In With the New: Hugh Gaffney, the MP in the Parcelforce shirt

14 June 2017

In the first of our series looking at Labour’s 2017 intake of MPs, we profile Hugh Gaffney.

For Hugh Gaffney’s first day in parliament, the former postie wore his old Parcelforce work shirt. He said he’s “always thought it was important to remember your roots – so on my way to Westminster, I wore my old work shirt as a reminder.” The new MP for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill – a seat he took from the Scottish Nationalists on a swing of over 10,000 votes – has already won a following for the symbolic gesture.

So who is Hugh Gaffney? Following on from his work delivering parcels, the 53-year-old became an officer for the CWU postal union. He was also elected as a Labour councillor on North Lanarkshire Council earlier this year and is secretary of the trades union council there.

With the union he fought for a living wage for postal workers and against Post Office closures, telling the Motherwell Times “this is a public service owned by the public, for the public”.

Campaigning to save local Post Offices – from Hugh’s Twitter.

As part of the trades council he has also campaigned to stop local council cuts and defend benefit claimants.

“This attack on welfare benefits is an attack on our most vulnerable members of society who need and depend on benefits,” he said at the time. “It is the mark of a civilised society to support people whenever they are in need, whether they are ill, disabled or unemployed. Welfare is there to provide a decent existence for all.”

With the SNP in such a dominant position in the constituency and many having written off Scottish Labour’s chances, it seems unlikely that he expected to be walking through the doors of parliament, representing the constituency he grew up in. He told the Morning Star his victory was down to standing for “socialism not nationalism”.

Gaffney is a devoted fan of Keir Hardie and has been a member of the Keir Hardie Society. It was Hardie who once said “A working man in Parliament should go to the House of Commons in his work day clothes”. Hardie too turned up in working-class gear for his own first day in parliament.

Someone who saw Hugh Gaffney in the shirt “asked what I was supposed to be delivering,” Hugh said. “I told them: justice for workers.”