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Emanuel Shinwell

(1884—1986) politician


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(b. London, 18 Oct 1884; d. London, 8 May 1986) British; Minister of Defence 1950 –1, chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party 1964 –7; Baron (life peer) 1970 The son of a clothing manufacturer, ‘Manny’ Shinwell became an apprentice tailor on leaving elementary school at the age of 11. Involvement in radical politics on Clydeside led to his imprisonment for several months in 1919. He entered parliament as MP for Linlithgow in 1992 but held only junior ministerial posts in the Labour governments of 1924 and 1929 –31. However, his victory over Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald at Seaham Harbour in the 1935 general election made him nationally known.

During the Second World War, Shinwell became a pungent critic of the coalition government (in which he was reported to have declined Winston Churchill's offer of a junior ministerial post). In 1945 he became Minister of Fuel and Power, with a seat in the Cabinet, in Clement Attlee's Labour government (1945 –51). His achievement in nationalizing the coal mines was overshadowed by a fuel crisis (for which he was largely held responsible) in the exceptional winter of 1946 –7. In October 1947 he reluctantly accepted effective demotion to the non-Cabinet secretaryship of state for war. He re-entered the Cabinet in 1950 as Minister of Defence.

Too old for ministerial office in Harold Wilson's Labour government (1964 –70), he became chairman of the PLP. But he resigned in 1967 over a disagreement with the government's application to join the European Community and the chief whip's liberal approach to party discipline. He retired from the Commons in 1970 and subsequently became the first centenarian to sit in the House of Lords. The title of his autobiography, Conflict without Malice (1955), belied his renowned fieriness of temper.

From A Dictionary of Political Biography in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Politics.


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