Joe Ashton

Photograph by the Worksop Guardian

We can’t let the passing of former Labour MP, Joe Ashton, that ‘bloke in the street,’ go unmentioned despite trying to keep this page clear from politics.

Whatever your allegiance, and whatever you might have thought about Joe Ashton, he was a Sheffield lad.

Born in 1933, he grew up in the slums of Attercliffe. Despite his modest beginnings, he passed the 11-plus and went to High Storrs Grammar School. He did National Service with the RAF and then became an engineer at Davy United.

He became involved in trade unionism and progressed into politics as a Sheffield city councillor. In 1968, he won a tough three-cornered by-election fight for the ‘Alamo of Bassetlaw,’ and held his seat until 2001.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

Joe once wrote a weekly column for the Sheffield Star, went on to the Daily Star as the ‘Voice of the People’ and briefly wrote for the Sunday People. He was also a published novelist – Grass Roots charting the rude awakening of a young MP just elected to be the Mother of Parliament – and a staged playwright.

A Majority of One whipped across the Nottingham Playhouse auditorium in 1986, and astounded audiences and other Honourable Members with its no-dirty-tricks-censored account of how a government with a thin majority won votes on controversial issues.

Issues he took up as an MP included the delicacies or otherwise of Ministers calling MPs by their first names, the toll bridge on the A57, the use of tobacco sponsorship in sport (in 1972), paraffin prices, East Midlands rail cuts, conditions in a Worksop primary school, advertisements for the BBC (again in 1972) and fish fatalities in Clumber Park Lake.

He once accused Prime Minister Ted Heath of doing nothing about rising prices because he was a bachelor, complained that beer was getting so weak you’d soon be able to sell it to children and slammed the police for making bingo fans pay for a whole session before the first game started.

He followed his novel up with a memoir, Red Rose Blues (2000), and was awarded an OBE seven years later.

And, of course, he was a lifelong Sheffield Wednesday fan and director for nine years, often publicly criticising his colleagues and history proving he was quite correct with his comments.

Joe was married to his late wife Maggie for 57 years and leaves behind one daughter.

Photograph by the Worksop Guardian