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Cannon Les

Les Cannon

 

Born in 1920, Les Cannon was an activist of the Communist Party from his youth as an apprentice electrician but became the most vicious anti-Communist of the late 1950s and 1960s.

 

While still a Communist, he was elected a member of the ETU Executive Council, representing North Lancashire and Merseyside, from 1948-1954. He was forced to leave the EC after taking of a staff job at the union’s education centre at Esher, which redefined him as a staff employee ineligible to be on the EC.  Cannon had not accepted – or, indeed, anticipated – that his employment status forced him to come off the EC and had a vicious row with leading Party members over it. 

 

The resultant tensions were but a tiny harbinger of things to come and it was always clear that there was some personality foible that motivated Cannon’s increasing hostility to certain Party members than actual ideological differences.

 

Although Cannon resigned from the Communist Party in 1956, he did not in fact resign specifically over Hungary, although some commentators over the years have assumed it to be so, even stating this confidently. Interestingly, his first reaction after leaving the Party was to contact the Socialist Labour League (later the Workers Revolutionary Party). Even though Cannon had met and married Olga, a Czechoslovak national citizen, after he had attended a World Youth Festival, he did not make great play of his differences with the Communist Party over policy as regards the eastern bloc.

 

Six months after he left the Party, citing differences over the way the union was managed by Party members, Cannon lost his job as head of the union’s college at Esher, after cost-cutting measures were adopted. Mostly, the measures were inspired by a plan to introduce professionally competent teaching and Cannon was not in the least qualified.

 

But Cannon was convinced that the move was in spite for his leaving the Party. In fact, it was a career difference with the Party that prompted his resignation.

 

He began a systematic campaign to try to prove a plot by Communists to rig ETU elections, for which he was released on full pay by his employers. The infamous 1961 trial ensued, when allegations begun by Cannon were accepted as correct by the trial judge, who ordered the elected General Secretary to step down.

 

Cannon became ETU General President in 1963, and also over-saw the union's merger with the Plumbing Trades Union in 1968, which created the Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbing Trades Union.

 

He died of cancer in 1970, aged only fifty, shortly before he was awarded a knighthood in the New Year's Honours List.