B

Balshaw Bill

Bill Balshaw

 

A building worker by trade, Balshaw was the Guernsey (Channel Islands) Communist Party secretary in the 1960s and 1970s. He worked closely with Norman Le Brocq (see separate entry), the Jersey Communist Party secretary.

 

The Communist Party on Guernsey had only been established in 1945 and it was, for many years, the only functioning political party on the island. Electoral opposition to the ruling clique came from the “Labour Group” a body uniting Communists, trade unions and socialists on the island,

 

A report of an election in 1970 illustrated the level of support for the “Labour Group” with the two Labour group candidates polling a very respectable 573 and 522 votes in St Peter’s Port .

 

As Bill Balshaw explained in Comment 23 May 1970: 

 “The whole electoral system on Guernsey is heavily weighted against the working class candidates and the great majority of workers are not even on the electoral roll. For our candidates to have obtained 500 votes from such an electorate was little short of marvellous, I expected about 100.

“The governments of the Channel Islands for some years now have adopted a policy of encouraging financial interests and speculators to use the islands as a base for operations; it has been said that over £100m have been invested through Guernsey alone. The result has been that many buildings have been taken over by merchant banks and investment brokers use for office premises. The price of building land has soared beyond reach. The get rich quick brigade have had a field day.”

 

The campaign in 1970 was helped by a unofficial strike in the islands biggest garage, the men claiming a 2s 3d per hour rise, The building workers had lodged a claim for 2s 6d per hour, 3 weeks holiday and other benefits but the struggle was hampered by the curse of non-union labour and  local version of the Lump.

 

In May 1970, a demonstration of fifty young people demanded a youth centre on the island, with sports facilities, a dance hall and an indoor swimming pool.

 

After the "Labour group" election successes the ruling clique moved swiftly. The Labour Group received a letter from the editor of the Guernsey Evening Press withdrawing the earlier concession of a monthly “Labour Point of View” column. This was supposedly on the grounds that the Labour Group did not have enough support to justify the column, even though it had just secured a significant vote at St Peter’s Port.

Michael Walker

Source Comment 23 May 1970