Lord Peter Smith – from Leigh to the House of Lords

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poto of Lord Peter Smith
Lord Peter Smith -Leader of Wigan Council

Peter Smith was born in Leigh in 1945 the son of a draughtsman and medical secretary.

After attending Butts CE Primary School he won a scholarship aged 11 to go to Bolton School and was a contemporary of Sir Ian McKellen, who he would honour in 2015 with a star in Wigan’s Believe Square.

It was at Bolton School where Peter first developed his love for politics as a process for resolving complex and contentious matters.

His school reports described him as “an able boy of distinct and intense individuality. Possibly inclined to think with his heart and let emotion strongly influence reason.”

He joined the Labour Party in 1964 and graduated in Economics and Politics from the London School of Economics in 1967.

He married Joy in 1968 and after securing a PGCE took his first teaching job in the East End of London before moving back up north and settling in Leigh where his daughter Anna, now a successful artist, was born in 1983.

He was first inspired to enter politics after visiting a “house-proud widow who was being forced to use buckets to catch the rain coming through the roof that her landlord refused to repair.”

He stood for a council seat in 1976 but lost and in 1978 he won by a single vote!

That single vote led to an illustrious political career which saw him enter the House of Lords in 1999, welcome the Queen to open Leigh Sports Village in 2009 and secure Greater Manchester devolution in 2014.

From humble beginnings, Lord Smith’s three decades at the council’s helm have left a lasting mark on the modern history of Wigan Borough.

Further tributes for Lord Smith:

Andrew Foster, chief executive Wrightington, Wigan & Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation for all the hard work Lord Smith has done, the leadership he has shown and the huge benefits he has achieved for the people of Wigan.

“In recent years he displayed a very significant leadership role in healthcare and this has been to the benefit of the whole of Greater Manchester.”

David Hope, from the GMB Union, said: “Despite government funding cuts in Wigan Council staff have had a fantastic relationship with Peter through the Wigan Deal and are so sorry to see him step down as leader.

“It’s great that we are seen as the best council to work for in the UK by staff. We would all like to wish him all the best for the future.”