Shadow Minister marks Stratford tribute to working class hero

Shadow Minister Hilary Benn visited Stratford Old Town Hall to mark a significant landmark in the history of the area.

Mr Benn, who is Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, helped Newham Council unveil an exhibition that marks James Keir Hardie becoming the first Labour MP 120 years ago for the then constituency of West Ham South.

Keir Hardie’s links with the borough are remembered in different ways, including a primary school, housing estate and recreation ground, all in Canning Town. Newham also owns an original bust by acclaimed sculptor Benno Schotz, which can be seen at the Old Town Hall.

Mayor Sir Robin Wales said: “James Keir Hardie has been recorded in history as a true working class hero. The influence he had on twentieth century politics cannot be underestimated.

“For local residents he played an important role in highlighting poor working and living conditions and started to deliver real change for them through access to more and better jobs and improved housing. More importantly he gave people the hope, aspiration and resilience to improve their own lives.”

The exhibition about Keir Hardie’s life is at the Old Town Hall but will eventually be seen in libraries and community centres.

Mr Benn, who went up to the balcony of the Old Town Hall from where Keir Hardie made his first speech as an MP, said: “I hope people will be inspired by learning about James Keir Hardie who was an extraordinary man.”

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