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Westacott Fred

Fred Westacott


Westacott fought for working people from a early age, joining the Labour League of Youth at the age of 14 in his birthplace ot Tredegar in the South Wales coalfield. Then leaving school at the age of 14, he entered the world of work as an apprentice engineer. Although eventually becoming a close confidante of Nye Bevan, in 1935, he joined the Communist Party, remaining a life-long loyalist. He saw active service in Italy during World War II, before moving to Leicester and making his home in the East Midlands, where he was elected to party's district committee in 1947.

Westacott also served the party as a parliamentary candidate, first standing in the general election of 1951. He contested the Mansfield constituency for the Party on four occasions. Ida Hackett, his election agent, recalled the "tremendous campaigns that we had," adding that even the local paper had to admit that the communist campaign was the best organised in the area. She noted that he gave a "tremendous amount of leadership to the Notts area of the NUM" when he served as the district party's coalfield area organiser.

For many years, he was a full-time organiser for the party and his proudest claim was that he was a professional revolutionary. District Organiser in the 1960s and 70s, he was prevented from becoming District Secretary for couple of years in the early 1970s, after difficult working relations with John Peck emerged. Eventually holding this position by his formal retirement in 1981, he was to lead an alliance of anti-revisionist forces in the East Midlands District so effectively that the full force of the leadership’s campaign to purge the Party after the Morning Star controversy did not reach into his remit.  

Although a long-time party functionary, Westacott was deeply rooted in the trade union movement. Indeed, so much so that, in the immediate post-war period, he had become a delegate to the Chesterfield trades council, shortly after his arrival in the area. Though he was excluded from standing on the executive committee because Chesterfield was one of the last trades councils to operate the TUC’s 1930s "black circular", banning communists from holding office. Together with stalwarts like Bas Barker, Bill Mitchell and Ernie Kelly, Fred campaigned to overturn the notorious circular. They succeeded and the trades council, for many years, became a major political force. When, in 1977, May Day was declared a public holiday, he was one of those who proposed that Chesterfield should turn the day into a genuine people's gala, under the auspices of the trades council. It soon became a resounding success in the 80s and 90s. Today, Chesterfield boasts one of the finest May Day events in Europe.

He did not rest after his formal retirement, continuing as part of the District Party leadership for most of the following decade. But he also played a major role in the pensioners' movement, helping to re-establish the British Pensioners Trade Union Action Association in the East Midlands and setting up a local pensioner campaign in Chesterfield in 1985. He also served on the executive of the National Pensioners' Convention and remained a loyal member of the Communist Party of Britain, which he joined on its re-establishment in 1988.

Noted for strong powers of analysis, even in old age, Westacott remained mentally acute and he always had something significant to say. On retirement, he taught himself computer word processing skills, no mean achievement. An unfinished autobiography by Fred was published a few years after his death, which took place when he was aged 84, on April 1 2001, following a long fight with cancer.

 

Sources: Morning Star 3rd April 2001 and 6th April 2001