04
Jan
10

Jonathan Carritt on Bill Carritt and Communist Party electoral strategy

I found an election poster in a cupboard recently. My father, Gabriel “Bill” Carritt, was flown home from the battle for Mandalay to take part in the 1945 general election. He had been in Burma since 1944 serving with the Welch Regiment, 19th Indian “Dagger” Division of the XIV “forgotten” Army.

He stood as the Communist Party candidate in the Westminster Abbey constituency and got 17.6% of the vote. He had contested the same constituency in a by-election in May 1939 as the candidate of a united front of Labour, Communist, Liberal and anti-Chamberlain Conservatives, campaigning on the single issue of collective security against appeasement and winning 33% of the vote. This by-election aroused national interest with even a couple of anti-Chamberlain ministers (probably including Churchill) secretly funding the campaign.

Jonathan Carritt, Chiswick

This kind of support may seem unlikely but at that time my father was secretary of the League of Nations Union Youth Movement and at some point in 1939 Churchill had invited the leaders of various British youth movements to lunch at Claridges to discuss opposition to fascism, collective security and the possibility of a united campaign. Those attending included John Gollan of  the YCL, Ted Willis, leader of the Labour League of Youth, Garner Evans of the Young Liberals, Gordan Cree, secretary of the Guild of Cooperative Youth, Timberlake representing the League of Nations Union Student Movement,  my father from the LNUYM, Mary Owen, a leftwinger from the YWCA, a representative of the YMCA and one from the Student Christian Movement. Churchill asked each guest in turn to speak on how to proceed in the current situation. The only one to be confrontational was Ted Willis. As a result of this meeting, money or a campaign was made available through Duncan Sandys, Churchill’s son-in-law.

In the local elections which were held later in 1945 my father, my mother Dr Joan Carritt and Joyce Allergant were all  elected as Communist councillors for the City of Westminster. They served until 1949 when they lost out to the growing Cold War hysteria. The figures quoted are taken from “Parliamentary Elections and the British Communist Party, a historical analysis 1920-1978”. Date of publication is given as June 1978. The author is not named but comments, criticisms and corrections were invited to “C. Ravden, 1 Bushberry Road, London E9”. This booklet is itself of some interest. It was produced “as one branch’s effort to raise money for the National Fund and as an attempt to look analytically at the party’s parliamentary elections. Hopefully it will help party members judge the electoral fight as well as providing a few pages of party history.”

Throughout the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s there was constant questioning of the wisdom of devoting a high proportion of the Communist Party’s resources and effort to contesting parliamentary elections in a first- past-the-post system. The sub-heading of the booklet “£68,000 well spent?” perhaps indicates that this was a particular branch’s way of diplomatically expressing its reservations. £68,000 was, it claimed, the amount handed to the Exchequer by the Communist Party in lost deposits at parliamentary elections. “It is also roughly the amount collected each year for the CP’s National Fund. it….amounts to little more than a £1,000 for each year of the party’s existence. However, it is a lot of money to spend without care.”

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3 Responses to “Jonathan Carritt on Bill Carritt and Communist Party electoral strategy”


  1. 1 Jane Bradford
    27 October 2012 at 3:12 pm

    I am looking for the descendents of Gabriel Carritt. If you are interested in following this up,I have somethings that may be of interest to the family.

  2. 19 February 2016 at 9:38 am

    Hi Francis! My name’s Ben. I co-run a theatre company – on the button (www.onthebuttontheatre.org). We’re currently researching a performance project about the history of social housing, Britain’s Got Tenants. I was listening to old oral history interviews with superintendents for Peabody at the Museum of London, and one of the recordings mentioned “Joyce Alergant” who was “always stirring up trouble”. I googled the name, which initially led me to a her biography and then here. I’d be very interested in finding out more about the episode where Joyce Alergant, Joan Carritt and Bill Carritt were charged for conspiracy to incite trespassing. Would you be able to put me in touch with Jonathan Carritt?

    Best

    Ben

  3. 3 Jonathan Borggren
    14 September 2016 at 6:59 am

    –> Ben

    Unfortunately Jonathan “Jo” Carritt died in January 2014. I saw Jo for the last time in May of 2013. My father was an old friend of him and Bill and Joan. They met during a Holiday to Ireland in the early 1970s. The Carritts had many fascinating stories to tell about their lifes, hopefully all won’t be forgotten.
    You can find Jo’s obituary here:
    https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2014/jan/28/jo-carritt-obituary

    Sincerely

    Jonathan in Sweden


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