tribunites the CLP was well known from the 1960’s for a group of members who all lived in The Crescent in Belmont which was nicknamed the “The Red Crescent” – perhaps Sutton’s own small version of “Hampstead Socialism”. This included Betty Vernon, Lord Ritchie Calder, the Judd’s and Pauline and Tony Brennan. Some were Councillors, some Civil Servants, one a peer and one an MP. They represented both Harold Wilson’s “white heat of technology” modernism, Fabian research methods, but also stronger radicalism on disarmament, anti-colonialism, overseas development and education reform. Over the next 20 years they would be very influential both locally and on some national policy debates. Some of our members still remember the Summer Garden Parties held at the Brennans’ house in the Cheam ward part of The Crescent. Through some of their activism they were further linked with North West Surrey Fabians who met at Sam Greene’s house just over the border in Burgh Heath Road, Epsom.
- In the 1966 General election we poll over 13,000 votes.
- In 1966-1967 we rebuild our Labour Hall, which becomes Harold Wilson Hall in honour of the Labour Prime Minister at the time.
The 1970’s: Successes and Reverses
- In early 1971 Harold Wilson Hall is used as the strike headquarters of the Union of Postal Workers (now part of the CWU) 7 week postal strike. Labour members help in a number of industrial disputes that characterised the Heath Government’s confrontational attitude to trade unions at the time.
- In May 1971 we poll over 35% of the vote and elect 7 Councillors in Sutton Central, Sutton East, Sutton North East and North Cheam Wards. Elsewhere in the borough our long-standing members Phil Bassett and Betty Vernon are re-elected in St Helier South ward with 96.5% of the share of the vote but on a remarkable 61.3% turnout (in other words 59.2% of all electors voted for them) which is likely to be a UK record for such a percentage vote on such a high turnout. We have actually found out how they achieved this but are not publishing that campaign technique on a public website.
- We suffer a set-back in the 1972 parliamentary by-election, however our vote recovers a lot by 1974 and we win Council seats in Sutton East Ward.
- Local members also help in Sutton & Cheam member Phil Bassett’s successful campaign in 1973 to win the neighbouring Carshalton and Wallington GLC seat. Phil represents the seat until he is defeated in the 1977 GLC elections.
- Local members take differing views in the 1975 Common Market referendum and there are local debates with various speakers for and against. Members have the right to campaign for either side. The Greater London count area that we are part of votes 67% Yes similar to the national result.
- During this period from 1968 to 1982 all the Leaders of the Labour Opposition on Sutton Council: Councillors Phil Bassett, Evelyn McEwan and Pauline Brennan are Sutton and Cheam activists. Evelyn McEwen is a national campaigner for Universal Basic Income, (UBI) long before it becomes a subject for much wider debate.
- Our local members campaign hard for better local education for all and an expansion of comprehensive education.
- Our conference delegates take part in important debates as to the future of the Party after the 1979 General Election defeat. From 1979 to 1992 Labour selects Parliamentary candidates who reflect the activist politics of the time.
The 1980’s: Community Campaigning
- Future Labour Leader, Neil Kinnock speaks at a public meeting in Sutton in 1980 over the future of local Education.
- In 1981 we hold a Party to celebrate the centenary of Jack Goossens, a Mayor of Sutton and Cheam and founding member of both Sutton United Football Club and Sutton and Cheam Labour Party.
- Issues such as Nuclear Disarmament are to the fore in this era and some members attend the large CND demonstrations held at this time.
- We run local campaigns against Thatcher era hospital closures such as the one at Cheam Hospital.
- Local membership rises to 350 as a result of our campaigns. Fundraising is still important and the Party establishes a “100 Club” for regular donations.
- Labour suffered a National split in the early 1980’s with the formation of the SDP. This does not affect us as the only Party member who joins them is already an ex-member who had stood as an Independent in the 1979 General Election against the official Labour candidate on issues unrelated to the political splits at the time.
- In the 1982 local elections we are proud that one of our candidates is openly LGBTQ+ at a time when there is still intense prejudice against the community and the Tory Government is demonising it through the media and legislation.
- Electorally we see some success in the new European Elections, with a very clear runner up spot to be main challenger to the Tories in the larger London South seat in 1979 and the London South and Surrey East seat in the 1984, 1989 and 1994 elections. Gill Roles narrowly misses winning in 1994. In 1984 our candidate is Andrew Mackinlay who by 1992 is MP for Thurrock and in 1989 our candidate is Robert Evans who is eventually elected as an MEP in 1994 and currently is the Leader of the Labour Group on Surrey County Council. His namesake David Evans who was Robert’s election agent for the 1989 campaign is now the General Secretary of the Party.
- The local Party focuses on the industrial disputes of the time with some members attending the big demonstrations in support of the Miners and Print Workers and the local Party organising comedy night fundraising benefits for the Miner’s strike with the support of Ragged Trousered Cabaret. Our fundraising also includes at least two full musicals covering historical events.
- We also worked closely with the Sutton Trade Union Resource Centre that existed in the borough at the time. The head of it, Jerry Cullen, runs as one of our candidates in Sutton East ward. We also welcome the opening of Sutton Women’s Centre that is initially funded by the Labour controlled GLC, but which long outlasts that organisation and continues to make a vital local contribution to women’s rights and equality today,
- The local Party takes part in campaigns to defend the Labour controlled GLC that is eventually abolished by the Thatcher Government. Whilst we lose the campaign, the need for strategic London Government is clearly shown and is restored in 2000.
- We support the Council when it seeks to expand comprehensive education and condemn it when it stops that plan in 1987. Despite opposition to change, selective education in the borough ends up reducing its local connections to the Borough with wide catchment areas across the South East leading to 85% of Sutton pupils in effect having voluntary comprehensive secondary education.
The 1990’s: The build-up to a Labour Victory
- Echoing their 14th century local ancestors, members are active in anti-Poll Tax protests and the local Sutton Against the Poll Tax campaign at the start of the decade.
- In 1992 some of our members attend the large TUC demonstration against closure of the mines.
- Labour Leader John Smith speaks at an outdoor rally in Sutton in 1993 in support of Employment Rights organised by local trade unions and attended by Labour members.
- In 1993, future Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke at an outdoor rally at Sutton Green following a march from the hospital and through Sutton High Street as part of the campaign to keep Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children. Whilst the original site is sold off the hospital is successfully retained as part of St Helier Hospital.
- The rise of the far-right sees local members help launch Sutton Anti-Racist Federation which is even acknowledged by Sutton Council in a debate on the issue.
- In 1994 Labour Leader John Smith tragically dies before having the “chance to serve” as UK Prime Minister. The public reaction to his death is very strong and there are public tributes paid within the Council Chamber of Sutton. The CLP agrees to purchase a John Smith Memorial Clock for Harold Wilson Hall.
- One of our local branch Secretaries at this time is Adrian Lovett. He goes on to play a key role as Director of Jubilee 2000 and the Drop the Debt campaign in then building the much bigger Make Poverty History campaign in the mid 2000s which saw a major cut in third world debt. He is subsequently a guest speaker at one of our dinners and regales us with a story of how he was in the room with Bono of the band U2 when they finally convinced President George W Bush to sign up to the plan. But Adrian makes the further point that they have only got that far through the massive public pressure of campaigns over the previous 5 years. Adrian later goes on to be the Campaigns Director of Oxfam and of Save the Children and then the President and CEO of the World Wide Web Foundation. He is now Chief Executive of Development Initiatives.
- As a result of the rise in popularity in Labour in the run-up to the election of the 1997 Labour Government we poll well in two local Council ward by-elections in Sutton Common and Sutton West significantly increasing our vote. Part of the Sutton Common By-election campaign is against the proposed A24/A217 Link Road which both Tories and Lib Dems support. By 2000 we have won our case and it becomes an access road only.
- From the mid 1990’s our Parliamentary selections reflect the political shifts within Labour at the time when the debate was often characterised as between “New Labour” and “Old Labour”.
- In the 1997 General Election local member Mark Allison is our candidate and we poll our best result since 1970. Mark later moves to Merton and is Leader of Merton Council from 2020 to 2022.
- Some of our members also go to help campaign to elect Siobhain McDonagh as Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden. She has been the MP ever since.
- Our membership rises from around 280 to 350 in the run up to the 1997 General Election.
- We purchase a proper CLP Banner that is often taken on marches and demonstrations.
- We took part in community events, regularly running stalls at the Carshalton Environmental Fair.
- In 1999 the change of electoral system for European Elections means London is a single constituency and in the 5 elections between 1999 and 2019 Sutton and Cheam is represented by between 2, 3 or 4 Labour MEPs.
2000-2015: Struggles and Revival
- We start the decade with a close result in Sutton Central Ward in the 2002 local elections.
- In the early 2000s Harold Wilson Hall is used as the organising HQ for the leafleting campaign to support the union Unison and Sutton Council Tenants in their Sutton Campaign Against Housing Transfer for Sutton’s Council Housing not to be transferred to a Housing Association. Over 14,000 leaflets were delivered and the consultation result which showed 91% of tenants wanted to stay with the Council was the highest ever percentage in the many consultations and ballots held at the time. As a result the Council adopted a Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) which enabled the Housing to stay with the Council and this was supported by the Sutton Labour Group of Councillors at the time.
- There is controversy over the Iraq War and some members attend the biggest ever demonstration held in London. Some members also choose to resign from the Party over the issue.
- In 2005 we select Anand Shukla as our Parliamentary candidate – our first candidate from BAME communities. He goes on to become Chief Executive of various charities in the Childcare and Social Mobility sectors.
- In the latter part of the 2000s the local Party struggles with poor election results and low membership as a result of the unpopularity of the Labour government, yet we continue to contest every election. Labour has fought every seat locally since 1971 which is longer than any other Party locally. Current Director of Campaigns for the Labour Party Morgan McSweeney is both a candidate for us in the 2006 local elections and an election agent for us in a tough local by-election.
- Despite this struggle, we continue to campaign to defend St Helier Hospital that comes under threat of downgrade and between 2008 and 2010 our proposals for a £250 million new unit there are adopted so by 2010 there is all-party consensus on the proposal. This only lasts until 2013 when the proposal is dropped by the Conservative & Lib Dem coalition government.
- We sustain our activity with regular fundraising with an annual dinner and at one stage running 6 quiz nights a year. The national Party provides a direct online donations link which often brings in money around election time. Trade Union and Co-op Party donations are also gratefully welcomed at election time.
- For a brief time during this period Matthew Pennycook is our CLP Youth Officer. He later goes on to become the Labour MP for Greenwich and Woolwich.
- Facing a tough battle to hold on to our vote in the 2010 General Election after a long period of Labour Government we select a resourceful local campaign organiser Kathy Allen as our candidate who runs a campaign alongside our 27 local Council candidates in the local elections held the same day. The Tories expect to win but their candidate’s campaign self-destructs after media reports and whilst our vote is down Kathy is rewarded with proportionally the largest personal vote a Sutton Labour candidate has ever secured in a local election – 38% larger than her two running mates in Sutton Central ward.
- The Lib Dems, including the local MP, going into coalition with the Tories in 2010 is very unpopular and sees a strong local Labour revival as many Lib Dem voters switch to Labour.
- Some of our members attend two big TUC organised demonstrations against the Government’s austerity policies and in defence of the NHS.
- We purchase a red gazebo to make our street stalls more prominent.
- We make better use of the data technology provided by the national party and over the course of 5 years from 2010 we increase our contact rate of voters by over 400% through comprehensive phoning of every ward in the constituency and a broad doorstep operation which benefits from campaigns in two Council by-elections. This helps build our networks of Labour supporters across all the 9 wards that existed at the time. Many of those supporters would become members after 2015.
- In 2014 during the Scottish referendum, whilst fully recognising the decision is for the Scottish people, some of our members take part in an all-party event in Sutton Town Square, like many others held across the country, expressing our hope that Scots vote to freely remain with the other Nations in the UK.
- Whilst our initial performance in the Croydon and Sutton GLA seat was relatively poor during the period of the last Labour Government, our 2012, 2016 and 2021 campaigns see us substantially erode the previously large Tory majority and make the seat a key target for GLA elections. Marina Ahmad our candidate in the 2016 election subsequently goes on to win the Lambeth and Southwark GLA seat in 2021.
- Due to the electoral system Sutton and Cheam has been represented on the London Assembly since 2000 by 2,3 or 4 London list Labour representatives. The current two Labour representatives are Sakina Sheikh and Elly Baker who can be contacted by local residents here.
- On top of our London Assembly performance Labour Mayoral candidates Ken Livingstone and Sadiq Khan win in wards locally like Sutton Central and Sutton South during their Mayoral elections.
2015-2019: The Party massively grows in size & enjoys electoral advances
- In the 2015 General Election we make history by standing the first ever Labour Transgender Parliamentary candidate, Emily Brothers, whose selection is publicly welcomed by Labour Leader Ed Miliband. Emily is also blind and is supported by the Access to Elected Office for Disabled People Fund, a government pilot scheme to improve access to standing for disabled parliamentary candidates. Emily is attacked by a columnist in the Sun newspaper and a 27,000 strong petition demands an apology. After an adjudication by the Press regulator IPSO, Emily wins a rare published full apology from the Sun. Emily is later shortlisted for a Liverpool Parliamentary seat but is sadly not selected. However she is elected to serve on the Fabian Society Executive and is also later elected as an Isle of Wight Town Councillor.
- From 2015 onward we campaign against the proposed secondary school in Rosehill Park strongly backed by the Tories and facilitated by the Lib Dems through their planning policies. By 2022 the proposal is dropped. We also liaise regularly with local health campaigns such as KoSHH and Sutton KONP along with Merton & Sutton Trade Union Council on continuing the pressure to retain all services at St Helier Hospital. In 2018 as part of the campaign we work with Merton & Sutton Trades Council and local health campaigns to organise a big march from Manor Park in Sutton down the High Street to St Helier Hospital where a rally is held outside.
- Membership increases from 180 to around 580 as a result of the two leadership elections in 2015 and 2016. This is larger than the the Conservatives and Lib Dems combined in the constituency. On top of the larger membership we also have over 250 registered affiliate trade union supporters.
- Whilst some of the internal political debates of this period are probably too early to record as history and better deserve someone in the future writing them up, the local Party had its debates and then focuses on its campaigning. What can be said is no members left the Party to join the much smaller Change UK split compared to the 1980’s SDP one.
- In the 2016 EU referendum our members have a free vote and can campaign for whatever outcome they prefer. Around 80% of our campaigners support the official Labour Remain campaign and our team plays an important organising role in the wider “Stronger In” campaign at the local referendum count. We already realise that if Sutton votes 48% Remain the country will have voted Remain overall but we know by Midnight from our count analysis that Sutton has voted 46% Remain so Leave will win nationally. This is 4 hours before the result is declared locally,
- We continue to support the local campaigns of the CWU union for the retention of Crown Post offices
- We develop our fundraising holding two Stand Up for Labour comedy nights, quiz nights, wine tastings, dinners and curry nights. At the first comedy night Lucy Porter is one of the comedians, Sadiq Khan speaks and the famous comedian Windsor Davies (a CLP member since the 1990s) is present as a guest of honour. The second comedy night appears in this video.
- We expand our social media and develop this website – probably the most comprehensive local Labour CLP website in the country.
- In the 2017 General election our candidate is local health service campaigner Bonnie Craven and we poll our best Parliamentary result for 47 years. Some members also go to help Sarah Jones secure election in the Croydon Central seat with a 5,600 majority.
- In 2017 we pass what we believe to be the first Neurodiversity and Mental Health Charter agreed by a CLP.
- In the 2018 Local elections we poll our best local election results for 47 years and narrowly miss winning a seat in Sutton Central Ward by 32 votes. Two-thirds of our 27 Council candidates are women which we believe to be a record in terms of women candidates standing for a Party.
- In 2018 and 2019 the ongoing Brexit process becomes a full-blown political crisis and Government behaviour even goes to the Supreme Court for a ruling. Some members attend the very large demonstrations held during this period. The crisis impacts on Labour with poor results in the final set of European elections. Despite the arguments which lead to splits in the two main parties and demobilises many members we fight a high visibility campaign and as a result have the 2nd lowest swing against Labour in the entire country.
- In April 2019 we become one of the first CLPs in the country to pass a motion in support of a Green New Deal.
- In the 2019 General Election we transform our Hall into a regular venue for the duration of the campaign with comedy and music nights as well as training events and phone banking sessions. As well as our own campaign we have the resources so that some members also go to help the campaign in Wimbledon too.
2020-2022: The Covid Pandemic
- Labour members helped in many of the local Covid Mutual Aid Groups along with many others in the local community.
- The local Party upgraded its technology to allow for online meetings and online voting.
- We are still campaigning, following outdoor social distancing rules and organise outdoors protests and a car cavalcade in defense of St Helier Hospital.
- Our members play a leading role in local campaigning on the issue of violence against women and girls and both CLPs in the borough of Sutton are the first ones to sign up as supporter organisations for the UK White Ribbon campaign. Our members also take part in marches in Sutton Town Centre called by Sutton Reclaim the Streets.
- We fight the Croydon & Sutton GLA seat in the London Mayoral Election following the rules on social distancing. Despite the challenges to campaigning presented by Covid we achieve one of the better results on a day when there is a significant swing to the Tories before the decline and fall of the Tory Prime Minister in 2022.
- In 2021 we adopted a policy on electoral reform which was confirmed again the following year and we end up seconding one of the motions on the subject considered by 2022 Party Conference.
2022-Present: Sutton and Cheam CLP Today
- The Party narrowly missed winning seats in Sutton Central Ward in the 2022 Local Council elections. We work closely with newly elected Sutton Labour Councillors to promote our local policies.
- Just as we had shown solidarity in the Spanish Civil War the local Party showed solidarity to the victims of the conflict in Ukraine, just as we also had with other conflicts around the world over the years.
- We are still campaigning against an unnecessary health facility at Belmont and in favour A&Es at St Helier Hospital and Epsom Hospital. After more than 3 years delay many are sceptical that this proposal, which so far seems to be part of “Boris Johnson’s 40 imaginary hospitals” is ever going to happen? The wider danger is failure to deliver anything at all could mean vital urgent investment in St Helier Hospital is delayed.
- We work closely with local Trade Unions and support them in their recent campaigns over pay and conditions.
- We have a remarkable track record in moving motions, emergency motions and policy reference backs at Labour Party Conference which is at the level of a much larger trade union.
- We continue to sustain and build a strong infrastructure of three local branches covering Sutton, Sutton Downs and Worcester Park & Stonecot, have 8 locally affiliated Trade Union Branches and a formal electoral relationship with the local Co-operative Party and strong connections with the local Fabian Society. We also maintain longstanding fraternal relations with Merton & Sutton Trade Union Council (MSTUC). We know from the history above that this range of local institutions contributes to our success in the good days and our local resilience in tougher times.
- We continue to be a pioneering party often being an early adopter of ideas and activity that later become common place as some of the history above shows.
- Our officers have recently taken part in training events about the impact of Artificial Intelligence on campaigning and the democratic process as we continue look forward to the new issues and challenges in our second century.
- The Local Party continues to thrive and campaign for greater equality and social justice just as we have always done. Activism and campaigning not only benefits the wider community but is psychologically good for individuals too. Why not join us?
As our ancestors discovered, and we of the present recognise too, in a world where climate change and the rise of Artificial Intelligence and discriminatory algorithms are some of our modern challenges, the work fighting for greater equality and social justice never ceases. We fought for one whole century and we of the present and our successors in future will continue to fight in the coming century. As William Morris, a great inspiration for some of our local ancestors, said in his political/historical novel on the Peasant’s Revolt: A Dream of John Ball:
“I pondered all these things, and how men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name”.
With the ongoing support of our local members we will, as part of a much wider movement, continue to seek to turn the dreams of the past and the present into the realities of the future.
A Note of Thanks. This history was written up by CLP Chair Charlie Mansell in June 2023, but in reality is actually the sum total of all the individuals, some named and many not, who contributed to the campaigning and political activity described that justified its creation. We thank them for all that they have done to sustain us as a vital and vibrant local community organisation and political institution over the last century, building on even older traditions of protest and local political activity. It, and the related In Memoriam page of short biographies of former members, was written in tribute to Ron Phillips a Party member who passed away in May 2023 just before his 99th birthday. Thanks are also due to Marian Wingrove, John Evers, Phil Robinson, Kathy Allen, JAS Weir, Candida Jones, Vince Romagnuolo and Roy Aird for their helpful comments and contributions to the writing up of the events covered. This web page is still being researched and added to and we welcome receiving further information which can be emailed to us at: email@example.com. When complete its text will also be emailed to the People’s History Museum in Manchester and Sutton Council’s Heritage Service so it can be properly digitally archived as a contribution to this area’s local political history.