Why did they come to Harlow? Celebrating 70 years as a New Town

Jerry Hayes May 2017

Jerry Hayes was the Conservative MP for Harlow for 14 years. He won the seat from labour back bencher Stan Newens in 1983 and worked tirelessly and enthusiastically for his constituents focussing on peoples personal and daily issues. He claims that the Harlow streets were ‘full of stories”.  which moved him and he liked to be involved in helping them claim missing social security payments, fight for housing and ‘stand up for the underdogs’.


Mr Hayes was called to the bar in 1977 and has practised as lead defence in high profile cases. He wasn’t proactive in his selection as the parliamentary candidate for Harlow in 1983 and needed some persuasion to stand, encouraged by the strong opinion that ‘he hadn’t’ a chance’ of gaining the seat in an area which was not considered naturally Tory territory. However, the country was rallying behind the Conservatives enthused with patriotism in the wake of the Falklands War and the popularity for the 1980 Housing Act giving council tenants the right to buy their houses at a discounted price. Jerry Hayes was elected the member of parliament for Harlow with a majority that was to increase with subsequent elections until his defeat in 1997 following a labour landslide.


He quickly developed a passion for social justice and his pragmatic approach saw his popularity increase. He lived in nearby Bishops Stortford and was able to devote time to his constituents. He openly admitted to being to ‘the left of the party’ and agrees that being able to laugh with people from all backgrounds and laugh at himself were characteristics that appealed to the Harlow electorate and ensured re-election.


Mr Hayes served in the Northern Ireland Office and the Department of the Environment. He introduced the Sexual Offences Act, the Nurses Prescribing Act and was proactive in moves to reduce the age of consent for homosexual relationships. He considers his biggest contributions were when dealing with issues that bothered people in daily life such as opposing the introduction of payment for eye tests and dental work.


As a supporter of minority groups he spoke with horror of the recent killing of Arek Jozwik in Harlow Town Centre. He said Poles had been part of the the Harlow community since the outset with many coming from London after the war having fought for this country. He feels that racism is not a new problem to the town and recalled undercurrents when he was in power when there was significant presence from the National front.


Robert Halfon, the conservative candidate at the upcoming election, has described Harlow as a ‘a town of aspiration’. Mr Hayes said that when he was MP the town had ‘fantastic potential ‘and has built on the scientific and technological presence that was part of the area. He remembers the merger of pharmaceutical company Beechams with the giant Smith Kline and the draw of eminent scientists to the area. He stated that this could only continue with the development of the Science Park, arrival of Public Health England and the progress of The Kao Park Data Centre.


Mr Hayes did not feel there was any place for a grammar school in the town should the conservatives return to power and introduce their reintroduction, He thinks that rather than diverting the money to schools to which 80% of candidates fail the exam the funds would be better used ‘upping the standards of every school’.


Although he remembers his time serving Harlow very affectionately and claimed the town is ‘full of lovely families’ he does not see a return to politics. He disliked party politics and was often seen as a rebel. His interest was in serving the people of Harlow in the matters that affected them on a daily basis.

He is hopeful Robert Halfon will be returned on June 8th but despite the recent party success in local elections advises him to be prepared to expect the unexpected.
Jerry Hayes has returned to his legal work as a barrister and also works as a freelance journalist but still lives on the M11 corridor.


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Trudy Harper

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