Edward Shortt

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For the Labour Party politician, see Edward Short, Baron Glenamara.
The Right Honourable
Edward Shortt
KC
Edward Shortt.jpg
Home Secretary
In office
14 January 1919 – 23 October 1922
Prime Minister David Lloyd George
Preceded by Sir George Cave
Succeeded by William Bridgeman
Personal details
Born 10 March 1862 (2014-09-17UTC04:03:23)
Died 10 November 1935 (2014-09-17UTC04:03:24) (aged 73)
Nationality British
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Isabella Stewart Scott
Alma mater University of Durham

Edward Shortt PC KC (10 March 1862 – 10 November 1935) was a British lawyer and Liberal Party politician. He served as a member of David Lloyd George's cabinet, most significantly as Home Secretary from 1919 to 1922.

Background and education[edit]

The son of a Newcastle upon Tyne Church of England vicar, Shortt was educated at Durham School, followed by the University of Durham, where he read Classics.

Legal career[edit]

He was called to the Bar at the Middle Temple in 1890 and practiced on the North Eastern Circuit. He served as Recorder (part-time judge) of Sunderland from 1907 to 1918, and was made a King's Counsel in 1910. He was never a particularly successful barrister, but was popular, clear and lucid.

Political career[edit]

Shortt became active in politics for the Liberal Party. In 1908, Shortt was an unsuccessful candidate for Newcastle upon Tyne in a by-election, losing a seat previously held by the party when the Social Democratic Federation put up a candidate against him. However, in the January 1910 election he was elected, and remained an MP until 1922, transferring in 1918 to the new Newcastle upon Tyne West constituency. Within the Liberal Party, Shortt allied with David Lloyd George in the party split which occurred between him and H. H. Asquith. When Lloyd George came to power in 1916, Shortt was soon appointed to the government.

Shortt was not a very active MP, but his appointment to chair a Select Committee to review the operation of the Military Service Acts in 1917 brought him to the attention of Lloyd George. In May 1918, Lloyd George appointed him as Chief Secretary for Ireland, at a pivotal point in the First World War and when Irish Republicanism was on the increase. The government had decided to introduce conscription in Ireland to provide more soldiers for the Western Front, linked to support for Irish home rule, but still found that opposition to the British increased. Shortt gave his support to an unusual plan to encourage Irish soldiers to join the French army, while persuading the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Ireland to support conscription. However, both parts of the plan collapsed due to infighting within the government and the military establishment. Conscription was never implemented in Ireland.

Pencil sketch of Edward Shortt by Reginald Grenville Eves

Once the war was over, Shortt was promoted to Home Secretary in January 1919, during the middle of a police strike. To the stakeholder's satisfaction, he helped to solve the strike and earned the support of the police. He had to deal with rising crime caused by large numbers of unemployed soldiers, some who struggled with mental illness. He introduced a bill to license firearms, of which there were many which had been smuggled back as war trophies. Shortt also reprieved Ronald True, who had been condemned to death for murder, after finding the issue of his sanity in doubt. Shortt was not well respected in Parliament, where he had a reputation for laziness and for appointing fellow barristers from the North East to important posts.

When Lloyd George's coalition government fell in October 1922, Shortt retired from politics and stood down from Parliament.

Career After Parliament[edit]

In November 1929, Shortt was appointed as second President of the British Board of Film Censors succeeding T.P. O'Connor. This was an odd appointment as Shortt had no real interest and actively disliked sound films. The Board had been set up by the film industry and had no statutory role (local councils being technically responsible for judging who could see a film) but in practice its rulings were always obeyed.

Shortt followed previous policy of a highly restrictive licensing. In the Board's report for 1931, he outlined his concern about the increasing number of films dealing with sexual topics, and promised further restrictions. He banned 120 films in five years and in 1932 ordered cuts to 382, a record number; one of the films banned was Red-Headed Woman, starring Jean Harlow. Shortt died in post in 1935.

In the last year of his life he founded the security firm Nightwatch Services, later Securicor.[1]

Family[edit]

Shortt married Isabella Stewart Scott, who had been born in 1890 in Chile to British parents. They had one son, who was killed in action in 1917, and three daughters. He died in November 1935, at the age of 73.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Group 4's Danes to swoop on Securicor The Times, 1 February 2004

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
George Renwick and
Walter Hudson
Member of Parliament for Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Jan 19101918
With: Walter Hudson
constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Newcastle upon Tyne West
19181922
Succeeded by
David Adams
Political offices
Preceded by
Henry Edward Duke
Chief Secretary for Ireland
1918–1919
Succeeded by
James Ian Macpherson
Preceded by
The Viscount Cave
Home Secretary
1919–1922
Succeeded by
William Bridgeman
Media offices
Preceded by
T. P. O'Connor
President of the British Board of Film Censors
1929–1935
Succeeded by
William Tyrrell