Last Norfolk Labour club closes

The end of an era was signalled in Yarmouth last night as the barman called time at Norfolk's last surviving Labour club.Once a hotbed of political activism fuelled by cut-priced pints, The St Cloud club on Euston Road has succumbed to falling takings and handed back its lease to the developers who bought the building last year.

The end of an era was signalled in Yarmouth last night as the barman called time at Norfolk's last surviving Labour club.

Once a hotbed of political activism fuelled by cut-priced pints, The St Cloud club on Euston Road has succumbed to falling takings and handed back its lease to the developers who bought the building last year.

The closure left saddened regulars longing for the club's tubthumping heyday when party heavyweights like Harold Wilson, Neil Kinnock and miners' champion Arthur Scargill would visit to rally the town's workers and politicians.

But as political passions dimmed, party members said they could no longer justify keeping the much-loved club running at a loss despite a wave of nostalgic support to keep it open.

Trevor Wainwright, Labour group leader at Yarmouth Borough Council and secretary of the local party, has used the club for more than 30 years.

He said: “There was a lot more political activity in those days, but now it is just a social club.

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“It was like-minded people coming together on a Saturday night to have a political debate but that seems to have gone now. Everybody is happier with what they've got and there is no big industrial strife now.

“My memories are just of meeting up with people with the same ideals and views and it is something that cannot be replaced.”

Beneath the bar's dartboard is a montage of old photographs - some punctured by wayward shots - which show the procession of leading politicians who visited the club since the then Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell opened it in 1959.

Mr Wainwright put the club's demise down to changing lifestyles and the growing appeal of large franchised pubs and 24-hour drinking to younger party members.

“A lot of our clientele have been coming here for almost 30 years but they are all getting older,” he said.

“It is a shame but it is a fact that getting younger people involved in local or national politics is very difficult.”

Bar manager Dave Twitchell, 47, who has manned the pumps for 17 years will be made redundant, along with his assistant an a part-time cleaner.

Mr Wainwright said: “I am really sad that it has come to this. It is a decision we have not come to lightly.

“We have supported this club for a long time knowing it was losing money, hoping it could turn itself around but it hasn't.”

St Cloud's signed off in members-club style with a buffet and a karaoke night on Saturday attended by Labour councillors and Yarmouth MP Tony Wright.

Daniel McGrath, 34, works in London but has visited the club for seven years while visiting his parents who live opposite on Norfolk Square.

He said: “My granddad used to love this place and we had his wake here five years ago. You can't put a price on emotion or history.”

Former Labour councillor and party secretary John Cannell, who ran the club during the 1980s, said: “I think it has gone along with the demise of the membership of the Labour party. Much of the former structure of the party was dismantled since Blair took over.

“We had some marvellous orators there in the past. I think the most impressive was Michael McGahey, the union vice president during the miners' strike. He had worked down the mines and had the scars to prove it - what a man.”

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