Homage to a Sex Goddess

Bessie Braddock

Beautiful Bessie

We live in a political age when style trumps substance every time – think Blair’s Babes and Cameron’s Cuties – but we forget that the trend began in the aftermath of WWII with Attlee’s Angels.

The surprise Labour victory of 1945 that ousted Churchill was founded on a new political philosophy – sex-appeal.

The backbenches were suddenly filled with a new breed of MP who relied entirely on their looks and charisma. The likes of Barbara Castle, Jennie Lee, ‘Red’ Ellen Wilkinson, Harold Wilson, Michael Foot and even the dubious Seymour Cocks.

But the siren of the voting lobby was unquestionably the newly elected MP for Liverpool Exchange, Bessie Braddock.

Sporty Spice

Bessie opens the batting for the Aigburth Old Girls Marxist XI

Born Betty Bamber, she was the daughter of buttie magnate, Hugh Bamber, and enjoyed a privileged and sheltered childhood, first at the Aigberth Approved School for Girls before being sent away to a Swiss finishing school on the outskirts of Widnes.

As a young woman of independent means and blessed with a fine bone structure and lilting voice, Bessie turned her thoughts to an acting career. She literally started at the bottom as the rear end of the cow in Jack and the Beanstalk at the Colosseum, but soon got ahead, again quite literally, when she was promoted to the front end.

Eyebrows were raised when Bessie was offered the part of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. She was as yet little known in America, but David Selznick was entranced by her natural elfin beauty. However, Bessie turned her back on Hollywood for the sake of love.

Bessie floors a young John Prescott

Bessie floors a young John Prescott

She had met Jack Braddock one moonlit evening at a pie stall by the Pierhead and had fallen head over heels. They married even though Jack was then but an aspiring tripe merchant.

The wartime offal famine of 1942 affected her deeply and like that other BB – Brigitte Bardot – she became an animal rights activist, particularly on the issue of ritual slaughter which she was all in favour of.

Her practical activism was confined to preparing the tea urn for the mid-meeting break during the interminable local Labour Party committee meetings held in the room over the Docker’s Rest every other Thursday, but a chance meeting was to change all that.

Clem Attlee visited one evening in search of likely candidates to match his political ambition. His eyes met Bessie’s through the brewing steam and in an instant he knew that he had found the Scarlett O’Hara to star opposite his dashing Rhett Butler.

Bessie addresses

Bessie addresses

The rest, as they say, is history. The war had ended and optimism was in the air of a country crying out for a new style of politics, one based on sound bites and superficial good looks.

Rumours about her private life abounded, but even the lurid headlines about her three-in-a-bed romp with Ken Dodd and Arthur Askey did little to damage her popularity, nor did the expenses scandal of 1954 when she submitted fraudulent bus tickets and a claim to have the inside toilet at her second home in Newham moved outside.

She also successfully sued the News of the World for damages over the infamous postcard hacking revelations of 1958.

Bessie’s beauty did not fade, even in later life, and it is a fitting tribute to her contribution to British politics that the readers of FHM magazine recently voted her the sexiest politician of all time.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

8 comments… Add yours
  • rhymeswithplague 12th April 2012

    I pray to the living God in Heaven that you are pulling our collective legs.

    Reply
  • Shooting Parrots 12th April 2012

    Don’t give the game away Mr Plague. Remember Mr Pudding’s orders.

    Reply
  • Trevor Rowley 12th April 2012

    Bet you wouldn’t have said any of this to her face, Mr P. A formidable lady if ever there was one. Incidentally, the “admirer” on the photograph is fellow Liverpudlian, Frankie Vaughan. Whenever he was on television (and I think he was rather jealous of Frankie’s good looks and popularity with the ladies) my father would always say, “For goodness sake, not that puff again.” Had a way with words did Dad.

    Reply
  • Mr Parrot 12th April 2012

    I think you’re right Trevor. And after Alan Davies’ bit of bother with our Liverpudlian brethren. All I can say in my defence is that it was Yorkshire Pudding’s idea!

    I knew that it was Frankie Vaughan in the photo and toyed with the idea of Photoshopping John Prescott’s head on top, but decided that I’d probably made enough enemies.

    Reply
  • Mr Parrot 12th April 2012

    I should have said that there is more to come tomorrow and Saturday, not about Bessie, but on the topics set by Mr Pudding.

    Reply
  • Scouser Pudding 12th April 2012

    HA-HA-HA-HA! Talk about lighting the blue touch paper and stepping back! This is quite brilliant. You were clearly lost in health planning and administration. You should have been writing scripts for “Yes, Minister”….or “My Family”? But as you yourself half- suggest – you’d best keep away from Liverpool for the rest of your life. They have a razor sharp sense of justice in that God-fearing monastic settlement.

    Reply
  • Trevor Rowley 12th April 2012

    Earlier this evening, I was leafing through “The Best Of Cellars (The Story of the World Famous Cavern Club)” by Phil Thompson. A photograph taken at the re-opening in 1966 shows loony cigar-smoking DJ, Jimmy Saville, and genial, pipe-smoking PM, Harold Wilson, on stage at the Cavern to mark the event. Who’s the third celebrity on the stage? Yes, you’re right, no other than “Battling” Bessie Braddock. By crikey, she looks a tough ‘un.

    Reply
  • Mr Parrot 12th April 2012

    Thanks YP. I don’t suppose the ‘I was only obeying orders’ excuse will wash. Tomorrow there’s car maintenance to offend the Buddhists and the Mancunians turn on Saturday, will Nevada be a big enpough place to hide?

    Trevor: I didn’t mention Bessie’s other career as a go-go dancer did I?

    Reply

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