Weston Reg

Reg Weston

Reg Weston was born in 1913 at Stamford Hill, Hackney, London and left school at 15 to work as a trainee reporter in Fleet Street and went on to have a lifelong career in journalism, in both the national and local press.
In his early 20s, Reg was an active member of the Independent Labour Party.  Like many ILPers, Weston was drawn into the Communist Party, which he joined in 1935. He became Secretary of a newly-formed party branch in the Southgate area of Enfield, in North London. Among the members of the branch at this point was Rajani Palme Dutt. Like so many of the young people of his generation, Weston participated in the October 1936 Battle of Cable Street.
During the Second World War, he saw active service in the Eighth Army, for which he was awarded five decorations, including two campaign stars (the Africa Star and the Italy Star).  In all, Reg Weston spent three years of the war in action, in the Tunisian battles, the Salerno landings and in the ensuing Italian campaign. Throughout this he was with the Royal Artillery, serving as a signaller in charge of a forward observation post.

After the war, Weston resumed his career in journalism and in 1946 he went to work on the Daily Worker, where he became the day shift chief sub-editor. However, his time on the paper was cut short in September 1952, when he was fired by the editor, Johnny Campbell, in odd circumstances. His dismissal came about as a result of a dispute following the sacking of his friend Freddie Deards, who had been a sub-editor on the sports page. Weston and Deards objected to being paid substantially below the NUJ rate for the job in practice. Although the full union rate was paid, at the time the financial pressure on the paper meant that there was a massive “donation” made after payment of wages understood to be given by all employees.

Many journalists at the Daily Worker were married to moderately well-paid members of the Party at a time when one good wage was sometimes generally enough for a family. This did not always work well for everyone and there was a steady trickle of journalists leaving for better paid work over the years. Somehow, the rough and ready formula had not applied to Deards and Weston who, in his words, “grumbled and criticised. We made cynical remarks". The row with Johnnie Campbell also saw Weston leave the Party, although the broad thrust of his politics did not appear to change and he remained proud of his earlier political involvement, although a distinct pattern of controversy and splits followed Weston in later life.  
He then worked as a sub-editor on the Daily Sketch and became the editor of several north London weekly newspapers before becoming sub-editor with the Press Association for many years. After his retirement from this in the 1970s, Weston moved to North Kent, where he lived for the next quarter of a century in the village of Higham, where he was Clerk to the Parish Council for a time. He became well-known for political campaigning in nearby Gravesend. Weston was a leading member of the local CND and the Anti-Nazi League and was a stauch supporter of Kent NUM during the Miners’ Strike of 1984–5. In contrast to the prevailing trend as the Communist Party began to implode in factional wars, Weston rejoined the CPGB in 1985 though, somewhat bizarrely, during the years leading up to the dissolution of the party, he supported the tendency that published the `The Leninist’.
In the early 1990s, he was a leading member of Gravesend Anti-Poll Tax Union and he was imprisoned for his refusal to pay the tax. During the 1992 general election campaign, he heckled John Major, waving a placard declaring "Rich Tories, the real poll tax parasites". In 1993, Weston played a key role in a successful campaign to drive a neo-Nazi,  John Cato, out of Gravesend.
The Leninist faction now designated itself the “Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee)” but Weston broke with the group in the early 1990s and was briefly involved with the SWP but this, too, ended in differences. In a well-publicised symbolic act in 2003, he sent his war medals to the local Labour MP to show his disgust at support for the invasion of Iraq. Weston died on January 26th 2007 at the age of 93.
Source: This London 9th February 2007

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