What have veteran actor Tony Booth and stalwart Violet Noble got in common?
The answer is that the two Todmorden residents have been given certificates to honour their lifetime’s commitment to the Labour Party.
Tony, who became a household name from the 1960s when he starred in hard-hitting comedy Till Death Us Do Part, has had very close links with Downing Street through his daughter Cherie, wife of Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, but his membership of the party goes back much further than that.
Violet, who is 91, joined the Labour Party in her teens and her husband George was secretary of Cornholme Labour Party for many years.
To receive the award, a minimum of 50 years’ service is the benchmark. Both retain their lifelong interest in politics.
Violet, whose working life included spells at Waddington’s - which owned and printed the Todmorden News and Advertiser - and Bentley’s printers, was like George an active Labour Party member in the Cornholme branch, which later amalgamated with Todmorden branch. “There weren’t any arguments when we got married - we were in the same Labour Party branch and went to the same chapel,” she said.
Tony, who is 81, recalls he joined after going to his local Labour Party branch in Notting Hill Gate, London, to complain about his then MP, applied to join and was turned down for wearing a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) badge. He queried the decision and met future Labour leader Michael Foot, who secured his membership.
Both Tony and Violet said they could not understand why people claimed to be not interested in politics.
Violet said: “I keep up with political reading and through politics television programmes. It affects you, it’s your daily bread and butter. I can’t undertand people who won’t vote - it’s always people who don’t vote that complain. And it took a lot to get votes for women.”
Tony added: “If you want to change things, you need to be involved.” Although his son-in-law was Prime Minister, Tony said he was always able to speak his own mind. “I could say things Tony couldn’t,” he said.
Violet said her favourite Labour politician was Tony Benn while Tony said he always retained his affection for Michael Foot. He also recalled a story involving meeting Clement Attlee, Labour Prime Minister from 1945-51 at a Downing Street function hosted by Harold Wilson.
“It struck me there is no sadder person than an ex-Prime Minister. Clem sat there and everyone ignored him. I couldn’t believe it, the man was one of the greatest Prime Ministers of all time. I kept him company and later he asked me to give him a lift to the Albany Hotel in London, where he was living.
“He said ‘come up and have a drink’ and I spent hours with him. It was wonderful,” he said.