Obituary: Ted Lake

It is always sad to record the death of older members who formed the backbone of the Party in its critical years. If we refer to the early days as our “vintage era” it is because we are grateful for the unremitting efforts of men like Ted Lake who against tremendous odds ensured the future of the Socialist Party.

Ted joined in 1910 and commenced speaking in 1912. His first meeting was at Buckhold Road, Wandsworth. At that time the Party was running 25 outdoor meetings per week in London, with a strength of thirty speakers. The list that month showed names like Fitzgerald, Anderson, Kohn, Fairbrother, Hoskyns and Fox. Ted was the last of the line and was 88 when he died in January of this year. He was a member of the old Battersea branch, and later SW London branch. He introduced his wife Min to the Party in 1926 and she died only a few days before Ted. Both transferred to Central Branch in 1958 when they retired to Banstead.

On the death of Jack Butler by a bomb in 1944, Ted was elected Party Treasurer and held the position until 1968. He was also a member of the Executive Committee for over forty years. The Party was always short of cash. The EC had to think twice before any venture. With Lake as our hard-headed Treasurer sitting at the EC table we had to think three times. Good husbandry was never better practised and never was an EC so cost-conscious as with Lake at the financial helm.

Ted will be remembered for his irreconcilable opposition to the Party’s decision to contest Parliamentary elections. He felt that, bearing in mind the size of the Party, we ought to wait until we had greater support among the working class. Originally the 1944 Annual Conference decided to contest St. Pancras, Marylebone and Paddington. Lake referred to these as the “Railway termini”. When we finally chose North Paddington in the 1945 General Election we booked the Metropolitan Music Hall for a mass meeting. Ted remarked wryly  that the electors would be treated to a “new turn”. In the event the meeting proved successful beyond expectation; over 1,700 people attended, and several hundred more could not get in. The great enthusiasm and energy of the members caused him to thaw slightly in his anti-election tradition but he never abandoned it.

He lectured for many years, his favourite subject being the State. Forced by his wife’s health and his failing eyesight to give up his activities at the age of 80, he managed to appear occasionally at Conferences. Some months before his death he was anxious that his books should find a place in the Party library. This was arranged before he died, and thus we are still able to benefit from a life spent in the splendid cause we have become heir to. To members of his family we offer our sympathy in this double bereavement.

Jim D’Arcy

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