Herbert Morrison

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This article is about the British politician. For the American radio reporter, see Herbert Morrison (announcer).
The Right Honourable
The Lord Morrison of Lambeth
CH PC
HerbertMorrison2.jpg
Deputy Prime Minister of United Kingdom
In office
26 July 1945 – 26 October 1951
Prime Minister Clement Attlee
Preceded by Clement Attlee
Succeeded by Anthony Eden
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
In office
26 July 1945 – 2 February 1956
Leader Clement Attlee
Preceded by Arthur Greenwood
Succeeded by Jim Griffiths
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
In office
9 March 1951 – 26 October 1951
Prime Minister Clement Attlee
Preceded by Ernest Bevin
Succeeded by Anthony Eden
Lord President of the Council
In office
26 July 1945 – 9 March 1951
Prime Minister Clement Attlee
Preceded by Lord Woolton
Succeeded by Viscount Addison
Leader of the House of Commons
In office
26 July 1945 – 16 March 1951
Prime Minister Clement Attlee
Preceded by Anthony Eden
Succeeded by James Chuter Ede
Home Secretary
In office
4 October 1940 – 23 May 1945
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Preceded by Sir John Anderson
Succeeded by Donald Somervell
Minister of Supply
In office
12 May 1940 – 4 October 1940
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Preceded by Leslie Burgin
Succeeded by Andrew Rae Duncan
Leader of the London County Council
In office
9 March 1934 – 27 May 1940
Preceded by William Ray
Succeeded by Charles Latham
Minister of Transport
In office
7 June 1929 – 24 August 1931
Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald
Preceded by Wilfrid Ashley
Succeeded by John Pybus
Chairman of the Labour Party
In office
1928 – 7 June 1929
Leader Ramsay MacDonald
Preceded by George Lansbury
Succeeded by Susan Lawrence
Member of Parliament
for Lewisham South
Lewisham East (1945–1950)
In office
5 July 1945 – 8 October 1959
Preceded by Sir Assheton Pownall
Succeeded by Carol Johnson
Member of Parliament
for Hackney South
In office
14 November 1935 – 5 July 1945
Preceded by Marjorie Graves
Succeeded by Herbert William Butler
In office
30 May 1929 – 27 October 1931
Preceded by George Garro-Jones
Succeeded by Marjorie Graves
In office
36 December 1923 – 29 October 1924
Preceded by Clifford Erskine-Bolst
Succeeded by George Garro-Jones
Personal details
Born Herbert Stanley Morrison
3 January 1888 (1888-01-03)
37, Mordaunt Street, Stockwell, London, UK
Died 6 March 1965 (1965-03-07) (aged 77)
Peckham, South London, UK
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Margaret Kent

Herbert Stanley Morrison, Baron Morrison of Lambeth, CH, PC (3 January 1888 – 6 March 1965) was a British Labour politician; he held a variety of senior positions in the Cabinet, including Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister. Morrison with Clement Attlee and Ernest Bevin formed the triumvirate that dominated the Labour governments of 1945-51. He was Attlee’s deputy and most expected him to become Attlee’s successor. However, Attlee disliked him and postponed stepping down until 1955, when Morrison was too old. Morrison organised the victorious 1945 election campaign, and the critical nationalisation programme that followed. He was, however, a staunch opponent to Aneurin Bevan's proposals for a nationalised hospital service as part of the proposals for the British National Health Service. He developed his social views from his work in local politics, and always emphasised the importance of public works to deal with unemployment.[1]

Early life[edit]

Morrison was the son of a police constable and was born at 37, Mordaunt Street, Stockwell Lambeth, London. As a baby he lost the sight in his right eye due to infection. He attended Stockwell Road Primary School and left school at 14 to become an errand boy. His early politics were radical, and he briefly flirted with the Social Democratic Federation over the Independent Labour Party (ILP). As a conscientious objector, he worked in a market garden in Letchworth in World War I[2] where he met his wife, a handweaver and embroiderer.

Political career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Morrison eventually became a pioneer leader in the London Labour Party. He was elected to the Metropolitan Borough of Hackney in 1919 when the Labour Party won control of the Borough, and he was Mayor in 1920–21. Morrison was a follower of Clapton Orient FC and became a shareholder in the club. He was elected to the London County Council (LCC) in 1922 and at the 1923 general election he became Member of Parliament (MP) for Hackney South, but lost that seat the following year when Ramsay MacDonald's first administration lost the general election.[3]

Morrison returned to Parliament in the 1929 general election, and MacDonald appointed him Minister of Transport. Morrison, like many others in the party, was deeply disheartened by MacDonald's national government, and he lost his seat again in 1931.

Morrison continued to sit on the London County Council and in 1933 was elected to lead the Labour Group. Unexpectedly, Labour won the 1934 LCC election and Morrison became Leader of the Council. This gave him control of almost all local government services in London. His main achievements here included the unification of bus, tram and trolleybus services with the Underground, by the creation of the London Passenger Transport Board (colloquially known as London Transport) in 1933, and creating the Metropolitan Green Belt around the suburbs. He confronted the Government over its refusal to finance the replacement of Waterloo Bridge, and eventually they agreed to pay 60% of the cost of the new bridge.[4]

In the 1935 election Morrison was once again elected to the House of Commons and immediately challenged Clement Attlee for the leadership of the party. He lost badly, a defeat ascribed to his unfamiliarity with the MPs who had served in the previous Parliament. Both he and his supporter Hugh Dalton put some of the blame on the masonic New Welcome Lodge, who they claimed backed the third-place leadership candidate Arthur Greenwood and then switched their votes to Attlee.[5] After losing, Morrison concentrated on his LCC work.

In 1939 Conservative MPs defeated Herbert Morrison's bill introducing "site value rating", a tax on similar lines to Land Value Tax, in the old London County Council area.[6][7]

By the late 1960s (long after Morrison had left the leadership of the London County Council), London Conservatives frequently accused him of seeking to 'build the Tories out of London',[8] the implication being that the LCC would deliberately build council houses in order to affect local voting patterns. His biographers Donoghue and Jones have written that "Morrison never said or wrote" the words attributed to him, and have offered a free lunch as a prize for anyone to produce a source proving otherwise.[9]

Wartime Coalition[edit]

In 1940 Morrison was appointed the first Minister of Supply by Winston Churchill, but shortly afterwards succeeded Sir John Anderson as Home Secretary. Morrison's London experience in local government was particularly useful during the Blitz, and the Morrison shelter was named after him. His radio appeal for more fire guards in December 1940 ('Britain shall not burn') features on an audiobook titled The Blitz.

Morrison had to take many potentially unpopular and controversial decisions by the nature of wartime circumstances. On 21 January 1941 he banned the Daily Worker due to its pro-soviet stance. The ban lasted for a total of 18 months before being rescinded. The arrival of black American troops caused concern in the government leading Morrison, The Home Secretary, to comment "I am fully conscious that a difficult social problem might be created if there were a substantial number of sex relations between white women and coloured troops and the procreation of half-caste children." in a memorandum for the cabinet, 1942.[10]

In 1943 he ran for the post of Treasurer of the Labour Party, but lost a close contest to Arthur Greenwood.[11]

Deputy Prime Minister[edit]

After the end of the war, Morrison was instrumental in drafting the Labour Party's 1945 manifesto Let us Face the Future.[12] He organised the general election campaign and enlisted the help of left-wing cartoonist Philip Zec with whom he had clashed during the early stages of the war when, as Minister of Supply he took exception to an illustration commenting on the costs of the supplying the country with petrol.[13][14] Labour won a massive and unexpected victory, and Morrison was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the House of Commons. He was the chief sponsor of the Festival of Britain.

Morrison supervised the major Labour programme of nationalising industry. As Lord President chaired the Committee on the Socialization of Industries, he followed the model that was already in place of setting up public corporations such as the BBC in broadcasting (1927). The owners of corporate stock were given government bonds, and the government took full ownership of each affected company, consolidating it into a national monopoly. The management remained the same, only now they became civil servants working for the government. For the Labour Party leadership, nationalisation was a method to consolidate national planning in their own hands. It was not designed to modernise old industries, make them efficient, or transform their organisational structure.[15][16]

In July 1946, Morrison, together with US ambassador Henry F. Grady proposed "The Morrison Grady Plan", a proposal for the solution of the Palestine problem, calling for federalisation under overall British trusteeship. Ultimately the plan was rejected by both Arabs and Jews.

After Ernest Bevin's resignation as Foreign Secretary Morrison took over his role, but did not feel at ease in the Foreign Office. He took an aggressive stance against Iran's nationalist Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq and approved his overthrow.[17] His tenure there was cut short by Labour's defeat in the 1951 general election, and he was appointed a Companion of Honour in November that year.[18]

End of political career[edit]

Although Morrison had effectively been Attlee's heir apparent since the 1930s, Attlee had always distrusted him. Attlee remained as Leader through the early 1950s, and fought the 1955 election, finally announcing his retirement after Labour's defeat. Morrison was 67 and was seen to be too old to embark on a new leadership. During the leadership election he was the interim Leader of the Labour Party. Although he stood, he finished last – by a wide margin – of the three candidates, with many of his supporters switching to Hugh Gaitskell. Gaitskell won the election, and Morrison resigned as Deputy Leader.

During the Suez Crisis Morrison advocated unilateral action by the United Kingdom against Egypt following Colonel Nasser's seizure of the Suez Canal. He stood down at the 1959 general election and was made a life peer as Baron Morrison of Lambeth, of Lambeth in the County of London on 2 November 1959.[19] He was appointed President of the British Board of Film Censors.

Death[edit]

He died in 1965, coincidentally in the same month as the London County Council was abolished. His grandson Peter Mandelson was a cabinet minister in the Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. (While Morrison had held the post of Deputy Prime Minister, in 2009 his grandson was appointed First Secretary of State, notwithstanding the fact that the titles are sometimes mistakenly seen as synonymous.)

TV portrayal[edit]

Morrison was Foreign Secretary at the time of the defection of the double agents Guy Burgess and Donald Duart Maclean. In the 1977 BBC TV play Philby, Burgess and Maclean by Iain Curteis, Arthur Lowe appeared as Morrison – glowering to the camera in his final shot to show the opaque right lens of his spectacles.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Keith Laybourn, “Morrison, Herbert Stanley” in John Ramsden, ed., The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-century British Politics (2002) p 443-44
  2. ^ Howell, 2011
  3. ^ Howell, 2011
  4. ^ Howell, 2011
  5. ^ The Masons' Candidate: New Welcome Lodge No. 5139 and the Parliamentary Labour Party, by John Hamill and Andrew Prescott, Labour History Review, Volume 71, Number 1, April 2006 , pp. 9–41(33); this cites as note number 2 H. Morrison, Herbert Morrison: An Autobiography by Lord Morrison of Lambeth, London, Odhams, 1960, p. 164
  6. ^ http://www.newstatesman.com/200409200007
  7. ^ "London Rating (Site Values) — A Bill". Land Value Taxation Campaign. Retrieved 2008-12-22. 
  8. ^ Ken Young, John Kramer, Strategy and conflict in metropolitan housing (Heinemann Educational, 1978), p. 262.
  9. ^ Donoghue & Jones 2000, p. xxxi
  10. ^ "Another Nickel In The Machine 2011"
  11. ^ "Greenwood, Arthur", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  12. ^ Howell, 2011
  13. ^ Contentious Cartoon by Dr Tim Benson, PoliticalCartoon.co.uk
  14. ^ Tabloid Nation: The Birth of the Daily Mirror to the Death of the Tabloid, by Chris Horrie, André Deutsch (2003)
  15. ^ Alan Sked and Chris Cook, Post-War Britain: A Political History (1979) pp 31-34
  16. ^ Samuel H. Beer, British Politics in the Collectivist Age (1965) pp 188-216
  17. ^ Painter, David S. (1988), The United States, Great Britain, and Mossadegh, Georgetown University, ISBN 1-56927-332-4, retrieved 2009-11-23 
  18. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 39396. p. 6235. 30 November 1951.
  19. ^ The London Gazette: no. 41860. p. 6942. 3 November 1959.

Further reading[edit]

Herbert Morrison published his Autobiography in 1960. His other publications included:

  • Socialisation and Transport, 1933;
  • Looking Ahead (wartime speeches), 1933;
  • Parliamentary Government in Britain, 1949.

The main biography is:

  • Herbert Morrison – Portrait of a Politician, by Bernard Donoughue and George Jones. (Reprinted by Orion with an introduction by Peter Mandelson 2001). ISBN 1-84212-441-2

Biographical essays include:

  • Howell, David. "Morrison, Herbert Stanley, Baron Morrison of Lambeth (1888–1965)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2011 accessed 14 June 2013 doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/35121
  • Mackintosh, John P. 'Herbert Morrison' in the original Dictionary of National Biography (supplement).
  • Morgan, Kenneth O. "Herbert Morrison", in Morgan, Labour people (1987)
  • 'Herbert Morrison' by Greg Rosen in Kevin Jefferys (ed) Labour Forces IB Taurus, 2003.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Clifford Erskine-Bolst
Member of Parliament for Hackney South
19231924
Succeeded by
George Garro-Jones
Preceded by
George Garro-Jones
Member of Parliament for Hackney South
19291931
Succeeded by
Marjorie Graves
Preceded by
Marjorie Graves
Member of Parliament for Hackney South
19351945
Succeeded by
Herbert Butler
Preceded by
Sir Assheton Pownall
Member of Parliament for Lewisham East
19451950
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Lewisham South
19501959
Succeeded by
Carol Johnson
Political offices
Preceded by
George Lansbury
Chair of the Labour Party
1928–1929
Succeeded by
Susan Lawrence
Preceded by
Wilfrid Ashley
Minister of Transport
1929–1931
Succeeded by
John Pybus
Preceded by
Sir William Ray
Leader of the London County Council
1933–1940
Succeeded by
Lord Latham
Preceded by
Leslie Burgin
Minister of Supply
1940
Succeeded by
Andrew Duncan
Preceded by
Sir John Anderson
Home Secretary
1940–1945
Succeeded by
Sir Donald Bradley Somervell
Preceded by
Arthur Greenwood
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
1945–1955
Succeeded by
Jim Griffiths
Preceded by
Lord Woolton
Lord President of the Council
1945–1951
Succeeded by
Viscount Addison
Preceded by
Anthony Eden
Leader of the House of Commons
1945–1951
Succeeded by
James Chuter Ede
Preceded by
Clement Attlee
Deputy Prime Minister
1945–1951
Succeeded by
Sir Anthony Eden
Preceded by
Ernest Bevin
Foreign Secretary
1951
Succeeded by
Sir Anthony Eden
Media offices
Preceded by
Sidney Harris
President of the British Board of Film Censors
1960–1965
Succeeded by
David Ormsby-Gore