BRITAIN’S last elected Communist official – a councillor in Fife – has retired from office.
Willie Clarke, 80, was first elected to Fife’s County Council in May 1973 – as the Cold War gripped the western world.
A total of 11 other Communist candidates won seats alongside Mr Clarke in the mining town of Ballingry, but in the 43 years since, the popularity of the party has dramatically waned.
Mr Clarke, chairman of the Cowdenbeath area committee, was the last remaining and stepped down on Wednesday.
He said: “It has been a hard decision to make.
“I had hoped to see things through to the council elections next May, but over the past few months one or two problems have made it difficult to be able to be as committed as I want to be to this very important job.”
Mr Clarke, who has suffered from cancer which has affected his speech, added: “Also my wife Betty has not been well and she has been a key part of my personal team, answering the door and the phone and being able to provide a key link with the public.
“So it is time to call it a day.
“But I will not be going away completely.
“While I do not feel up to being able to fulfill the role as a councillor, I intend to continue to work with the various community groups I am on.”
On the fact that there would now be no Communist officials in the UK, he said: “It is sad that nobody’s following on, but I still hope that the movement picks up strength.”
Despite originally being elected as a Communist Party candidate, Mr Clarke is technically an independent at present – as guidelines mean he could not put the party name on the ballot.
But he has fully identified as a Communist for all his life – and he says he has always made his views clear to the community who have elected him time and again.
Mr Clarke joined the Communist Party soon after he began working in a local mining pit at the age of 14.
His first job on the site was separating coal on the surface for 40p a shift.
Since being elected in 1973 at the age of 37, he has served on the education and social work committees as well as acting as vice chair of a sub-committee which deals with children with special needs.