Star actor, political campaigner and former Todmorden Mayor's consort, Tony Booth has died at 85

Actor and political campaigner Antony Booth, who starred in Till Death Us Do Part, has died, his family have said in a statement.

Tuesday, 26th September 2017, 2:30 pm
Updated Wednesday, 4th October 2017, 10:36 am
Tony Booth was Mayor's Consort during Steph's year as Mayor of Todmorden in 2015-16. The actor and political campaigner has died at the age of 85
Tony Booth was Mayor's Consort during Steph's year as Mayor of Todmorden in 2015-16. The actor and political campaigner has died at the age of 85

Tony, who was 85 and had been battling alzheimers disease, settled in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, with his wife Steph just over ten years ago.

When she was Mayor of Todmorden in 2015-16 he was a familiar sight by her side as Mayor’s Consort, attending many local engagements.

Father-in-law to former Prime Minister Tony Blair - married to his eldest daughter Cherie - the lifelong Liverpool-born Labour supporter was unabashed in his own radical views, something he found echoed in Todmorden where the couple chose to make their home.

He told the Todmorden News in 2007 he felt at home there after reading up on Todmorden’s own radical past, including its opposition, led by radical mill-owning MP John Fielden, to the Poor Law in the 1840s and taking in mavericks such as Todmorden-born broadcaster William Holt.

“I read the stuff about the poor house and went ‘I’m home!’” he said.

He found it odd the national press continually tried to prise comments out of his disagreeing with his son-in-law, trying to get him to make statements that could then be splashed as opposing Blair’s. Tony said his own views on issues were already well-known.

Despite the aggravation, he told the Todmorden News: “I’m on the side of the press, I believe in free speech. My own view is that it’s called democracy. I’ve marched for pensioners and on the anti-war marches against my son-in-law. I joined them because that’s what I believe in. I’ve marched against every Prime Minister since Clement Attlee,” he says.

During the 1960s and 1970s he starred as Alf Garnett’s son-in-law Mike Rawlins in Till Death Us Do Part, one of the most controversial - and hugely popular - comedies ever made for British television.

He had a fractious relationship with Warren Mitchell, who played Alf in Johnny Speight’s groundbreaking comedy, which might have added to the sparks that flew between their characters on-screen. “The first argument started at rehearsal and went on until the last show,” he told the Todmorden News.

Tony was a familiar face in shows still watched or talked about today, including Dixon of Dock Green, The Saint and The Avengers, plus roles in television one-off dramas like The L-Shaped Room. He also had a number of roles on the big screen.

In those days, Tony had a reputation as something of a hard-drinking hellraiser and in 1979 almost burned himself to death in a fire at his flat, remaining hospitalised for months.

He was nursed back to health by his friend Coronation Street actress Pat Phoenix - Tony had played Malcolm Wilkinson, boyfriend of her famous character Elsie Tanner, in the programme from 1960-1961 - and she became his wife in 1986, just days before her death from cancer.

In later years acting roles in Holby City, The Bill, Merseybeat, Emmerdale and EastEnders followed before illness forced Tony’s gradual withdrawal from his profession.

He married four times, firstly to Cherie Blair’s mother Gale Smith, and after moving to Todmorden with fourth wife Steph found a place to settle, loved chatting with the locals and eventually took on that civic role.

Before and after her Mayoral year and in recognition of Tony’s condition, together they promoted the Dementia Friendly Todmorden campaign, aiming to make the town safer and welcoming for people who had Alzheimers.

A statement released on behalf of his wife Steph Booth said: “It is with sadness we announce the death of Antony Booth, actor and political campaigner.

“Tony passed away late last night with close family members in attendance.

“The family ask for their privacy to be respected at this time.”