Gordon Birtwistle

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Gordon Birtwistle
Gordon Birtwistle pre-MP at Birmingham 2010.jpg
Parliamentary Private Secretary to
the Chief Secretary to the Treasury
In office
12 May 2010 – 11 September 2012
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Succeeded byLorely Burt
Member of Parliament
for Burnley
In office
6 May 2010 – 30 March 2015
Preceded byKitty Ussher
Succeeded byJulie Cooper
Majority1,818 (4.3%)
Personal details
Born (1943-09-06) 6 September 1943 (age 76)[1]
Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, England
Political partyLiberal Democrats

Gordon Birtwistle (born 6 September 1943) is a British Liberal Democrat politician and former MP. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for the constituency of Burnley, England, from May 2010 to May 2015. He was Parliamentary Private Secretary to Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 2010 to 2012.[1][2] From 2013, he was Government Apprenticeship Ambassador to Business.


Birtwistle began work as a craft engineering apprentice in 1958, with Howard & Bullough, who were textile machinery manufacturers in Accrington.[3] He studied engineering at Accrington College on one day release and two nights a week and achieved two higher nationals, one in mechanical engineering and one in production engineering.

At the age of 21, he became a jig and tool draftsman with the same company, and stayed there until 1968, when he moved to Lucas Aerospace in Burnley as a machine shop methods engineer. He stayed there until aged 30, when he became a technical representative for Osborne Mushet Tools in Sheffield, who were manufacturers of metal cutting tools.

After five years, he became a director of C&G Cutter Grinding Services in Blackburn, named after its two founders Thomas Chew and William Gradwell. The company was sold in the mid 1980s, to a large engineering PLC, whom he continued to work for. After four years, he set up P&J Engineering Supplies, buying and selling engineering tools.[3] In the late 1990s, he bought Stewart Engineering (precision engineers) with a partner. This later folded, due to a bad debt in 2002. P&J is still in existence, however Birtwistle retired in 2008.


Before entering Parliament he had been Burnley Council leader since the 2006 Local Election, and a local councillor since 1982. He originally entered politics as a Labour councillor in the 1970s.[4] He remains a councilor for the borough's Coal Clough with Deerplay ward. He was also a candidate in the 2014 Liberal Democrats deputy leadership election.[2]


Birtwistle took Burnley from Labour for the Liberal Democrats in the 2010 General Election, with a 12% swing and 1,818 majority.[1] The first non Labour MP in the Burnley constituency since 1935, he had previously contested the seat in 1992, 1997 and 2005.[2] He was the oldest new MP of the 2010 intake.[5] On election his three main aims were returning the Accident and Emergency department to Burnley General Hospital; bringing new high-value jobs and firms to Burnley; and reinstating direct rail travel between Burnley and Manchester.[4]

A few weeks after his election, he was offered the role of Parliamentary Private Secretary to Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury.[5] He hosted a manufacturing summit for the North West region in Burnley in June 2011, which was opened by Vince Cable with a speech at the new £80 million Burnley College and University of Central Lancashire campus.[6] In October it was announced that with government investment through the Regional Growth Fund, the planned direct rail link between Manchester and Burnley would proceed.

The project included the reinstatement of the Todmorden Curve, a five hundred metre stretch of track unused since the 1960s, and an upgrade to Burnley Manchester Road railway station. Birtwistle's successor as Burnley Council leader, Charlie Briggs was reported as saying "Gordon Birtwistle, has been an important influence as he been very active in pressing the case for this and a number of other economic development priorities". Projects to construct a new business park called "Burnley Bridge" and create the Visions Learning Trust University Technical College had also recently received funding.[7]

In February 2012, Birtwistle became chairman of a new all-party parliamentary group dedicated to the advancement of apprenticeships.[5] In March he wrote of his support for increasing the minimum wage and the introduction of the pupil premium and argued for measures to tackle tax avoidance.[8]

That October, he introduced a private members bill to the Commons demanding improved careers advice for 12 to 16-year-old students. Although the bill received cross-party support and was given an unopposed first reading, it didn't progress further.[9][10] In March 2013, he was appointed as Government Apprenticeship Ambassador to Business, a new role intended to raise the profile and prestige of apprenticeships.[3]

He was one of only a few Liberal Democrat MPs to oppose allowing same sex couples to marry, rebelling against his party in a number of Commons votes on the issue in 2013–14.[11] He has been quoted as saying "Civil partnerships are fine. Gay marriage is just not on" and "I have been against it right from the beginning because I believe that’s the view of the vast majority of people in Burnley".[12][13]

In 2014, Birtwistle called for fellow Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Maajid Nawaz to be de-selected and his membership cancelled after he posted a controversial cartoon of Jesus and Muhammad on Twitter.[14]


  1. ^ a b c "Gordon Birtwistle MP". BBC Democracy Live. BBC. Archived from the original on 4 August 2011. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Maghill, Peter (8 January 2014). "Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle puts his name forward for Commons". Lancashire Telegraph. Archived from the original on 15 February 2015. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  3. ^ a b c New government ambassadors created to promote apprenticeships Archived 20 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine Government Digital Service - Press release, 14 March 2013
  4. ^ a b Introducing East Lancashire's four new MPs (From Blackburn Citizen) Archived 23 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Blackburncitizen.co.uk (11 May 2010). Retrieved on 4 February 2013.
  5. ^ a b c Gordon Birtwistle: One man industrial revolution, PoliticsHome, 8 March 2013, archived from the original on 15 February 2015, retrieved 15 February 2015
  6. ^ Business Secretary Vince Cable outlines key to Burnley’s future – Business News Archived 4 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Burnley Express (21 June 2011). Retrieved on 4 February 2013.
  7. ^ Magill, Peter (31 October 2011). "Major boost as £9million rail link cash announced for Burnley". Lancashire Telegraph. Archived from the original on 19 February 2015. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  8. ^ Gordon Birtwistle (16 March 2012). "Time to tackle tax avoidance". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 19 February 2015. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  9. ^ "MP demands careers advice in schools from age 12". BBC Democracy Live. BBC. 23 October 2012. Archived from the original on 12 February 2015. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  10. ^ "Careers Advice in Schools for 12-16 Year Olds Bill 2012-13". Services.parliament.uk. 23 October 2012. Archived from the original on 12 February 2015. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  11. ^ Voting Record — Gordon Birtwistle MP, Burnley Archived 7 February 2019 at the Wayback Machine, Public Whip
  12. ^ Lib Dem MP Gordon Birtwistle: ‘Gay marriage is just not on’ Archived 3 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Pink News, 17 December 2012
  13. ^ 'Most people in the borough oppose gay marriage' says Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle Archived 20 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Lancashire Telegraph, 24 May 2013
  14. ^ 'Burnley MP's anger at Jesus-Muhammad cartoon' Archived 16 October 2019 at the Wayback Machine, Lancashire Telegraph, 19 February 2014

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Kitty Ussher
Member of Parliament for Burnley
Succeeded by
Julie Cooper