Wednesday 21 February 2007

Wogan Phillips - Gloucestershire

Wogan Phillips

The artist son of a ship owner, born 25th February 1902, later in life Phillips became the Lord Milford, the 2nd Baron of Milford. As such, he was famously the only Communist in the House of Lords. Despite the ridicule sometimes bestowed on this role by the mainstream media, it had not been Phillips’ choice to take his seat. Harry Pollitt had urged him to go to the Lords, as was his right under inheritance laws, to speak against the very existence of the chamber and his presence there.

Educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford

Phillips married artist Rosamund Nina Lehmann, herself the daughter of an MP, in 1928. She dedicated her acclaimed "note of music" in 1930 him. Phillips was in Spain at the outbreak of the Spanish civil war and immediately joined the Medical Aid to Spain campaign as an ambulance driver, but was later wounded. He helped establish the refugee ship committee formed to evacuate Republican political refugees.

After the war, he became a farmer in the Cotswold (Colesbourne) and Chair of Cheltenham branch of the National Union of Agricultural Workers. He was a long-standing member of the national Agricultural Advisory Committee of the Party and Editor of the `Country Standard’. This was the Communist Party's rural & countryside journal, first established in 1935.

Phillips regularly stood as a Communist candidate in local elections, being elected as a Communist councillor for Cirencester Urban District Council in 1946 but lost this with the onset of the Cold War. He very nearly came back again in electoral politics in October 1959 when, in a local rural council by-election, he only lost election by 15 votes on a 83% turnout. He went to the Soviet Union in the 1960s, with his third wife Tamara, also a Communist, whom he married in 1954 to study agriculture there. (He had remarried for a second time, Cristina Casati Stampa di Soncino, the daughter of a Marchese, in 1944.)

In 1963 became a Lord, on the death of his father. In possibly the most original of maiden speeches, he called for the abolition of the un-elected Lords. Wogan Phillips died on 30th November 1993.

Hymie Fagan reporting on 1950 General Election (News & Views March 1950 stated that "the CP had organised 5,381 meetings during the election. Meetings were held in places where there had never been Communist meeting before. Thus in Tewkesbury and Chichester, one of the most backward political constituencies in England, the handful of comrades who ran the election organised thirty-five meetings in villages with 400 inhabitants or over. In the words of Ernie Brown, who was working in the constituency: "When the list was completed it was found that in no place chosen had there ever been a Communist meeting before, except in Tewkesbury." The meetings m this constituency were carried through in the teeth of the most violent hostility from the reactionaries. In this part of Gloucestershire there are large numbers of fascist "displaced" persons—retired Army officers, landowners, wealthy farmers, landed gentry—-as well as a large colony of Mosley fascists.

These followed our comrades round from meeting to meeting, howling, shouting, threatening physical violence. They threw potatoes, tomatoes, eggs, and even a turkey. This was thrown from a car which, loaded with fascists, attempted to force the car of the candidate, Wogan Philipps, into a ditch. Yet every meeting -was carried through to the end. Not only that, but the comrades also sold 1,250 Socialist Roads and 800 Election Specials, mostly from door to door. Ten thousand leaflets were distributed and 12 quire of Daily Workers sold on the three weekends prior to polling day.

Small wonder that a sort of united front grew up be tween the Labour Party members and our comrades. At various villages these workers shook hands and thanked our comrades for the fight they were putting up against the Tories. On top of this, the candidate obtained 423 votes. It was an achievement.”

Michael Walker

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