Walter Harrison

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This article is about the British politician. For the American academic, see Walter Harrison (university administrator).

Walter Harrison PC (2 January 1921 – 19 October 2012) was a British Labour politician.[1]

Harrison was educated at Dewsbury Technical College and School of Art. He was a foreman electrician and was active in the Electricians' Trade Union. He served as a councillor on West Riding County Council and as an alderman of Castleford Borough Council.

MP for Wakefield from 1964 to his retirement in 1987, Harrison served as a Government whip from 1966 to 1970 and as deputy Chief Whip from 1974 to 1979. In the Conservative landslide at the 1983 general election, he held his seat with a majority of only 360 votes.

It has recently been revealed that in 1979, Harrison played a critical role in the defeat of the Labour government in the vote of confidence. As the vote loomed, Harrison approached Conservative MP Bernard Weatherill to enforce the convention and "gentleman's agreement" that if a sick MP from the Government could not vote, an MP from the Opposition would abstain to compensate. The Labour MP Alfred Broughton was on his deathbed and could not vote, meaning the Government would probably lose by one vote. Weatherill said that the convention had never been intended for such a critical vote that literally meant the life or death of the Government and it would be impossible to find a Conservative MP who would agree to abstain. However, after a moment's reflection, he offered that he himself would abstain, because he felt it would be dishonourable to break his word with Harrison. Harrison was so impressed by Weatherill's offer - which would have effectively ended his political career - that he released Weatherill from his obligation and so the Government fell by one vote on the agreement of gentlemen.[2]


  1. ^ "Former Labour whip Harrison dies". PoliticsHome. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  2. ^ The Night the Government Fell, BBC archive on the 1979 vote of confidence, audio interview of Weatherill and Harrison

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Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Arthur Creech Jones
Member of Parliament for Wakefield
Succeeded by
David Hinchliffe
Political offices
Preceded by
Bernard Weatherill
Treasurer of the Household
1974 – 1979
Succeeded by
John Stradling Thomas