Denis was first elected to Havering Council in July 1971, in one of the by-elections caused by the appointment of Alderman following the Council elections in May. This was the Havering election which was won by Labour for the first (and so far… only) time. Denis joined the new administration at an exciting time, and was also part of minority administrations under Arthur Latham, Wilf Mills and Ray Harris.
Dave Ainsworth paid the following tribute;
“I first met Denis when starting work in Ford’s Dagenham Foundry. Denis was a leading Shop Steward. The Trade Union was “The Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers (Foundry Section)”. In time Denis successfully stood for election to become a full-time District Organiser, hence he became based at their Dagenham East Office. Denis had a wide area to cover.
In time the Trade Union changed its name a few times, through amalgamations, so becoming the AEUW (Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers), then AMICUS and now UNITE.
It’s like turning a full circle, for only a couple of months ago UNITE opened its new office block ion Yew Tree Avenue, which is where the old May & Baker Works were – this office complex is also where Jon Cruddas MP recently moved his Constituency Office to. You can see his old office from Unite’s new office. Denis is highly active in UNITE as he’s Chair of the local UNITE Retired Members’ Branch.
Denis was a leading trade union shop steward in Ford’s Dagenham heyday before becoming a full time District Officer for the old Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers (Foundry Section). Denis is now Chairman of a most active local Unite Retired Members’ Branch. He’s held many other Community positions. He’s so active that constituents of other less committed Councillors often turn to Denis with their concerns and problems. He never turns anybody away – and makes his home phone number available in all publications.
Denis is – without doubt – the most active Councillor ever to serve on the Harold Hill Estate. He stood 4 times for Parliament, in Romford February 1974, when I was his Election Agent – then in same Constituency in October 1974. In 1979 Denis stood in Hitchin and 1987 for Upminster.
In Havering he was a highly effective Housing Chairman and twice served as Mayor with wife Maureen as his Mayoress.
Denis in full flow at a Havering Fabian meeting in 2018
Denis became a Councillor in 1971. Denis always was, and still is, a brilliant orator. He can quickly grasp situations, such as in his early Council days as he organised effective protests and demonstrations on Harold Hill about the dangerousStraight Road, when mobilising hundreds of residents to stage road blocks at two locations along what was dubbed “Murder Mile” by our local press. Soon after election he organised one of the most successful and best supported mass participation protests ever seen in Havering – and one which Denis is still proud of, to this day. The local press dubbed Straight Road as “Murder Mile” owing to many serious road accidents, some fatal.
Denis twice had his Council service broken. Prior to our 2006 Council Elections he was disgracefully “stitched-up” in a curious selection meeting, where people were present who nobody knew – and to this day, have never been seen since. Along with long-serving Wilf Mills R.I.P. he was deselected. The Romford Recorder reported that Labour had ditched their two best drawing cards. Denis was then selected to contest Rainham & Wennington Ward, where he was unsuccessful. However he continued supporting Labour and, along with fellow dumped local politician Wilf, ran weekly advice surgeries in St.George’s Church on Harold Hill – this despite receiving a Labour Party disciplinary letter instructing him not to, as he was no longer an elected Councillor. Denis ignored that letter and carried on! As did Wilf! As for Heaton Ward – without Denis & Wilf – Tories won 2 of the 3 seats with only Councillor Keith Darvill remaining for Labour. Ouch!
Denis also lost his seat in the 2014 Council Election when UKIP won 2 Heaton Ward seats, again with only Councillor Keith Darvill retaining his seat. However Denis was back in our Council Chamber in 2016 after a really hard fought by-election with numerous candidates, caused when Councillor Philip Hyde (ex-UKIP and then “Independent”) resigned.
Without doubt Denis has been the most active Harold Hill Councillor ever seen. So much that residents from all parts of the Borough contact him when, at times, their own elected Councillors aren’t so active. Denis never turns anybody away. He’s always made his home address and personal telephone number available to all, on campaign literature and in directories.
Denis has twice served as Mayor with wife Maureen as his Mayoress and currently holds a Council position – this being The Havering Champion for the Armed Forces. Denis, along with Wilf, was a protagonist in securing a Harold Hill War Memorial and commencing a well-attended open-air service each Remembrance Sunday.
We will never see his like again!
Denis is keen to point out that the “Made in Dagenham” film on the equal pay dispute under states the support for the women from the male trade unionists. Denis was very supportive and did all he could to support the cause, and was not unique in this.
Denis did not seek re-nomination for the Council Election in May 2022 and so will end his time on Havering Council and once again become an honorary freeman of the Borough. We wish him well in what we hope will be a long and happy retirement and look forward to seeing him at future Fabian meetings where his wit and humour are always welcome.