The high point of the event was a presentation by Trades Council Secretary Dave Chapple about Labour activist Fred Phillips who built up a socialist labour presence in the town that changed the face of Bridgwater politics in the 1950's and 60s.
|Glen Burrows RMT|
|Rob Thompson -student activist|
George Goodenough, a GMB member who worked at Hinkley point, talked about his fears for the Environment and how he had become involved in the Socialist Party .He stressed the need for a United Front against the ConDem Government.
|George Goodenough GMB & Dave Chapple|
|Ian Tucker-Bridgwater Forward|
|Leigh Redman FBU|
"Ideological Tory war"
|Ricky Hopkins UNITE|
Dave Chapple, a socialist historian and postman, talked about the work of one special individual in building up the Bridgwater Labour party after the second world war and taking it to a position of control in the borough bringing about some of the main achievements in the town until the abolition of the Borough in 1974.
Fred Phllips was from the Carpathian region of the former Czechoslovakia and was a socialist and anti fascist activist who escaped to England from a Nazi concentration camp and eventually found himself in Bridgwater where he became the Labour party agent. Fred's work and dedication created a large membership based Labour party in the town with a strong presence on the Town council of active Trades Unionists who eventually took control from the Tories and Independents. The Bridgwater Labour Party of Fred Phillips from 1952 to 1974 was a fine example of municipal socialism in action and had been responsible for such achievements as the Lido and the West street Housing project which the Tories (led by Margaret Rees) had tried to scupper..
|Dave Chapple & Brian Smedley|
"the Red Borough"
It was the case that Bridgwater was known as 'the red borough' around the south west and at one point when virtually the rest of the region went Tory, only Bridgwater remained true to it's socialist roots. Nye Bevan, the famous socialist instrumental in setting up the National Health Service, had opened Bridgwater's 1,000th Council House, at Adscombe avenue on the Sydenham Estate . Hugh Dalton had been received in the towns Charter Hall to present an award to Fred's wife Elizabeth for recruiting 2,000 Labour party members during a single year.
Freds hard work had even built up the party in rural locations where Labour supporters- largely farm workers -were afraid to put up Labour posters for fear of eviction. Dave explained how Fred travelled by motorised bike far and wide in his work and mentioned one single incident where he cycled to Withycombe and recruited 86 villagers in one evening! Dave also spoke of Fred's second in command, Don Beard, who was a CND activist and whose enthusiasm for the Labour Party included social outings including the popular 'Weymouth Excursions' which by 1958 numbered some 8 coaches. at a period when Labour Party membership never dropped below 2,000 and affiliated Trade Union membership running at some 3,000..
|Fred Phillips & Harold Wilson|
"Tory dominated Sedgemoor"
The Bridgwater Borough Council was abolished in the local government reforms of 1974 and the town was thereafter cast into a minor role within the new Tory dominated Sedgemoor District Council. In 2000 the Labour Government restored Bridgwater Town Council which labour has controlled for the ensuing years. The town council is up for election on Thursday as well and a lesson from the hard work of Fred Phillips showing what could be achieved is a timely reminder.