Red Flag lowered as the UK’s last elected Communist retires

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BRITAIN’S last elected Communist has retired after more than 40 years of flying the red flag for Karl Marx.

Willie Clarke, 80, was first elected to Fife’s County Council in May 1973 – as the Cold War gripped the western world.

Eleven other communist candidates won seats alongside Willie in the mining town of Ballingry – but in the 43 years since the popularity of the party has dramatically waned.

Willie Clarke was Britain's last elected Communist
Willie Clarke was Britain’s last elected Communist

In that time the US lost its battle with communists in Vietnam, the Berlin Wall fell, the USSR collapsed, and Obama has met with the Cuban president to end the decades-long trade embargo.

Now Mr Clarke – chairman of the Cowdenbeath Area Committee and the last elected communist in the UK – has retired.

Mr Clarke stepped down on Wednesday – after chairing one final committee meeting.

He said: “It has been a hard decision to make.

“I had hoped to see things through to the council elections next May, but over the past few months one or two problems have made it difficult to be able to be as committed as I want to be to this very important job.

He was first elected in 1973
He was first elected in 1973

In his time on the council Mr Clarke has suffered from a bout of cancer – which has taken his left ear, and affected his speech.

He went on: “Also my wife Betty has not been well and she has been a key part of my personal team, answering the door and the phone and being able to provide a key link with the public.

“So it is time to call it a day. But I will not be going away completely. While I do not feel up to being able to fulfill the role as a councillor I intend to continue to work with the various community groups I am on.

Discussing the fact that there will now be no communist officials in the UK, he said: “It is sad that nobody’s following on, but I still hope that the movement picks up strength.”

With his wife at home in Ballingry
With his wife at home in Ballingry

Despite originally being elected as a Communist Party candidate, Mr Clarke is technically an independent at present – as guidelines mean he could not put the party name on the ballot.

But he has fully identified as a communist for all his life – and he says he has always made his views clear to the community who have elected him time and again.

Clarke joined the communists soon after he began working in a local mining pit at the age of 14.

His first job on the site was separating coal on the surface for 40p a shift.

After being elected to the Fife County Council for Ballingry in 1973 – at the age of 37 – a reorganisation took place.

He was then re-elected for as a member of Fife Regional Council for Benarty.

Since then he has served on the education and social work committees – as well as acting as vice chair of a sub-committee which deals with children with special needs.

After 22 years the council reorganised once more, and then in 1996 Willie became councillor for the Benarty seat of Fife Council.

He was re-elected in every vote since, and was named as chairman of Cowdenbeath Area Committee in 2007.

In his time on the council he has also met Gordon Brown.

He even spent weeks at a time in Moscow during the height of the Cold War – holidays that were likely to raise the eyebrows of the tightly-wound security services of the day.

Describing the “holidays” he took in the capital of the USSR he said: “I saw two or three things that I was surprised by, but I was delighted to go.”

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