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Tributes paid following death of Peter Wright, Cambridge City Council’s longest-serving councillor

Peter Wright, who became the longest-serving councillor on Cambridge City Council, has died.

He was the first Labour leader of the council and remained an ‘honorary councillor’. Born in ‘Red Romsey’ in 1930, he was at the heart of Cambridge local politics for nearly half a century, after first becoming involved in the Cambridge Labour Party at the age of 14, when Cambridge elected its first Labour MP in 1945.

Cllr Peter Wright
Cllr Peter Wright

He undertook his National Service with the 8th Royal Tank Regiment at Catterick for six months and served for 18 months with the 4th Royal Tank Regiment at Shandur, Egypt, as a wireless operator in Centurion tanks.

His political career began when he was elected to the city council aged 29, in 1959, representing Romsey ward. He had a particular interest in housing.

He won an unprecedented 12 terms in office as a Romsey councillor over more than 33 years. He was organiser of Labour’s 1966 General Election campaign, during which the party gained the seat from the Conservatives, through Robert Davies MP.

In 1973, Peter became the first Labour leader of Cambridge City Council, which he led twice, first from 1973-76 and then again after Labour retook the council, serving as leader from 1980-82 at a time of considerable growth in the city. He was mayor of the city, 1972-73.

Peter was committed to reducing traffic in the city centre and promoting green spaces. He introduced pedestrianisation in Petty Cury and ensured New Square was returned to grass when The Grafton was developed.

He worked for many years in the biochemistry department of the Animal Physiology for Agricultural Research Council.

The current Labour leader of Cambridge City Council, Cllr Anna Smith, said: “Peter was someone who was not only a ground-breaking political leader but also someone committed to serving his local community in Romsey. I want to send the condolences of Labour group and the wider council to Peter’s family.”

Politics academic Dr Richard Johnson recalled: “Peter believed the responsibility of the Labour council was to represent the views of ordinary, working-class Cambridge residents.

“He framed it as looking after the ‘marge’ buyers, not just those who ate butter. He was part of the ‘Three Rs’: Riley, Rayment, and Wright – three outspoken left-wing councillors, known for their political stunts. But for Peter, politics was a serious business, too. He was a keen campaigner and brought good organising practices to local campaigning.”

Former Labour leader Cllr Lewis Herbert added: “Being a councillor championing Romsey for over 30 years is a record no one has yet matched on the city council. Peter cared deeply for Cambridge and continued to raise issues with me through my time as leader after he retired, always wanting the very best for our city.”

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