Joe Ashton

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Joseph Ashton
Member of Parliament
for Bassetlaw
In office
31 October 1968 – 7 June 2001
Preceded by Frederick Bellenger
Succeeded by John Mann
Personal details
Born (1933-10-09) 9 October 1933 (age 83)
Sheffield, West Riding of Yorkshire
Nationality British
Political party Labour

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.

Early career[edit]

Ashton was born and brought up in Sheffield; he attended High Storrs Grammar School and Rotherham Technical College.[1] 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".

Conference speech[edit]

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.

Two years before he stood down, he faced allegations about his presence with a 21-year-old woman at a Thai massage parlour in Kingsley Park Terrace, Northampton, in a police raid in November 1998.[2][3] Following his retirement, he was succeeded by John Mann.

In 2007, Ashton was appointed an OBE.[4]

Ashton was interviewed in 2012 as part of The History of Parliament's oral history project.[1][5]


External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Frederick Bellenger
Member of Parliament for Bassetlaw
Succeeded by
John Mann