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Hughes was born in Tonypandy, Wales, the son of the Reverend J. R. Hughes. He was educated at Abercynon Council School, Mountain Ash Secondary School and City of Leeds Training College, and became a teacher by profession. In the First World War he was imprisoned as a conscientious objector. In 1924, he married Nan Hardie, the daughter of Keir Hardie. He also became editor of the socialist journal Forward. In the late 1930s, Forward was one of the few left-wing publications to criticise the Moscow Trials. 
On 7 February 1946 Hughes stood in the South Ayrshire (Scotland) by-election, following the death of the sitting Member of Parliament (MP) Alexander Sloan. He was elected as the constituency's Member of Parliament, and re-elected in the general elections of 1950, 1951, 1955, 1959, 1964, and 1966. A left-winger, he was frequently at odds with the leadership of the Labour Party and twice had the whip withdrawn, between November 1954 and April 1955 (over German rearmament), and between March 1961 and May 1963 (over nuclear weapons).
On 14 July 1966 Gwynfor Evans (Plaid Cymru) won Carmarthen from Labour in a by-election. As a fellow pacifist and member of the Peace Pledge Union, he was shown around the House of Commons by Emrys Hughes; on pointing out the Welsh table in the Commons' tea room, Hughes warned him, "You’d better not sit there, your name’s mud among that lot."
- Winston Churchill. British Bulldog: His Career in War and Peace, Exposition Books, 1955. ASIN:B0006ATSO8 (first published in 1950)
- Keir Hardie, Allen & Unwin, 1956. ASIN:B0006DBKFK
- Emrys Hughes, M.P. on POLARIS and the ARMS RACE, Housmans, 1961. ASIN:B003Z94NXI
- MacMillan : Portrait of a Politician, Allen & Unwin, 1962. ISBN 978-0-04-923013-2
- Sydney Silverman - Rebel in Parliament, C Skilton, 1969. ASIN:B001KIB9T2
- Robert J. Alexander, International Trotskyism, 1929-1985: A Documented Analysis of the Movement. Duke University Press, 1991 ISBN 082231066X (p. 451)
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for South Ayrshire