From Militant Irish Monthly, No. 185N, September 1990.
Marked up by Ciaran Crossey.
The death of Pat Wall, Labour MP for Bradford North, Marxist, founder and lifelong supporter of Militant, is a major loss to the working class movement in Britain, Ireland and internationally.
Pat was an active fighter for socialism since his teens. At 16 he became secretary of Garston Labour Party in Liverpool. During the 50s he was a councillor in Liverpool and served on the executive of the united Liverpool Trades Council and Labour Party.
When his work took him to Bingley in Bradford he became the key figure in the leadership of the local trade union movement. He was an inspiring and outstanding President of the Bradford Trades Council. With Pat at its head this body organised struggles to defend jobs and conditions. When the threat of racism raised its ugly head in Bradford Pat was at the forefront of the struggle to defeat it. The unity of workers which has been maintained in Bradford, with its large immigrant community, is in no small measure due to the work of Pat Wall.
Pat was one of the outstanding orators of his generation. Those who never heard him speak have been denied an unforgettable experience. He had the ability to capture entirely his audience, gripping them with his simple but powerful explanation of socialist ideas.
His power as a speaker came from the strength of his ideas, his earnest, self-sacrificing and life-long commitment to the struggle for socialism, and not least the warmth of his personality, his humanity and his humour which was always apparent.
In equal measure as Pat won the admiration and respect of tens of thousands of rank and file Labour Party and trade union members, so he earned the fear and venom of the British establishment. After he was selected as a parliamentary candidate before the 1983 election he was subjected to a barrage of character assassination and abuse from the media. Behind the hysterical screeching of the tabloids was the fear of the British ruling class of the effect of even one MP of Pat Wall’s stature in Parliament.
The Tory assault was complemented by attacks from the Labour leadership. Michael Foot, then the leader of the Labour Party, made a speech in Bradford denouncing Pat. The former Labour candidate, a right-winger called Ben Forde, stood against him, splitting the vote and allowing the Tory to win the seat. In this way the working class of Bradford and Britain were denied an outstanding parliamentary representative.
In 1987 Pat stood again in Bradford North and achieved one of the biggest swings to Labour in Britain. Since then he played an outstanding role in Parliament, but a role handicapped by his serious ill health.
Pat Wall was a Marxist and internationalist. He visited many countries and fought many causes for workers worldwide. But for Ireland and especially the struggle against sectarianism in the North he held a special affinity. With his own Irish ancestry he took a keen interest in the situation in Ireland especially since the beginnings of the present troubles.
Many times he visited Ireland North and South – always to speak out for working class unity and socialism and to give support to those fighting to develop the ideas of Militant here.
He maintained his commitment to Ireland despite his illness. Just over a year ago he visited Dublin and addressed a large meeting. Last year he attended the British Labour Party conference and spoke on the North at the Labour and Trade Union Group fringe meeting.
Eight years ago on a wet and windy November day in Belfast a historic demonstration was organised against unemployment by the Young Socialists and Militant supporters. Symbolically this march crossed from the Shankill Road to the Falls Road before marching through the city centre. At the head of the march was Pat Wall.
Later the hundreds of rain-sodden marchers packed into the King George VI Hall were brought to their feet as one person by the dynamic power of Pat Wall’s ideas, personality and oratory. That is how we will remember him – a revolutionary fighter and an inspiration.
Last updated: 23.11.2013