Cllr Peter Wright
Cllr Peter Wright

Cambridge Labour have expressed condolences on the recent death of Honorary Councillor, Peter Wright and remembered the achievements of Cambridge city’s longest serving councillor and the first ever Labour Leader of Cambridge City Council.

Born in ‘Red Romsey’ in 1930, Peter Wright was at the heart of Cambridge local politics for nearly half a century. Peter’s first involvement in the Cambridge Labour Party was after becoming interested in politics aged 14, when Labour won at City and County in the 1945 elections, when Cambridge elected its first Labour MP.

He undertook his National Service with the 8th Royal Tank Regiment at Catterick for 6 months and for 18 months with the 4th Royal Tank Regiment at Shandur, Egypt, as a Wireless Operator in Centurion Tanks. Professionally, he was then employed for many years by the Biochemistry Department of the Animal Physiology for Agricultural Research Council.

His political career began when he was elected to the City Council aged 29, in 1959, representing Romsey ward with a particular interest in Housing. He was to go on and win an unprecedented 12 terms in office serving as a Romsey Councillor over a period of over 33 years. He was organiser of Labour’s successful 1966 election, gaining the seat from the Tories, with Robert Davies MP.

In 1973, Peter became the first Labour leader of Cambridge City Council, which he led twice, first from 1973-76 and then again after Labour retook the council, serving as leader from 1980-82. This was a period when Cambridge was growing, with new estates in the north of the city and major shopping redevelopments in the centre.

According to those who knew him, Peter believed the responsibility of the Labour council was to represent the views of working-class Cambridge. Peter was known for his left leaning politics and enjoyed spending time in the Romsey Labour club.

Politics academic and former Cambridge CLP member and former Chair of CULC, Dr Richard Johnson, recalls his memories of Peter:

“I interviewed Peter in 2012 as part of research for the book Camaraderie: One Hundred Years of the Cambridge Labour Party, 1912-2012. He was incredibly knowledgable and helpful, recalling a lot of interesting key details that otherwise would have been lost to the mists of time. Peter believed the responsibility of the Labour council was to represent the views of ordinary, working-class Cambridge residents. He framed it as looking after the ‘marge’ buyers, not just those who ate butter. He was part of the ‘Three Rs’: Riley, Rayment, and Wright — three outspoken left-wing councillors, known for their political stunts. But for Peter, politics was a serious business, too. He was a keen campaigner and brought good organising practices to local campaigning. He was Labour organiser for Cambridge during the 1966 election, when Labour gained the seat for only the second time. Peter was an admirer of Robert Davies MP, who was also on the left the party. He was a supporter of the Bevanite ‘Keep Left’ faction and supported unilateral nuclear disarmament. Peter was a regular in the Romsey Labour Club, where he drank with local Labour figures like Albert Stubbs, MP for Cambridgeshire (now South Cambs) from 1945-50.”

Richard Johnson’s full interview recording with Peter Wright is available here

Among his many achievements which he is remembered for whilst in office, his commitment to reducing traffic in the city centre and promoting green spaces are some of the key issues which he successfully pursued for local residents.

Petersfield City Councillor, Cllr Richard Robertson, who served as a councillor at the same time as Peter recalls:  

“When Labour ran the city council from 1973 to 1976, Peter was instrumental in following up on the Lion Yard development initiated by the conservatives and introduced the pedestrianisation of Petty Cury – previously a fully traffic laden road, following from the demolition of the south side as part of the Lion Yard development. Peter and others also fought to get New Square car park returned to grass in 1979 as part of the redevelopment of the Kite and the building of the Grafton Centre. Peter ensured that the long-standing commitment to return New Square to grass was honoured in a deal with the developers of the Grafton Centre.” 

Peter is not only remembered as an inspiring leader and someone fully committed to serving his local community, but is also remembered as a generous colleague who supported and mentored so many in Cambridge Labour.

Barry Gardiner MP and former Mayor of Cambridge and Romsey Councillor said:

“Peter was a kind and gentle man with a deep understanding of local government. As my immediate predecessor in Romsey, I did not serve on the Council alongside him, but he was a generous source of advice from which I benefitted greatly. Many in Cambridge will recall that their lives were improved by the actions he took and remember him with great affection.”

Former Leader of Cambridge City Council and former Cambridge Labour leader Cllr Lewis Herbert added:

“Being a councillor championing Romsey for over 30 years is a record no one has yet matched on the City Council. Peter cared deeply for Cambridge and continued to raise issues with me through my time as Leader after he retired, always wanting the very best for our city, just like he did as Council Leader.”

Current leader of Cambridge City Council and Cambridge Labour leader, Cllr Anna Smith has also expressed condolences on behalf of all Cambridge Labour members:

“I was very saddened to hear of the death of Cllr Peter Wright. He was the first ever Labour leader of the city council, and served an incredibly impressive 33 years serving as an elected representative- following 12 successive election wins. Peter was someone who was not only a ground-breaking political leader but also someone committed to serving his local community in Romsey. I want to send the condolences of Labour Group and the wider council to Peter’s family.”


Honorary Councillor Peter Wright 1930-2022

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