Wilfrid Andrew Burke was born on 23rd November 1889, the son of venetian blind maker Andrew Burke and his wife Mary. The 1891 census shows Wilfred as the youngest of 12 children living at 197 Park Road L8 (now demolished). By 1901 the family had moved to 41 Jolliffe Street L8, the 1911 census showing them to have relocated just one door away to 43. (Jolliffe Street ran between North Hill Street and High Park Street and was demolished some years ago).
After being educated at Oulton College, Wilfred Burke’s first profession was teaching, in fact the 1911 census shows that his three sisters were also teachers. He left Liverpool in 1918, moving to Manchester where he began what would be a lifelong commitment to the trade union USDAW (Union of Shop Distributive and Allied Workers) and the Co-operative movement.
Having stood unsuccessfully as a Labour candidate in three parliamentary elections, in 1932 he was selected as the Labour parliamentary candidate for Burnley. The seat had been held by the then Labour leader Arthur Henderson, but he had lost it in 1931 to Vice Admiral Gordon Campbell VC who stood as an independent. In 1935 Campbell stood as a Liberal and was defeated by Burke by a margin of 4,195 votes. He remained the town’s MP until stepping down in October 1959.
Burke briefly held Ministerial office in The Labour Government which came to power in 1945, sevring as Assistant Postmaster General. As the PMG was in the House of Lords, Burke was the lead voice in the Commons. He stood down from the post in 1947, citing a wish to concentrate on his constituency. He stood on the right of the party and frequently clashed with the ‘Bevanites’. Notwithstanding his right-wing position he served on the NEC from 1944, being elected Chairman in 1953. It was as Chairman that Burke, in 1954, led an investigation into attempts by ‘Bevanites’ to de-select Bessie Braddock from her Liverpool Exchange constituency. The inquiry led to the NEC ordering her re-instatement.
Wilfrid Burke married a Liverpool woman, Jean Flett, in 1920. He died in Middleton, Manchester on 18th July 1968, aged 78.
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