|The Right Honourable
14 January 1919 – 23 October 1922
|Prime Minister||David Lloyd George|
|Preceded by||Sir George Cave|
|Succeeded by||William Bridgeman|
|Born||10 March 1862|
|Died||10 November 1935 (aged 73)|
|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
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.
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 as 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 enforced in Ireland.
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. 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.
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.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Edward Shortt
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
George Renwick and
|Member of Parliament for Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Jan 1910 – 1918
With: Walter Hudson
|New constituency||Member of Parliament for Newcastle upon Tyne West
1918 – 1922
Henry Edward Duke
|Chief Secretary for Ireland
James Ian Macpherson
The Viscount Cave
T. P. O'Connor
|President of the British Board of Film Censors