My father, Peter Nurse, who has died aged 78, was a leading figure in the co‑operative movement and local government in Staffordshire and Cheshire for more than four decades. He was also chair of Cheshire Police Authority, chair of education at Cheshire county council, and deputy leader of the county Labour group.
Peter came from a family with strong roots in south Wales, and was born in Llanelli, where his family ran a coal delivery business, commonly known as “Nurse the Coal”. His strong Labour beliefs were formed on the council estate of Ty Rhiw, where he moved with his parents and brother in the 1940s.
He became the first member of the Nurse family to go to university, studying economics at Cardiff University, followed by a master’s at the London School of Economics. It was at a Cardiff University summer ball that met his future wife, Jean Lock, when he was 19, and they spent the next 55 years together until her death in 2011.
Peter’s professional career was as an economics lecturer, at what was then North Staffordshire Polytechnic – now Staffordshire University. He established and led a part-time business studies degree, taking great pleasure in seeing adults on his course grow and develop after returning to education later in life. A committed trade unionist, he was branch secretary of Natfhe at the poly for 14 years.
Peter was also a deeply progressive father. In the mid-1970s, he was horrified that our primary school had separate playgrounds for boys and girls. He persuaded the headteacher that the girls wouldn’t be hurt by footballs, and to separate children by age instead. Similarly, when my sister started secondary school, she became the only girl allowed to wear trousers after a visit to the head from my father.
He stood as a Labour parliamentary candidate twice, and as a European parliamentary candidate, before deciding to focus on local democracy, first in Staffordshire, then Cheshire. Twelve years as chair of education in Cheshire were followed by seven years as chair of Cheshire Police Authority. Peter was instrumental in triggering the abolition of corporal punishment in Cheshire schools in the 1980s.
In 2005 Peter led the fight to defend Cheshire police against a merger with the Merseyside force, successfully challenging the Labour home secretary, Charles Clarke. It was typical of Peter to seek the right outcome for Cheshire rather than adopt the most expedient path.
Peter believed mutuality could create a fairer society and was committed to the co-operative movement. He became the secretary of the North Staffs and East Cheshire Co‑operative party in 1970, a position he held until his death, and spent many years as vice-chair of the national Co‑operative party, working to ensure it had a close relationship with Labour while never losing its own identity and independence.
As an economist, he took a keen interest in the business arm of the co‑operative movement, and he held long-standing positions as a director of both United Co‑op and the Co‑operative Group.
The demise of Cheshire county council in 2009 was a great sadness to Peter, but he continued his political career, representing Crewe as a councillor on Cheshire East council until his death.
He is survived by my sister, Gwyneth, my brother, Owen, and me; and by two grandchildren.
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