Former Preston MP and city councillor Ron Atkins dies aged 104

Former Preston North MP and city councillor Ron Atkins has died at the age of 104.

Thursday, 31st December 2020, 3:49 pm
Updated Thursday, 31st December 2020, 4:46 pm
Former Preston North MP and city councillor Ron Atkins has died aged 104

It is understood that Mr Atkins - who served as Preston councillor until the age of 93 - died yesterday (Wednesday, December 30).

Mr Atkins' death has been confirmed by Preston City Council, who have this afternoon paid tribute to his decades of service on behalf of the people of Preston.

A Council spokesman said: "We are saddened to hear of the death on December 30 of Ron Atkins aged 104.

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Former Preston North MP Ron Atkins at home aged 102

"Ron was a former city councillor and MP for the Preston North constituency. Much of his long life was dedicated to public service both locally and in parliament.

"Ron leaves a widow Councillor Elizabeth Atkins and wider family. We send our heartfelt condolences to Liz and the family."

Plungington Cllr Pav Akhtar tweeted: "Sad loss of an absolute @UKLabour legend. RIP dear Ron Atkins. A proud, passionate, and principled champion of the city and people of Preston."

Mr Atkins leaves behind his widow - city councillor for Ashton, Elizabeth Atkins - and his daughter Charlotte and granddaughter Emma.

Ron Atkins, former Preston North MP , pictured front row left, protesting against British involvement in the US-led Vietnam war

The Mayor of Preston, Cllr David Borrow, will make a formal statement in tribute to Ron Atkins' long life and work on behalf of the city and people of Preston on Monday (January 4).

Born in 1916 in Barry, Glamorgan, Wales, Mr Atkins packed numerous careers into his busy life but remains most well known for his two stints as a city MP - representing Preston North from 1966 to 1970 and again from 1974 to 1979.

He served as a Preston councillor until the age of 93 and had been Britain's longest-lived British MP ever.

The Welshman made Preston his home and he remained loyal to the city, where he campaigned for the creation of a Polytechnic in Preston which would enjoy a thriving future as UCLan.

Former Preston North MP Ron Atkins at an Aldmermaston march organised by the CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) in the 1950s

A staunch and proud socialist, Mr Atkins joined the Labour party as a teenager in the 1930s when the country was gripped by recession. He said he found socialism at an early age after spending time with miners who spoke of their hardships, which encouraged him to fight for a more equal society.

Over the following nine decades, he never wavered in his convictions and support for social justice and for improved standards in healthcare, employment, education and housing.

He also supported CND (the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) when the world was pushed to the brink of nuclear catastrophe during the Cold War, taking part in the Aldermaston marches. He was also active in the protests against the American war in Vietnam in the 1960s.

Speaking to the Post in 2018, at the age of 102, he said his long career in politics gave him the opportunity to tackle some of society's injustices, saying: “It’s my duty to deal in the problems of the world.”

Family photo: Former Preston North MP Ron Atkins is pictured top right

As Honorary President of Momentum for Central Lancashire at the age of 102, Mr Atkins' commitment to politics remained undiminished and he was an ardent supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s vision for the Labour party.

In August 2015, at the age of 99, Mr Atkins was invited to give the warm-up speech for the former Labour leader during his visit to Preston on his leadership campaign trail.

A fervent supporter of Corbyn and the Left in British politics, Ron proudly declared: “We love you!” and told those assembled: “Jeremy Corbyn is not New Labour he is Real Labour.”

He said a daily diet of the Financial Times, Lancashire Post, and copies of the Guardian or Times helped keep him up to date with local, national and international news after his retirement from politics.

Outside of politics, Mr Atkins enjoyed an active lifestyle and attributed his long life to "good genes, an active lifestyle, and wild Atlantic salmon". After becoming a centenarian in 2016, he revealed that he had still been an active ballroom dancer.

He said: "I joke and say the devil looks after his own, but more seriously, I haven’t smoked since I was 12, and I don’t drink. I think genes also come into it. In general, my family live to be about 80 odd."

He added: "I’m practically a teetotaller, except I don’t drink tea. I’m a bit of an addict for coffee. I used to go dancing. All my life I have looked younger than my age. Most of all I have an active brain."

Ron Atkins, 13 June 1916 – 30 December 2020.

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