Lord Thomas Edward ‘Ted’ Graham has passed away in England, a week before his 95th birthday. A co-operative politician, author and campaigner, he was a strong supporter of co-operatives throughout his life – including Co-operative News, to which he contributed regularly, and read religiously.
Born in 1925, he began his co-operative career at the age of 13, working for the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Co-operative, delivering bread on a co-op bicycle. He served in the Royal Marines from 1943, but was severely wounded when taking part in an exercise in 1944 and returned to co-operative service in 1946.
He studied by correspondence courses and at night school and earned certificates from the Co-operative College. He became Prime Minister of the Tyneside Youth Parliament and held several positions in the co-operative movement, being appointed Southern Section Officer of the Co-operative Union and National Secretary for the Co-operative Party. He was the Labour and Co-operative MP for Edmonton from February 1974; he lost his seat in 1983 but was created a life peer as Baron Graham of Edmonton. He was Labour Chief Whip from 1990-97 and was also chair of the Co-operative Council and served as President of the 1987 Co-operative Congress
In his own words: “The co-operative movement is based on men and women with the right principles at heart. It is full of splendid history and stories of progress.”
“Ted is a legend in the co-operative movement,” said Joe Fortune, general secretary of the Co-op Party. “When the Co-operative Party designed and commissioned a centenary marching banner, from the Durham Banner Makers in Ted’s native North East, it was obvious that Ted needed to be front and centre on it … This banner will last for many, many years, as will Ted’s legacy, and I hope we will be marching this banner at the Durham Gala, with Ted on it for many years to come.”
The Co-op Party is collecting tributes to Ted. “Many co-operators will have their own cherished memories and stories they have stored up over more years than mine. However, an early [memory] for me was when I first started at the Co-operative Party, the then General Secretary, Michael Stephenson, sent me to meet with Ted to get an understanding of what I really needed to do. He told me I had to wear a co-op tie to the meeting otherwise Ted may feel I was not on brand enough. He gave me the tie, but to be honest I didn’t put it on and it is still in the office on my desk to this day. But when I got to the meeting Ted was wearing his – I felt I probably should have listened to Michael…”
Devastated at death of my beloved friend and mentor Ted Graham. Much loved by @UKHouseofLords, @CoopParty @CoopGroup @UsdawUnion @UKLabour and many more. Lovely, principled socialist. We met this Christmas and he was on great form. pic.twitter.com/QjwacbGI7j— Glenys Thornton (@GlenysThornton) March 21, 2020
Ed Mayo, secretary general of Co-operatives UK remembers Ted as a charming and charismatic champion for co-operation throughout his life, who played a key role in many points of influence and change for the sector.
“I first met him in the Lords, at his invitation and I can’t say I’d ever met anyone less lordly,” says Mr Mayo. “He was bright, intelligent and always positive, but a man too of profound and sincere humility. He’d been wearing his long-worn co-op tie on the day and three years later, in 2013, when we’d launched the new international co-operative marque, I was able to offer him a new one.
“The story of cooperation in the UK is a remarkable blend of values, enterprise, politics and perseverance and no-one embodied that more fully than Ted.”
We are gathering tributes and stories about Ted from around the co-operative movement. If you would like to contribute, please email [email protected].