One of Blackburn’s longest continuous voters will take part in his 25th general election.

Kenneth Hartley first voted in the 1950 election and has done so without fail ever since.

In 1950, Clement Atlee secured a small majority but was beaten in October the following year, as Sir Winston Churchill was elected as Prime Minister.

He has voted at 24 general elections throughout the past seven decades and watched 11 different Prime Ministers elected. This list does not include leaders who took office but were not elected.

The 1950 general election was held on Thursday, February 23, and was the first to be held after a full term of a majority Labour government. The Labour majority was reduced from 146 to just five.

Ken said: “I don’t think I have missed a single election and that includes all the local elections too.

“I supported the Labour Party and was a runner for Barbara Castle who was MP for the town from 1945.”

Blackburn was a two-member constituency and Ms Castle was elected alongside John Edwards.

Born in 1931, Ken has lived at this home on Whalley New Road for much of his life. It was the home of his grandparents and he moved in after his father died when Ken was just one.

He said: “My mother made me self-sufficient and she taught me everything I needed to know about growing up.

“I learnt to cook, clean and sew. I used to later darn socks for some cigarettes.

“Smoking was accepted then and I was almost encouraged to smoke when I was 14 but gave up in 1958. It is a vicious addiction. I think I was smoking about 40-a-day.”

As a child, Ken attended the school at Bangor Street and had Blackburn Rovers legend Jack Walker as his schoolmate.

Ken said he had worked as an engineer for much of his life beginning his career at Clayton Goodfellow, which was based where the Matalan store now is.

He said: “I was there through the 1950s and then went on to work for the corporation on the Highways.

“It was a decent job and I liked it but I must say the pay was not good.”

Ken Hartley pictured at the age of 16.

Ken with members of the Blackburn Eagles Cycling Club outside the Sett End Inn (1948)

He has seen the area around him change through the ages.

He said: “Of course people moving here from other nations has been the biggest change. But me and the Asian community are one. It is not a matter of integration for me at all. It is normal for me. 

“I think having travelled all over the world, I was always keen to learn new languages and cultures.

“I gave up on Urdu and Gujerati I’m afraid. Because I am quite deaf more than anything else.”

Ken was a talented cyclist who competed across the country

He remembers the first time someone from South Asia came in looking for a job.

He said: “The shop steward called me over and said could I have a word? I think he wanted me to say ‘no’ to him.

“I went over to him and shook his hand and asked him for his apprentice credentials and he handed it to me. He had all the qualifications. It was impeccable.

“I went back to the shop steward and said ‘he’s terrific’. I don’t think the boss was too happy. But I am sure other people would have faced similar issues coming to the country for the first time and trying to get a job.”

A keen cyclist, Ken is now vice president of Blackburn Cycling Club. He has cycled all over the world including Cuba, Laos and Cambodia.

“It was something I love to do,” he said.

Ken with Firoz pictured at a local election in 2022

Ken has been diagnosed with both bladder and skin cancer.

“Yes, I have battled through. I think the skin cancer would have to do with all that cycling with the top off in the blazing sun. In those days it was just normal to be cycling like that.”

He said diet and exercise were two things that had kept him going. 

He said: “I do think a balanced diet is more important than anything else.

“I like to have fish and nuts. Also, all bran flakes in the morning sets you up for the rest of the day.”

He visits his local polling station with his neighbour and friend Firoz Hinglotwala.

Ken said he was looking forward to voting again, and added: "Firoz is wonderful and has always been so helpful over the years.

“I always thought it important to vote and something that everyone should be doing.”