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Harold W Quinton moved to Braintree with his wife, Gladys, around 1925 where they lived with “two young children, sleeping and eating in a two small unfurnished rooms in
Quinton, despite initial opposition from the Communist Party leadership, was instrumental in swinging Communist and left-wing Labour Party support behind the candidature of Tom Driberg as an “independent” candidate in the June 1942 Maldon by-election. Whilst Driberg was an ex-member of the Communist Party and still sympathetic, the Party’s official position was to support the `armistice’ between existing parliamentary parties not to contest by-election seats which had not been held by their own party.
The key factor in ensuring Quinton’s support was the attack by the Tory candidate (Reuben Hunt) upon the
The Secretary of the Maldon Divisional Labour Party (established 1918), the Reverend Jack Boggis (who was also secretary of
Driberg secured a remarkable audience of 6,000 on
Tom Driberg’s maiden speech concerned the banning of the Daily Worker but the Braintree Communist Party seems to have secured support not only Driberg’s support but also from all left wing elements in the Labour Party. According to Driberg, Quinton was disciplined by the Communist Party for his role in ensuring support for him against the Tory “Coalition” candidate, but whatever this may have amounted to, it seems to have been only tokenistic since he remained as Secretary of
During the war Quinton seems to have played a role in ensuring the Daily Worker was delivered to Party supporters in Army and RAF units stationed locally. Indeed, Gladys Quinton, according to fellow Communist, George Barnsby, who was stationed close by, “lavished many of her precious food coupons on feeding us soldiers”. (The Quinton’s daughter Dorothy (Dot) was well known to the then young George Barnsby.) Circulation in
In 1946, Harold Quinton stood as a candidate for
In the following year May 1947, Harold Quinton was elected as a Communist councillor for East Ward in Braintree and soon introduced an remarkable innovation for those times, in holding advice `surgeries’ in various peoples’ homes around his ward, the first being in Barnham Avenue. Harold’s wife, Gladys Quinton, also stood for
Unions close to the Communist Partly locally included the Transport & General Workers Union (TGWU) under the branch secretary Mr E E Amos, of Holmcroft, London Road, Black Notley, Braintree and the local National Union of Agricultural branches.
To highlight the depth of support that left wing ideas had in this part of Essex, one only needs to consider that a staggering 700 people attended 1947 May Day event at Maldon, a day which included children’s activities, the Thaxted Morris Dancers and Maldon Town Band. The finale of the day ended with local MP Tom Driberg crowning the May Queen – even if he did managing to crown her with the crown upside down! The Left’s Maldon by-election victory of June 1942 and the pivotal role Harold Quinton played in this was one of the most important signposts to the 1945 Labour landslide, with its huge advances for working people of this country.
Harold Quinton died in 1979.