Family pays moving tribute to long serving MP who was 'a voice for the people of Burnley'

A childhood ambition to become the MP for his hometown of Burnley came true for politician Peter Pike whose death this week, at the age of 84, marks the end of an era.

Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 1:50 pm
Former Burnley MP with his daughters Carol (left) and Jane on his beloved Turf Moor

Peter served the town as MP for 22 years, from 1983 to 2005. Passionate about fairness and justice for those who could not speak up for themselves Peter was recognised as the voice for the people of Burnley, both during and after his time as MP.

And a major part of his legacy was the leading role he, and his late wife Sheila played, in the anti-apartheid movement for which Peter was praised in Parliament in December, 2013, during tributes to former anti apartheid activist and President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.

Peter's eldest daughter Carol said: "Dad made several visits to South Africa with MPs Simon Hughes and Alistair Burt and they met with all sides, treating them with respect and dignity to bring about the end of apartheid.

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Peter in his National Service days with the Royal Marines

"They were among many who helped to end apartheid.

"Throughout our lives we mixed with people of all colours, faiths and beliefs and we were taught to embrace them."

It was while he was a pupil at the former Abel Street School that Peter, who joined the Labour Party in 1956, decided he wanted to become an MP.

He worked in the former Mullards factory, where he became shop steward and was also agent for the then MP for Burnley, Dan Jones who was Carol's godfather.

Peter with his wife Sheila and daughters Carol (right) and Jane after his election as MP for Burnley in 1983

Peter was elected as a councillor and became leader of Burnley Council. When he was elected as MP he vowed 'at all times to fight for Burnley and its residents' and he kept that promise as a prolific and hard working politician.

Carol said: "He always looked at every side of the argument before coming to the decision which he believed was right.

"Perhaps if there were more people like that the world would be a better place."

Thanks to the policy work that he undertook in the early 1990s as Labour Party spokesman, first on rural affairs and then on environment and housing, Peter was responsible for the policy document, 'The Rural Dimension' which put forward positive proposals to protect countryside communities, many of which have since been implemented.

Peter receiving an honorary fellowship fromUCLan in 2011 with his wife Sheila and daughter Carol

And he constantly battled for cash to improve schools and housing in Burnley.

Carol said: "Dad was never off duty as an MP. I remember on a family holiday once in South Africa his phone went and it was a constituent with a housing problem that needed sorting and he dealt with it there and then."

Carol also recalls a call her dad made to her at 3am from Beijing's Tiananmen Square which he was visiting as part of a parliamentary contingent. An iconic 20th century it became the focus for large-scale protests, which were crushed by China's Communist rulers in 1989.

She said: "He didn't realise what time it was in England, he was just excited to share the news where he was."

Peter (holding the dog) with his brother Geoff and their baby sister Janet

In June 2015, Peter was re elected as chairman of Burnley Constituency Labour Party. He stepped down from this role in January 2016, citing as his reason that the party needed a younger and much more active chair.

He gave up party office after almost sixty years of holding several positions.

Peter, who completed his National Service with the Royal Marines, was involved in several charities and organisations and was still active up until a couple of weeks before his death, taking part in meetings on Zoom.

He was the founder of charity Emmaus which helps homeless people by providing a home, work, training and individual support. And in June this year Peter was honoured with a special medal in recognition of his long-standing voluntary service to the charity.

A passionate Clarets' fan who was a season ticket holder Peter was chairman of the Clarets' Trust and president of the London Clarets.

Peter was a member of St Peter's Church in Burnley and also chairman of governors at the former Walshaw High School for Girls. He was also a member of the board at the former Burnley Credit Union, now the Pennine Community Credit Union in Nelson and worked closely with the Citizens' Advice Bureau and the Burnley Civic Trust.

An image of Peter raising a point of order in the House of Commons

He was also involved with Burnley Youth Theatre for many years and was president of the former Burnley Municipal Choir.

Peter had a long association with the Scout movement and was honoured with the Chief Scout Award. Both Carol and Peter's younger daughter, Jane, followed in his footsteps and Carol achieved 40 years service as an adult leader.

Carol said: "My dad had a wicked sense of humour, a very dry wit.

"He loved my mum and his family and he gave us so many opportunities to do things in life."

Peter also leaves his younger sister Janet and niece Emma. He also had a younger brother, Geoff who died at the age of 18 in a motorbike accident.

Tributes have been flooding in for Peter from fellow politicians and today the chairman of the Burnley Labour Party, Coun. Ishtiaq Mohammed paid his own moving tribute.

Coun. Ishtiaq said: " We have lost one of the town’s greatest advocates.

"Peter loved Burnley, so much so that he dedicated much of his life to its people. His enthusiasm for our town and our community was unrivalled – he simply lived and breathed Burnley.

"As a local councillor and Leader of the Council, he had the opportunity he so craved to help his fellow citizens, which he of course did with aplomb."

"As well as beating the drum for Burnley, he was also a member of several parliamentary committees, in which he was regularly seen sporting a claret and blue tie. So even when his work as an MP required him to focus on national issues, he never missed an opportunity to promote our great area and of course, his beloved Clarets!

"He also stood up for the marginalised and oppressed around the world, most notably in South Africa. Peter was a staunch campaigner against apartheid, for which he will be remembered internationally.

"He always said that he got the most pleasure from solving the problems of his constituents, which I am sure that thousands of people across the constituency with not be surprised to hear.

"He really was everything you’d want in a local champion. His commitment to Burnley and the local Labour Party did not end with his retirement from the green benches. He continued to be active in local politics serving as chair of the Burnley Labour Party for many a year.

" Peter was a local hero. A man who tirelessly fought for the interests of the town he called home – the town he loved.

"Thank you Peter, you did us proud."

Funeral details are yet to be announced.

Peter and Sheila celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary in Cape Town in 2012 with their daughter Jane.