John Cartwright (British politician)

John Cameron Cartwright (born 29 November 1933) is a former politician in the United Kingdom. He was a Labour and then an SDP Member of Parliament (MP) representing Woolwich East then Woolwich from the October 1974 general election to the 1992 election.

John Cartwright
President of the Social Democratic Party
In office
29 August 1987  16 July 1988
LeaderRobert Maclennan
Preceded byShirley Williams
Succeeded byIan Wrigglesworth (as Liberal Democrats President)
Chief Whip, Social Democrat Party
In office
9 June 1983  16 July 1988
LeaderDavid Owen
Preceded byJohn Roper
Succeeded byJim Wallace (as Liberal Democrats Chief Whip)
Member of Parliament
for Woolwich
Woolwich East (Oct 1974–1983)
In office
10 October 1974  9 April 1992
Preceded byChristopher Mayhew
Succeeded byJohn Austin
Personal details
Born (1933-11-29) 29 November 1933[1]
Political partyLabour Party (1970-81)
Social Democratic Party (1981-88)
'Continuing' Social Democratic Party (1988-90)

Early life

Educated at Woking County Grammar School, he was the star of the school's Dramatic Society for which he played numerous Shakespearean and Goldsmithian ladies. One such production was seen by the Norwegian ambassador, who was so impressed that he invited the whole production to perform in Oslo and Bergen.

Political career

Cartwright worked as Political Secretary of the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society (R.A.C.S.) and served as a Greenwich borough councillor before standing for Parliament. He unsuccessfully contested Bexley at the 1970 general election (when he lost to Edward Heath) and Bexleyheath at the February 1974 election (which he lost to Cyril Townsend). At the October 1974 election Cartwright was elected as the Labour member for Woolwich East, replacing Christopher Mayhew who had left Labour to join the Liberal Party. Following six years as a backbench Member of Parliament and latterly Parliamentary Private Secretary to Shirley Williams, Cartwright himself left the Labour Party in 1981 to become one of the founding members of the SDP.

Cartwright served as the SDP's chief whip from 1983 onwards and as its President from 1987 until the failure of the continuing SDP in 1990. He also served as the SDP/Liberal Alliance's chief defence spokesman from 1983 to 1987. A close political ally of David Owen, he stayed loyal to Owen and Owen's continuing SDP after the Liberal Party and a majority of the SDP merged in January 1988 to become the Liberal Democrats.

Following the collapse of the continuing SDP in 1990, Cartwright stood for re-election as an 'Independent Social Democrat' - albeit one endorsed by the Liberal Democrats - but lost by 2,200 votes.

Life after politics

After thus leaving active politics he went on to serve as Deputy Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority before retiring to Kent.


  1. "CARTWRIGHT, John Cameron". Who's Who. 2018 (online ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription or UK public library membership required) (subscription required)
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Christopher Mayhew
Member of Parliament for Woolwich East
constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Woolwich
Succeeded by
John Austin-Walker
Party political offices
Preceded by
Arthur Skeffington
Socialist societies representative on the Labour Party National Executive Committee
Succeeded by
Tom Jones
Preceded by
Tom Jones
Socialist societies representative on the Labour Party National Executive Committee
Succeeded by
Les Huckfield
Preceded by
Shirley Williams
President of the Social Democratic Party
Succeeded by
Ian Wrigglesworth
President of the Liberal Democrats
President of the continuing Social Democratic Party

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