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Last updated:23 April 2015

Len Dole

Len Dole died in 2004 at the age of 85. He was born in Dorset but moved to Colne in Lancashire aged 5. He became interested in politics whilst working in a local mill at the age of 14 and was a conscientious objector during the Second World War, working on the land during most of that time. His wife Betty was his lifetime companion and fellow socialist and campaigner on disability issues who became a Councillor, Mayoress and local magistrate. In 1982, she was awarded a certificate for 40 years service by the GMB Union. She died in 2009.

Weavers' delegation - Dole is fourth from right

Weavers` delegation - Dole is fourth from right

After the War, Len and Betty moved to Newcastle-under-Lyme where Len became the Labour Party's agent but subsequently they returned to Lancashire when Len became the agent for Nelson and Colne. In that capacity he served for Sydney Silverman and Doug Hoyle and managed the unsuccessful campaign for Betty Boothroyd to win the seat in the 1968 by election following the death of Sydney Silverman. Doug Hoyle narrowly won back the seat (by 669) votes in 1974. The Library contains documents, photographs and press cuttings from a number of Len's General Election campaigns. Len was a committed supporter of the work of Sydney Silverman in CND, fighting racism and campaigning for the abolition of the death penalty. After ‘retirement' Len was prominent in the North East Lancashire Community Relations Council.

Len was briefly a Councillor on Pendle Council but found local government uninspiring and did not stand for re-election. He worked extensively for the Pendle Trades Council and the Pendle Centre for the Unemployed.

Shortly before his death Sydney Silverman resigned the Labour whip and said that "the only memorial I would value is that I have given a lifetime of service in the Labour Party's continuing effort to establish a socialist society under a Labour Government in this country". That epitaph would have equally suited Len and Betty who left the Labour Party in 2003 as a consequence of what they saw as the abandonment of socialist principles by the Blair Government and in particular the invasion of Iraq. In a letter to the Burnley Express they commented that both felt it was not the Party they joined and had spent a lifetime supporting.

The Doles' home in Nelson was a centre for political debate and was visited by many famous Labour Party figures such as Barbara Castle, Michael Foot and Harold Wilson. Len and Betty devoted their lives to socialism, peace, co-operation and anti-racism.

Len Dole, 1919-2004

Thanks to the Burnley Express for much of the above biographical information

Resources about Len Dole in the Library collection

The Library has an uncatalogued collection of Len Dole and Nelson and Colne Constituency Labour Party papers containing minute books, election records, results and addresses, press cuttings and other papers