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Herbert Morrison

(1888—1965) politician


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(b. 3 Jan. 1888, d. 6 Mar. 1965).

British Labour politician Born in Brixton, he left school at 14, and held a variety of jobs, ranging from shop assistant to telephone operator. The loss of sight in his right eye prevented him from serving in World War I, although he was in any case a staunch pacifist. Morrison became part-time secretary of the London Labour Party in 1915, and Mayor of Hackney in 1920. He was elected to the London County Council (LCC) in 1922, and to parliament as MP for Hackney South in 1923. As MacDonald's Minister for Transport (1929–31) he created the London Passenger Transport Board, but when he lost his seat in 1931, he became prominent in London politics. As leader of the LCC (1934–40) he worked tirelessly to improve the city's education and sanitary conditions, which led, for example, to the creation of a Green Belt around the capital. He regained Hackney South in 1935 but remained unacceptable for the leadership as sections of the party continued to be suspicious of his domination and drive.

His energy was rewarded when he became Minister of Supply and then Home Secretary in Churchill's wartime coalition government (1940–5). During this time, he drafted Labour's proposals for nationalization and the social services in the 1945 election manifesto. As Deputy Prime Minister to Attlee (1945–51), and as leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council, he coordinated Labour's domestic parliamentary legislation. Ever mindful of the electorate, from 1947 he advocated ‘consolidation’, whereby Labour would not extend its nationalization programme, which he recognized was becoming increasingly unpopular. His advice was ignored, however, and the party lost the 1951 elections, just after he had succeeded Bevin to the foreign ministry. Despite his resounding defeat by Gaitskell for the 1955 leadership, there is little doubt that he was a crucial force in British politics in general, and in the development and achievement of Labour's programme in particular. His grandson, Peter Mandelson, became an influential—and controversial—adviser to Tony Blair, and served as Northern Ireland Secretary (from 1999–2001) and EU Commissioner (from 2004).

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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