Baby of the House to doc­tor in the house in just 51 years

One-time youngest MP gets his PhD...at 76

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - NEWS - By Ju­dith Duffy JDUFFY@SUNDAYPOST.COM

He once was the youngest MP to take a seat in West­min­ster – now Les Huck­field is be­lieved to be the old­est PhD stu­dent to grad­u­ate from his univer­sity. The 76-year-old, who lives in Auchter­arder, will be­come a doc­tor in Novem­ber this year af­ter more than four years of re­sarch into so­cial en­ter­prise at Glas­gow Cale­do­nian Univer­sity. His grad­u­a­tion, which will take place in Novem­ber, comes more than half a cen­tury af­ter com­plet­ing his first de­gree in pol­i­tics, phi­los­o­phy and eco­nom­ics at Ox­ford Univer­sity. He then be­came the youngest MP to be elected to West­min­ster at the age of just 24. But the keen run­ner, who still reg­u­larly takes part in half­marathons, is mod­est about his achieve­ments. He said: “I am not go­ing to call my­self Dr Les. That is not me at all. I’m not so sure I would call it in­spi­ra­tional – though peo­ple will usu­ally say to me, ‘can I talk to you be­cause you have been around a bit’.” Les be­gan his ca­reer as an MP as the “baby of the House” in 1967. He rep­re­sented Nuneaton for Labour for 16 years, in­clud­ing serv­ing as a min­is­ter in the de­part­ment of in­dus­try in James Callaghan’s gov­ern­ment. He joined the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment in 1984 and was an MEP for Mersey­side East for five years. For his PhD the­sis, Les ex­am­ined how char­i­ties and so­cial en­ter­prises can sup­port lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties – there are plans to turn his aca­demic work into a book. His in­ter­est in the sub­ject comes from work­ing in com­mu­nity projects and ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing roles. In 1973, he helped lead a block­ade of the Meri­den fac­tory in Soli­hull which man­u­fac­tured Tri­umph mo­tor­cy­cles, with work­ers stag­ing a two-year sit-in to pre­vent clo­sure. Even­tu­ally a work­ers’ co­op­er­a­tive was set up to buy the fac­tory and mar­ket the mo­tor­bikes. Les com­pleted an MSc in re­gional and ur­ban plan­ning at Ed­in­burgh’s He­riot-Watt Univer­sity in 2008 be­fore start­ing his PhD in 2013, which ex­am­ined how char­i­ties and so­cial en­ter­prises can sur­vive in the mod­ern age. He said: “I’ve been in­volved in the third sec­tor work­ing with so­cial en­ter­prises and com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions for a long time, and I’m very con­cerned we are at risk of de­stroy­ing many good or­gan­i­sa­tions by forc­ing them into com­pe­ti­tion with the pri­vate sec­tor. “The West­min­ster Gov­ern­ment is in­creas­ingly us­ing third sec­tor bod­ies to sus­tain pub­lic ser­vices – but most of the third sec­tor was not set up to com­pete for un­der­funded pub­lic con­tracts and that’s why grow­ing num­bers are now go­ing to the wall. “My the­sis looks at how we can re­turn char­i­ties and so­cial en­ter­prises to do­ing what they do best – and that’s sup­port­ing lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.” While com­plet­ing his stud­ies, Les has also been teach­ing stu­dents at Glas­gow Cale­do­nian Univer­sity’s Yunus Cen­tre for So­cial Busi­ness. He said the feel­ing of achiev­ing his PhD was mainly grat­i­tude at hav­ing “one less dead­line” to work to. How­ever he has no plans for slow­ing down – ei­ther at work or leisure. Last week­end he com­pleted all 13 miles of the Great North Run for the eighth time in a row and he will run another half­marathon with the Great Scot­tish Run at the end of this month. He said: “I run ev­ery morn­ing – I’ve been run­ning for nearly 60 years. There’s no doubt that if I didn’t run ev­ery morn­ing I couldn’t get about like I do now.” He plans to keep on teach­ing as a lec­turer and is de­vel­op­ing a scheme to make stu­dent place­ment schemes avail­able in so­cial en­ter­prises. Les said his wife Margaret some­times strug­gled to keep up with his busy life but was she “very un­der­stand­ing” He said: “Re­tire­ment has never oc­curred to me. I have still got a few more bat­tles to fight and win. “There’s al­ways a bit of me that needs to stay in front, there’s al­ways a bit of me that needs to win the ar­gu­ment and there’s al­ways a bit of me that makes me keep want­ing to tell oth­ers they don’t know what they are talk­ing about.” Glas­gow Cale­do­nian Univer­sity said: XXXXX

Labour MP Les Huck­field, the youngest mem­ber of the House, in a lorry at the Houses of Par­lia­ment in 1967. He had been work­ing with his brother’s haulage busi­ness while par­lia­ment is in re­cess and had driven to the house to pick up his mail

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