Edward Watson Short


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(b. Westmorland, 17 Dec. 1912)

British; Lord President of the Council and leader of the House of Commons 1974–6, deputy leader of the Labour Party 1972–6; Baron (life peer, Lord Glenamara) 1977 The son of a tailor, Short was educated at Bede College, Durham. During the Second World War he served in the army, reaching the rank of captain. He was elected to parliament in 1951 as MP for Newcastle upon Tyne, Central, which he represented continuously until 1976.

After serving in the Whips' office in opposition, Short was appointed government chief whip when Harold Wilson formed his first administration in 1964. After that, he was made Postmaster-General (1966–8) and was then promoted to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Education and Science. When Labour went into opposition, in 1970, he initially retained his frontbench responsibility for Education. However, in 1972 he was elected to the deputy leadership. Wilson appointed him Lord President and leader of the House in the government he formed in March 1974, but he was dropped when James Callaghan assumed the premiership in 1976.

Short had a relatively low public profile as a minister, but he played an indispensable role for Labour behind the scenes at Westminster. As chief whip he had the onerous task of securing the passage of the government's legislation with a single-figure Commons majority and many ministers lacking experience of office. As the government's chief business manager between 1974 and 1976 he was initially faced with the even greater problems of a minority government. His autobiographical Whip to Wilson provides a fascinating insight into the difficulties of parliamentary party management in these circumstances.

Subjects: Politics.

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