The Colne Valley Division Labour Union was founded on 21 July 1891 at a meeting of textile workers, a blacksmith (George Gardside) and a joiner (G H Cotton) at The Social Democratic Club in Slaithwaite. This was the very first constituency-based Labour Party in the country. Earlier in 1891 a Labour Union had been formed in Bradford. But unlike the Colne Valley organisation, the Bradford Labour Union was spread over several political constituencies. The Bradford and Colne Valley unions were the first two independent labour organisations in England and were among the founders of the national Independent Labour Party in 1893. By the end of 1891 over 200 members had joined the Colne Valley Division Labour Union.
The Colne Valley Labour Division Labour Union's first President was George Garside, who went on to become the first Labour county councillor in the country when he was elected in 1892 for the Slaithwaite Electoral Division.
In 1893 the Colne Valley Divisonal Labour Union affiliated to the Independent Labour Party, which had formed in Bradford, and this resulted in the Union adopting the Independent Labour Party's Constitution, Rules and Programme.
At the Union's first meeting on 21 Jul 1891, the newly-installed Secretary was instructed to write to Tom Mann and invite him to become their parliamentary candidate. Tom Mann was one of the leading national figures in the early Labour movement; he had managed Keir Hardie's electoral campaign in Lanark in 1888, he was one of the producers of the Labour Elector journal, and he was one of the leading figures in the London Dock Strike in 1889.
Tom Mann spoke at meetings of the Union in August and October 1891 and on both occasions he turned down the invitation to represent the Union as their parliamentary candidate, insisting that his work as a trade union organiser was more important. Following the successes of Independent working-class candidates in the 1892 General Election, the Union redoubled its efforts to persuade Tom Mann to become their candidate which he consented to. The unsuccessful campaign of the 1895 General Election was the only election in which Tom Mann represented the Union and in Feb 1896 he declined the opportunity to continue as the candidate for the Colne Valley Labour League (the new name of the Union).
After speaking at meetings of the Colne Valley Labour League in 1906, Victor Grayson was adopted as the Labour candidate for the constituency in 1907 and he suceeded in winning the by-election that took place on 18 Jul 1907 as an Independent Labour Party candidate. Grayson became a popular socialist figure in the country but also had a strained relationship with the Independent Labour Party (ILP). In the 1910 General Election Victor Grayson lost his seat and the strained relationship with the ILP then reached breaking point, with the League voting to leave the ILP in May 1910. Following this The League then became affiliated with the British Socialist Party.
Victor Grayson was readopted as the Party's parliamentary candidate in 1911, however from this time onwards Grayson's health was beginning to suffer and he would not be re-elected for the constituency. In May 1915 Victor Grayson resigned as the Party's parliamentary candidate.
From 1917 the National Labour Party began setting up Divisional Parties and the Colne Valley Socialist League fell into line forming the Colne Valley Divisional Labour Party in April 1917.
In 1918 Philip Snowden was adopted as the Party's parliamentary candidate and he went on to win the 1922, 1923, 1924 and 1929 elections in the constituency. Snowden became the first Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1924, though he only held the position for 10 months, he would later hold the same office between 1929 and 1931. In 1931 Snowden chose to join the House of Lords, becoming Viscount Snowden of Icornshaw, instead of contesting the election for the Colne Valley.
Councillor Ernest Marklew was then adopted as the Party's candidate. Marklew lost the 1931 election but won the 1935 election before he died in office in June 1939, which prompted a by-election in the constituency. This by-election was won by the Party's new candidate William Glenvil Hall, who would serve as MP for the constituency until he died in 1962, aged 75. During this time the Party's successes at Parliamentary level were not matched at a local level as the Conservative, Liberal and Independent candidates dominated the Colne Valley's Urban District Councils.
The Colne Valley Labour Party celebrated its jubilee on 26 Jul 1941 in the Socialist Hall, Slaithwaite.
Hall's successor Patrick Duffy won the 1963 by-election that followed his death and won the General Election that took place the following year.
In March 1964 the Party changed its name to the Colne Valley Constituency Labour Party.
Duffy would lose the 1966 General Election to the Liberal candidate Richard Wainwright who would go on to win future elections in 1974, 1979 and 1983. These years of Liberal victories in the constituency were split by David Clark's victory for the Colne Valley Labour Party in the 1970 election. Clark represented the constituency from 1970 to 1974 and after losing the February 1974 General Election, he became a Senior Lecturer in Politics at Huddersfield Polytechnic (now the University of Huddersfield) until 1979 when he returned to the House of Commons as Member of Parliament for South Shields, Tyne and Wear.
In 1983 the boundary of the Colne Valley constituency underwent the most significant revision in its history. The constituency lost Saddleworth to the new Littleborough constituency and Denby Dale to Dewsbury constituency, and gained Crodland Moor, Milnsbridge, Longwood and Lindley. These changes in the constituency's boundaries had a significant affect upon the performance of the Colne Valley Labour Party as it lost some key Labour areas (Denby Dale) and gained Conservative and Liberal areas (Lindley, Saddleworth). The first General Election under the new boundaries in 1983 produced the worst Labour result in over 70 years (David Williams came in third place and over 7,400 votes behind the winning Liberal candidate, Richard Wainwright).
The minutes of 13 April 1983 (CVL/GV/1/1/1983) record the inaugural meeting of the new Colne Valley Constituency Labour Party following the constituency boundary changes.
In 1987 Graham Riddick became the first Conservative Party MP for the Colne Valley constituency in its 102 year history (beating the Liberal candidate Nigel Jonathan Priestley into second and the Labour candidate John Andrew Harman into third). Riddick held his seat during the 1992 election (with the Labour candidate John Andrew Harman moving up into second ahead of the Liberal candidate Nigel Jonathan Priestley).
During the 1997 General Election the Colne Valley Labour Party returned its first parliamentary candidate, Kali Mountford, since David Clark's term of 1970-1974. Kali Mountford won the 2001 and 2005 elections, before Jason McCartney won the 2010 and 2015 General Elections for the Conservative Party.
Further details about the history of the Colne Valley Labour Party can be found in 'Colne Valley Labout Party, 1891-1991, Souvenir Centenary History' (CVL/EM/5/8) published by the Colne Valley Constituency Labour Party, Jul 1991.