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Michael Carr (Liberal Democrat politician)

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Michael Carr (Liberal Democrat politician)

Michael Carr
Member of Parliament
for Ribble Valley
In office
7 March 1991 – 9 April 1992
Preceded by David Waddington
Succeeded by Nigel Evans
Majority 4,601 (10.0%)
Personal details
Born (1946-01-31) 31 January 1946
Preston, Lancashire
Nationality British
Political party Liberal Democrats
Alma mater St. Mary's Catholic College (Blackpool)
Religion Christian

Michael Carr (born 31 January 1946) is a British teacher, lecturer and politician for the Liberal Democrats. Originally a teacher, Carr became active in politics as a Conservative councillor before joining the Social Democratic Party. After two unsuccessful general election candidacies, Carr won a sensational by-election victory in 1991 to become the Member of Parliament (MP) for Ribble Valley. His victory was short-lived as he lost the seat in the general election that followed a year later, and he twice failed to regain it.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
  • Politics 3
  • By-election 4
  • Member of Parliament 5
  • Defeat 6
  • Rossendale politics 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Carr was born in Preston,[1] and grew up in the Ribble Valley village of Sabden.[2] He was educated at St Josephs College, Blackpool, and the Catholic College, Preston.[3] After a year as an engineering apprentice, Carr became a local government administrative officer in 1964. He left this job four years later to work as a partner in the family newsagents.[4]


In 1970 Carr decided on a change of career and embarked on a course at the Margaret McMillan Memorial College of Education in Bradford[3] from where he obtained a Certificate in Education. Later he obtained a Diploma in Special Educational Needs at the Bradford and Ilkley Community College.[4] His first teaching jobs were as a geography teacher at Brookside secondary school and Stainsby School in Middlesbrough, and in 1975 he was appointed head of geography at St Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic High School in Darwen, Lancashire. He moved in 1982 to be head of general studies at Blackthorn County Secondary School in Bacup[3] where he remained for five years. He joined the Lancashire County Council School Support Team dealing with disruptive behaviour in 1988.[4]

Carr joined the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers in 1975,[5] and served as Rossendale district NAS/UWT secretary from 1984 to 1987. He was press officer for the Lancashire federation of the NAS/UWT from 1984 to 1987 and from 1988 to 1990.[6]

Brought up a Roman Catholic, Carr later converted to Anglicanism. He married, but after the birth of his son his wife died of cancer[1] in 1979. Carr remarried in 1980 and had four sons and three daughters with his second wife[4] who was the daughter of a farmer from East Anglia.[2]


Initially a member of the Conservative Party, Carr was a member of Sabden Parish Council from 1976 to 1978, and from 1979 to 1983.[4] He was elected as a Conservative representing Sabden on Ribble Valley borough council in 1979. He left the Conservatives and joined the Social Democratic Party when the party was founded in 1981, motivated mainly by the Conservative council's lack of interest in providing cheap rural housing.[1] He was not re-elected as a councillor in 1983. Carr was SDP candidate for Ribble Valley at the 1983 general election, polling 23% of the vote to take second place.[3] He fought the seat again in 1987, with his share of the vote falling slightly to 21.4%.[5] After the election Carr supported the merger of the SDP with the Liberal Party, and he joined the Liberal Democrats on their formation.


When John Major formed his government in November 1990, he appointed the sitting MP for Ribble Valley David Waddington as Leader of the House of Lords. This action vacated his seat and brought about a by-election for a new MP which was held in early 1991. Carr was selected as Liberal Democrat candidate,[7] and benefited from a campaign run by the same team which had won the Eastbourne by-election four months before.[8] Carr highlighted his local roots in contrast with the Conservative candidate who came from Swansea;[9] one Liberal Democrat leaflet contained 26 mentions of the fact that Carr was local.[10]

During the by-election Carr said that he found that the issue which most animated voters was the Community Charge or Poll Tax, which the Major government was reviewing with a view to replacing but which was still being levied.[11] He admitted that under the alternative local income tax system favoured by his party, a rate of 5.6% would be needed for Ribble Valley, meaning a bill of £550-£600 for each taxpayer which was significantly more than the Community Charge level.[12]

Member of Parliament

With a majority of 4,601, Carr won the by-election and declared in his victory speech that "If ever there was any doubt of the issue that was going to settle this by-election there is no doubt now. When the poll tax is finally put to rest in the grave, its epitaph will read 'Here lies the poll tax, killed in Ribble Valley'."[13] When he took his seat on 12 March, Labour MP Dennis Skinner heckled "Don't take your coat off, you'll not be stopping!".[14] It was reported at the end of April that the local Liberal Democrats had asked to rent a venue for Carr to hold his constituency surgeries for no more than six months, rather than the three years offered.[15]

Admitting he was breaking with tradition, Carr made his maiden speech the day after taking his seat because there was a Labour-initiated debate on abolition of the Poll Tax. He reported some of the conversations he had had on the campaign trail, and then outlined the case for a local income tax.[16] He used his professional knowledge to speak on teachers' pay, which was being reformed at the time he entered Parliament; in June 1991 he welcomed the appointment of an independent body to decide pay levels, explaining that morale in the profession was low because of previous government decisions.[17]

Before arriving in Westminster to take his seat, Carr had made contact with Conservative MP anti-abortion campaign in Parliament, to offer his help.[2] In December 1991 he presented a petition from Roman Catholic churches in his constituency opposing the use of abortifacient drug RU486.[18] He was called at Prime Minister's Questions on 4 February 1992, and asked about a constituent who was told to wait 14 months for a hip replacement but offered the chance to pay to have the operation done privately without delay.[19]


Carr faced a tough fight to retain his seat at the 1992 general election. He told the press that he saw no sign of movement away from him, commenting that local small businesses were still "clobbered by the uniform business rate and by a deep recession made worse by government policies".[20] On polling day, Carr was defeated by Nigel Evans, who beat him by 6,542 votes.[6] After his defeat he went back to teaching but was initially only able to find positions as a supply teacher.[21] He fought the Ribble Valley seat at the 1997 election and was defeated again. After the election Carr (who was in the process of divorcing) said that he would now put his political ambitions on hold and spend more time looking after his children.[22] Carr was persuaded to return and was a candidate there in the 2001 election,[23] coming second again.

Rossendale politics

Carr continued to work in Education in local schools as a behaviour support consultant. In January 2004 he was selected as Liberal Democrat candidate for Rossendale and Darwen constituency.[24] He stood for Rossendale borough council in Greensclough ward in the 2004 local election, losing by 40 votes.[25] He was selected to fight a council by-election in Longholme ward in autumn 2004 but his nomination papers were not submitted in time.[26] Living in Weir, he called on Rossendale borough council to fence off a "deathtrap" building site where local children had been seen playing.[27] At the 2005 general election he came third with 6,670 votes.

In autumn 2005 Carr was Liberal Democrat candidate in a Rossendale council by-election in Hareholme ward,[28] coming in third place as Labour gained the seat from the Conservatives. A further attempt to win Greensclough ward in the 2006 local elections produced a greater defeat,[29] and when he fought in 2007 he finished in third place with 23% of the vote.[30] He was bottom of the poll in the 2008 contest in the ward.[31] Since 2006[32] Carr has been helping Bacup Borough Football Club as a part-time promotions manager.[33] In August 2010, Carr wrote to the local newspaper, noting that "I am seldom tempted these days to air my views via letters to papers". He criticised hypocrisy and tribalism in the Labour Party.[34]

Since 2008 Carr has been Chairman of Mashed Youth Project; an organisation which was started in Greater Manchester by two youth workers who approached him for support. Since then the organisation has been registered as a charity in Scotland since 2010 and has recently been registered as a charity in England and Wales. Mashed Youth Project is currently offering a range of educational opportunities to 14-to-19 year olds in various Highland Region communities including Fort William, Kinlochleven, Ullapool, Thurso and Balintore.


  1. ^ a b c Nicholas Wood, "Cool Lancastrian turns giant-killer", The Times, 8 March 1991.
  2. ^ a b c Alan Travis, "Quiet man's big day", The Guardian, 8 March 1991, p. 6.
  3. ^ a b c d "The Times Guide to the House of Commons 1983", Revised and updated edition, Times Books, 1984, p. 191.
  4. ^ a b c d e ‘CARR, Michael’, Who's Who 2011, A & C Black, 2011; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2010; accessed 12 Feb 2011.
  5. ^ a b Alan Wood (ed.), "The Times Guide to the House of Commons 1987", Times Books, 1987, p. 192.
  6. ^ a b "The Times Guide to the House of Commons 1992", Times Books, 1992, p. 192.
  7. ^ John Winder, "Tory choice of 'outsider' widens the battle", The Times, 30 January 1991.
  8. ^ Alan Travis, "Tory candidate tackles poll tax head", The Guardian, 19 February 1991, p. 8.
  9. ^ Nicholas Wood, "Rare stumble fails to check the progress of by-election favourite", The Times, 5 March 1991.
  10. ^ Alan Travis, "Tory majority set to tumble - Heavy Conservative defections in Ribble Valley over poll tax likely to squash any thought of a June election", The Guardian, 5 March 1991, p. 6.
  11. ^ Nicholas Wood, "Ribble Valley poll holds key to timing of general election", The Times, 4 March 1991.
  12. ^ Nicholas Wood, "Democrat's by-election taxation comment delights Tories", The Times, 6 March 1991.
  13. ^ Robin Oakley, "Humiliation for Tories at Ribble Valley", The Times, 8 March 1991.
  14. ^ Andrew Rawnsley, "Ex-Thatcher henchman called in for a grilling", The Guardian, 13 March 1991, p. 8.
  15. ^ "Mike Carr", The Times, 30 April 1991.
  16. ^ Hansard, HC 6ser vol 187 cols 980-983.
  17. ^ Hansard, HC 6ser vol 193 cols 261-4.
  18. ^ Hansard, HC 6ser vol 201 col 558.
  19. ^ Hansard, HC 6ser vol 203 col 130.
  20. ^ Ronald Faux, "Lancashire struggles with Welsh question", The Times, 4 April 1992, p. 10.
  21. ^ Louise Jury, "Jobless Fields calls time on pub career", The Guardian, 9 April 1993.
  22. ^ "Swapping politics for family life", Lancashire Telegraph, 7 May 1997.
  23. ^ Bill Jacobs, "Nigel hopes voters look to the Evans", Lancashire Telegraph, 2 June 2001.
  24. ^ "Back to the ballots", Lancashire Telegraph, 28 January 2004.
  25. ^ Colin Rallings, Michael Thrasher, "Local Elections Handbook 2004", p. 129.
  26. ^ "Tory sweeps to victory", Lancashire Telegraph, 1 October 2004.
  27. ^ "'This site is a deathtrap for children'", Lancashire Telegraph, 24 February 2005.
  28. ^ Catherine Smyth, "Gloves are off in byelection fight", Rossendale Free Press, 16 September 2005.
  29. ^ Colin Rallings, Michael Thrasher, "Local Elections Handbook 2006", p. 132.
  30. ^ Colin Rallings, Michael Thrasher, "Local Elections Handbook 2007", p. 206.
  31. ^ Colin Rallings, Michael Thrasher, "Local Elections Handbook 2008", p. 111.
  32. ^ "A first for family football", Lancashire Telegraph, 1 September 2006.
  33. ^ "Kids now go free to football matches", Lancashire Telegraph, 10 March 2007.
  34. ^ "Labour's same old hypocrisy", Lancashire Telegraph, 20 August 2010.

External links

  • Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Michael Carr
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
David Waddington
Member of Parliament for Ribble Valley
Succeeded by
Nigel Evans
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