Just a year after it was established, the Co-operative Party elected its first MP with Alfred Waterson winning the Kettering seat at the December 1918 election. Now his achievement is being recognised with a portrait in Parliament.

Alfred Waterson was born in Derby in 1880, the son of a builder. He was orphaned at an early age and brought up in an orphanage. He started work at the age of 11, joining the Midland Railway Company when he was 16.

He was an active member of the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR) and took part in the 1911 railway strike; becoming a Labour Councillor in Derby in May 1913. He was a popular lay-preacher on the Kedleston Road Circuit of the Primitive Methodist Connexion and a temperance advocate.

In the 1918 election he stood for Kettering, just a few months after the end of the First World War. He polled 10,299 votes, Captain Buxton (Coalition Liberal) polled 7,761 and Lieut-General Ferguson (National Party) polled 4,489 votes.

He secured first place for Private Members’ Bills and introduced a Bill on the Prevention of Unemployment in March 1919. It was defeated by 108 votes to 56. In the Additional Number of Land Forces Debate in Parliament in December 1919 he showed his continuing support for those who had fought in the war asking for the compassionate release for soldiers whose parents are dependent on them; and payment of travelling expenses to wives of shell shocked soldiers to visit their husbands in hospital once a month or once in six weeks.

With the help of Labour MPs he ensured that a clause was inserted in the Finance Bill excluding Co-operative Societies from the Corporation’s Profits Duty, which was passed by two votes in 1921.
Waterson narrowly lost his seat at the 1922 election and became a member of Co-operative Party staff in 1923 until his retirement in 1945. Just over a year after he lost his seat, Kettering was regained by the Co-operative Party, with Sam Perry (father of Fred Perry) taking the seat back from the Conservatives in 1923.

Competition is the law of death, and Co-operation the law of life.”

Alf Waterson MP

He continued preaching and was a firm supporter of the Manor House Hospital. In the early years of the hospital, he mortgaged his house in order to get money to help the hospital meet its bills and was a trustee until a few weeks before his death. He died in December 1964, aged 84 years and survived by his wife, daughter and two grandsons.

With thanks to Tanya Noon and Central England Derby History Group