Last Known Descendent of First Working-Class MP Passes Away

The last known descendent of the first working-class MP, Thomas Burt, has died this month aged 94.

Peter Burt was the grandson of Thomas Burt who was elected as Member of Parliament for Morpeth in 1874. Thomas Burt was the first working man elected as a MP. He was elected on a radical platform and believed in universal suffrage.

Peter inherited his grandfather’s passion for equality and fair treatment, championing these beliefs throughout his life. 

At 10 years old and with only two years of schooling Thomas Burt began working at Haswell Colliery as a trapper boy. Before he became a MP, Thomas Burt was the General Secretary Northumberland Miners Association who named their Trade Union Building, Burt Hall, after him. Burt Hall is now used by Northumbria University.

Thomas Burt was re-elected in 1880 and served as Member of Parliament for the next 38 years until poor health forced him to retire.

His grandson, Peter Burt, who died earlier this month, fought as part of the Air Corps during World War Two and then enrolled in the RAF for his National Service. Peter became a Motor Mechanic after he left the Air Force and worked at Spillers on the Quayside until it closed. Peter lived in Newcastle all of his life with his wife Betty who passed away just one year short of their diamond wedding anniversary.

Peter spoke often and with pride about his heritage. Peter helped the Woodhorn Museum with exhibits and information about his grandfather’s life, ensuring that Thomas Burt’s legacy would be carried on.

Chi Onwurah MP who met Peter when out doorknocking in 2016 said:

“I am so sorry to hear of Mr Burt’s passing. It was a real pleasure to meet him and hear him talk about his grandfather. He also told me he told me he regarded himself as an Engineer, but not a theoretical one like me!”

“Peter came from a family who contributed greatly to politics and the Labour movement both nationally and on a local level and he did a great deal to keep his grandfather’s legacy alive.

“We need more working class people in Parliament, following in Thomas Burt’s trailblazing footsteps.”

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