- Hits: 6530
Windsor was a Communist-Labour activist in North East Bethnal Green in the early 1920s at a time when the borough was governed by a Labour-Communist alliance.
Walter Windsor was born in Hunlett St in the East End of London on July 18th 1886. [although other sources say 1884] and had lived there nearly the whole of his life by the early 1920s, when he was a candidate in municipal elections. He has joined the Communist Party on its foundation but was also a member of the Labour Party and, at this time, it was possible to be selected for candidature as a Labour candidate and be a Communist Party member.
Windsor had been active locally since the turn of the 20th century in a range of labour movement bodies. For many years he had been secretary of the Bethnal Green branch of the National Union of General Workers and had been one of the founders of the Bethnal Green Trades Council and Labour Party. From 1919 he had been a Labour borough councillor in Bethnal Green and then had become an Alderman.
He was oddly defeated in municipal elections in 1922, when he was well-known as a Communist but his defeat seemed to have little to do with this political allegiance. Indeed, he looked even set to be sure of winning the parliamentary seat of North East Bethnal Green, so popular was he. Indeed, his vote was twice that achieved in the previous election three years ago an d was only fifty short of his successful opponent. Strangely, he was defeated by the very eagerness of the working class voters to elect him! Ignorant of the election law that nothing may be written on the ballot paper, which was only now being applied vigorously and without discretion by checking to see if there was a clear intent, 160 of his backers were deemed to have spoiled their votes by marking their papers with slogans such as “Good old Windsor”, or signing their names. As the paper “The Communist” tersely put it: “It won't happen again.” And, indeed, it did not but not quite in the way that the Party meant; essentially Windsor’s ambition to be an MP came rather higher than his commitment to Communist politics, though it need not necessarily have been a choice he had to make.
The intense controversies that beset the Labour-Communist MP Shapurji Saklatvala, who was elected the Labour MP for Battersea North at the General Election in 1922 may well have had an effect on Windsor, as some Labourites agitated to remove him from the position of official Labour candidate. Whilst these years were also intensely unstable electorally, with elections coming and going with rapidity, perhaps contributing to a sense of anxiety in Windsor’s mind.
Saklatvala lost his seat in an election a year later and Windsor appears to have left the Communist Party to enable him to retain the candidature for North East Bethnal Green constituency and he finally became an MP in the December 6th 1923 general election. But, to the surprise of some (possibly including Windsor!), Saklatvala was re-elected at the same election, this time as a straight Communist. (He would represent the constituency for five years until defeated by a Labour candidate in the surge of 1929 that enabled a majority Labour government to be elected. A formal ban on joint membership of Labour and the Communist Party only came in during 1925.
Windsor, now an MP, posed for a rather tasteful and elegant photo portrait, now actually in the National Portriat Gallery. Although he lost his Bethnal Green seat to the Liberals in 1929, and stood rather desperately for Labour in Nottingham in 1931, polling only 15% of the vote, Windsor eventually ended his career as MP for Kingston upon Hull Central for the 1935-45 parliament, distinguishing himself by dying during the election campaign on 29th June 1945.
Sources: The Communist November 11th, 1922 and miscellaneous others