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Selwyn Lloyd

(1904—1978) speaker of the House of Commons


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(b. West Kirby, Wirral, 28 July 1904; d. Preston Crowmarsh, Oxfordshire, 17 May 1978)

British; Foreign Secretary 1955–60, Chancellor of the Exchequer 1960–3, Speaker of the House of Commons 1971–6; Baron (life peer) 1976 The son of a doctor, Lloyd was educated at Fettes College and Magdalene College, Cambridge (president of the Cambridge Union 1927). A barrister, he saw wartime service, reaching the rank of brigadier-general, before being elected to the House of Commons in 1945. Though originally a Liberal—he fought Macclesfield as a Liberal in 1929—he had converted to the Conservative cause. On the party's return to office in 1951 he began a rapid progression up the ministerial ladder—Minister of State at the Foreign Office (1951–4), Minister of Supply (1954–5), and then, briefly, Minister of Defence (1955), before being appointed Foreign Secretary in December 1955. Though he was closely linked with the failure of the Suez expedition, Harold Macmillan decided to keep him in the post, and in July 1960 made him Chancellor of the Exchequer. Associated with unpopular ‘stop-go’ economic policies, he was the principal victim of Macmillan's ‘Night of the Long Knives’ in 1962. He returned to government during the Douglas-Home premiership (1963–4), serving as Lord Privy Seal and leader of the House of Commons, a position in which he showed sensitivity to the needs of backbenchers. In Opposition, he served in the shadow Cabinet for two years before returning to the back benches.

Though his frontbench career ended in 1966, a second political career lay ahead. In 1971 he was elected Speaker of the House and served in the post for five years. The election was contested, some MPs resenting the way that the choice of Lloyd was being pushed by the Heath government. Though relying heavily at times on the Deputy Speaker to occupy the chair, he proved attentive to the needs of members. He accepted a life peerage on his retirement from the speakership, but lived for only another two years, dying at the age of 73.

Though an able individual and competent minister, he suffered from his association with the Suez expedition and the claim that he was the monkey to Macmillan's organ grinder. He was an unpopular Chancellor, presiding over a period of economic downturn, but restored his parliamentary reputation during his speakership. Having been divorced in 1957, he often cut a lonely figure in the House of Commons. Personally courteous and friendly, he became a source of support to many new MPs.

Subjects: Politics — British History.


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