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Tom Burlison

The Lord Burlison

Government Whip
In office
28 January 1999  – 11 June 2000
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byThe Lord Hoyle
Succeeded byThe Lord Davies of Oldham
Treasurer of the Labour Party
In office
LeaderJohn Smith
Margaret Beckett (Acting)
Tony Blair
Preceded bySam McCluskie
Succeeded byMargaret Prosser
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
21 October 1997 – 20 May 2008
Life Peerage
Personal details
Thomas Henry Burlison

(1936-05-23)23 May 1936
Edmondsley, England
Died20 May 2008(2008-05-20) (aged 71)
Gateshead, England
Political partyLabour

Association football career
Playing position Wing-half
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1954–1957 Lincoln City 0 (0)
1957–1964 Hartlepool United 148 (5)
1964–1965 Darlington 26 (2)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 16:48, 4 August 2008 (UTC)

Thomas Henry Burlison, Baron Burlison, DL (23 May 1936 – 18 May 2008) was a British footballer, GMB trade unionist and Treasurer of the Labour Party. He was the first professional footballer to take a seat in the House of Lords.

Burlison was born in Edmondsley, County Durham, the son of a miner, Robert Burlison, and his wife, Georgina. He was educated in Edmondsley and worked as a panel beater from 1951 to 1957, joining the General and Municipal Workers' Union (GMWU, later merged to form the GMB).

Professional football

He was a professional footballer from 1953 to 1965 (playing for Lincoln City, Hartlepool United and Darlington). Between 1959 and 1961 he did National Service in the Royal Air Force.

GMWU/GMB trade union

He became a regional officer of the GMB in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1965, and regional secretary in 1978. A polite and unassuming man with a low profile, he was an effective "fixer" behind the scenes, drawing from a base in the union's heartland in the northeast and setting many on the path to power. His staff included former Labour ministers Nick Brown and Doug Henderson, and former MEP and Labour leader in the European parliament Alan Donnelly. He was also involved in the selection of many Labour MPs, including Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson.

He was involved in the negotiations in 1982 to merge the GMWU with the Boilermakers to form the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trades Union. He was runner-up behind John Edmonds in the election for general secretary of the GMB in 1985. The GMB merged with APEX in 1989 for form the GMB Union, and Burlison served as deputy general secretary of the merged union from 1991 to 1996.

Labour Party

He was also treasurer of the Labour Party from 1992 to 1996. He was chairman of the TUC northern region for nine years. He was also a trustee of the Board of Governors of the University of Northumbria, a Deputy Lieutenant and Honorary President of Hartlepool United. He was an important moderniser on Labour's National Executive Committee in the years before the party's landslide victory at the 1997 general election.

Baron Burlison

On 21 October 1997, he was created a life peer as Baron Burlison of Rowlands Gill, in the County of Tyne and Wear. He was a working peer, and was a Lord in Waiting (a Government whip in the House of Lords) from 1999 to 2001.

Burlison married Valerie Stephenson in 1981. They had one son and one daughter.

Burlison lived in Rowlands Gill, Tyne and Wear, for at least 20 years. He died in Gateshead on 20 May 2008 at the age of 71.[1]


  1. ^ "Footballer turned peer dies at 71". BBC Sport. 21 May 2008. Retrieved 21 May 2008.
Trade union offices
Preceded by
Andrew Cunningham
Northern District Secretary of the GMB
Succeeded by
Nick Anderson
Preceded by
New position
Deputy General Secretary of the GMB
Succeeded by
Steve Pickering
Political offices
Preceded by
Sam McCluskie
Treasurer of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
Margaret Prosser