Albert Booth -2010

Albert Booth died on 6 February 2010 aged 81. The son of a wireless operator, he was educated at St Thomas’s school in Winchester, South Shields Marine School (now South Tyneside college) and Rutherford College of Technology. An engineering draughtsman by training, he worked for Vickers-Armstrongs engineers. He was a member of the Labour League of Youth in his teens, an election agent in 1951 and 1955, secretary of his constituency party at the age of 24 and a Tynemouth borough councillor from 1962 to 1965. A strong trade unionist, he also chaired the local Trades Council.

When he arrived at Westminster, he became an active member of the leftwing Tribune Group. He owed his subsequent ministerial career to the influential friendships he had made on the left – notably with Michael Foot. When Harold Wilson returned to power in February 1974, and appointed Foot to the government front bench for the first time, as secretary of state for employment, Booth was Foot’s choice as his minister of state. Two years later, on Wilson’s resignation, Foot became leader of the House of Commons and this time got the agreement of James Callaghan, the new prime minister, to promote Booth to succeed him as employment secretary.

Booth was elected to the shadow cabinet after Labour lost office in 1979 and took the transport portfolio until he lost the formerly safe Labour seat of Barrow in Furness in 1983, in one of the biggest upsets of that election. In 1980 he gave Peter Mandelson his first job at Westminster when he hired him as his researcher.

Booth hoped to return to the House of Commons after losing Barrow. He became Treasurer of the Labour party in 1984 and unsuccessfully contested Warrington South in 1987. He was executive director of the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive from 1983 until his retirement.
In 1957 he married his former political secretary, Joan Amis. She died in 2008. Their sons Ian and Graeme survive, but a third, Derek, died in 2002.