|Member of Parliament
31 October 1968 – 7 June 2001
|Preceded by||Frederick Bellenger|
|Succeeded by||John Mann|
9 October 1933 |
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Joseph William Ashton OBE (born 9 October 1933), usually known as Joe Ashton, is a British Labour Party politician who was known for his defence of the rights of Labour Members of Parliament (MPs) against the demands of the left-wing of the party to subject them to mandatory reselection.
Ashton was born and brought up in Sheffield; he attended High Storrs Grammar School and Rotherham Technical College. He was first elected as the Member of Parliament for Bassetlaw in a by-election in 1968, when he did well to hold the constituency at a time when the Harold Wilson government was highly unpopular and the previous MP (Fred Bellenger) had held a substantial personal vote.
In 1974, when corruption allegations about MPs were widely circulating, Ashton gave an interview to the Labour Party newspaper Labour Weekly. Seeking to defend MPs in general, Ashton insisted that the number who were guilty of corruption "could be counted on the fingers of one hand". This statement backfired, as newspapers demanded that he name the guilty five MPs.
In the late 1970s Ashton served as a junior minister in the government of James Callaghan. After the Labour Party went into opposition he wrote a column for the Daily Star and made regular TV appearances in connection with his football club, Sheffield Wednesday, of which he was a director.
In 1977, Ashton published Grass Roots (Quartet Books), a novel about a tough steelworker who becomes a rebellious Labour MP. The Times called it 'the clearest guide to British party politics since Phineas Finn', the Guardian said it was 'packed with detail, as rich as a slice of fruit-cake, and as vivid and exciting as an eve-of-poll rally'.
Ashton saw himself as the 'shop steward' for the Parliamentary Labour Party. When left-wing Labour Party activists demanded that sitting MPs submit themselves to their local parties for approval in each Parliament, he made a strong speech at the Labour Party conference in which he said he was pleading to save the jobs of the MPs. He referred to the large number of Labour MPs who had died of stress-related illnesses and linked that to pressure brought on them by their local parties.
Police raids on two massage parlours in Northampton resulted in the discovery of Joe Ashton, then Labour MP for Bassetlaw, in the Siam Sauna. Two years before he stood down, he faced allegations about his presence with a 21-year-old Thai woman at a 'Thai massage parlour' in Kingsley Park Terrace, Northampton during a police raid in November 1998. Following his retirement, he was succeeded by John Mann.
In 2007, Ashton was awarded an OBE.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Joe Ashton
-  Interview BBC Radio Four, 17 July 2009.
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for Bassetlaw