Tributes paid to Labour stalwart Bertie Hazell

Bertie Hazell, pictured in 1995, with his General Election poster of 1945

Bertie Hazell and John Grogan pictured together in 1992

First published in News

TRIBUTES have been paid to a renowned political stalwart, health boss and staunch trade unionist, who has died in York aged 101.

Bertie Hazell was believed to be Britain’s oldest living former MP, and was a former chairman of the York Health Authority.

He was also a district organiser and later president of the National Union of Agricultural Workers (NUAW) and a York magistrate, during a wide-ranging political and professional career, which also brought recognition from the State in the form of an MBE in 1946 and a CBE in 1962.

In 1945, he came within a whisker of becoming Selby’s first ever Labour MP, and he maintained strong ties with the local party for decades thereafter.

His daughter, Pat Piercy, said today that he would be remembered as a devoted public servant, a loving family man, and one who always viewed the glass as half-full rather than half-empty.

She said he was a “private man in a public life” and said he was well-loved by farm workers and by those in the health sector in York.

Bertie Hazell was born in Attleborough, Norfolk, in April 1907, the son of John and Elizabeth Hazell. He left school at 14 and became a farm worker, then later the secretary and agent for the local Labour Party, and district organiser for the NUAW.

He married Dora Anna Barham, and when Bertie became Yorkshire organiser for the NUAW, the couple moved north, settling in Acomb.His political aspirations saw him stand as Labour candidate in the old Barkston Ash constituency in the 1945 General Election. Facing a Conservative majority of more than 9,000, Bertie was seen as a longshot, but as Labour swept to an historic landslide, he came within 116 votes of victory.

He later blamed his narrow defeat on a petrol shortage, which meant many of his more remote voters could not get to the polling stations, but his Parliamentary ambitions were realised years later, when he served as MP for Norfolk North from 1964 to 1970.

Two years after Bertie’s Barkston Ash disappointment, Health Secretary Nye Bevan, founder of the National Health Service, appointed Bertie to the Leeds Regional Hospital Board, thus beginning a lengthy career in health services. As chair of the York Health Authority in the 1980s, he warned that privatisation could destroy the NHS.

Aside from the NHS, he also served on a number of agricultural and industrial bodies, including as chairman of the York and District Employment Committee from 1963 to 1974.

He was awarded an honorary degree from the University of York in 1984.

Bertie was married to Dora for more than 50 years, before she died in 1987.

He is survived by daughter Pat, grandsons James and Robert, and a great granddaughter, Siobhan.

His funeral service will be held in the Central Methodist Chapel in St Saviourgate, York, on Monday, January 26 at 11.30am or 11.45am, to be confirmed.


Remembering an ‘inspiration’ and ‘gent’

John Grogan, Selby’s first Labour MP, today paid tribute to the man who came within a whisker of beating him to that title half a century earlier.

Bertie Hazell was pipped to the post in the old Barkston Ash seat in 1945, but helped Mr Grogan campaign in the 1992, and 1997 elections, the latter of which saw Selby turn red for the first time.

Mr Grogan said Bertie had been an “inspiration.”

He said: “I remember him as a real gentleman with a twinkle in his eye. In 1992, as a young and slightly green candidate, he gave me plenty of advice and was far more effective on the streets of Tadcaster than I was.”

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