From Liverpool youth leader to facing down press barons in Bradford

Pauline (right) with her granddaughter, Socialist Party member Charlotte Spencer

Pauline (right) with her granddaughter, Socialist Party member Charlotte Spencer   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Keith Dickinson, West London Socialist Party

It is with great sadness we heard of the death of Pauline Wall, after a lengthy struggle against cancer. Despite her pain, she retained her outward ebullience, and confidence in Marxist ideas, and was always helpful and cheerful to the end.

Pauline was one of the longest standing supporters of the Socialist Party, joining our then ‘Socialist Fight’ group in 1959. She was active in Kirkdale Labour Party in Liverpool.

She had contact with our ideas before this as she was related to Beryl Deane, who was our political education organiser in the Walton Labour youth section. Beryl was part of the key Trotskyist Deane family. Pauline attended these meetings as it was the only regular youth meeting in Merseyside.


Pauline soon came onto the editorial board of the youth section’s monthly magazine Rally, playing an important role in its production and writing reports.

She never feared taking on and arguing the political case against Tories, the Labour right wing and even left MPs, always armed with the facts.

Pauline Knight married Pat Wall. He was the best known Marxist in Liverpool. He had been the youngest Labour Party constituency secretary in the country earlier in the 1950s, until he had to do his army National Service.

Pauline and Pat’s home became like a drop-in centre for local labour movement activists. They were responsible for consolidating the support of many who became key figures in our party.

Among them was Liverpool Socialist Party member Ted Mooney, then part of the 1960 engineering apprentices’ strike. I also remember Socialist Party political secretary Peter Taaffe coming over from Birkenhead to his first branch meeting there.

Pauline and Pat had to move due to Pat’s job. First to Market Harborough, then to Yorkshire.

Supporters of Militant, now the Socialist Party, successfully got Pat elected as president of Bradford Trades Union Council, then in 1982 selected as the Bradford North Labour Party candidate for the next general election.


The Labour Party right wing encouraged the media to conduct a vile campaign, which Pauline bore the brunt of in their home and at the school gates. Press hounds were banging on the door, looking through the letterbox, walking around the house looking through the windows.

This was at the height of the witch-hunt of Militant. Peter Taaffe explains in ‘The Rise Of Militant’: “Pauline was forced at her own home to stick up the National Union of Journalists ‘Code of Professional Conduct’ in an unsuccessful attempt to prick the consciences of the Fleet Street hounds who persecuted her, Pat and the family”. Pauline heroically came through all this.

Although the Tories won the seat in 1983, thanks to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) taking votes from Labour, Pat was victorious in the 1987 general election.

Pauline then faced a period nursing Pat when he became ill, undoubtedly contributed to by the stress put upon them. Pat died in 1990. Even two days after his funeral, two right-wing Labour councillors entered his committee room and told his election agent and secretary to get out with their belongings.

Although she was ill, Pauline was finding old photographs for my memoir until a month ago.

She and Pat leave a legacy of a fighting tradition for the working-class movement, and some family members supporting these ideas and the Socialist Party. We send our sincere condolences to all their family, comrades and friends.

There will be more in future issues of the Socialist on the role Pauline played in building the labour movement in Liverpool.