John Freeman (British politician)

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John Freeman
Born (1915-02-19) 19 February 1915 (age 99)
London, England
Nationality British
Education Westminster School
Alma mater Brasenose College, Oxford
  • politician
  • diplomat
  • broadcaster
Organization Labour Party

The Rt. Hon. Major John Freeman MBE (born 19 February 1915) is a retired British politician, diplomat and broadcaster. He was the Labour Member of Parliament (MP) for Watford from 1945 to 1955.

Early life and career[edit]

Freeman was educated at Westminster School and Brasenose College, Oxford, (where he was elected an honorary fellow in 1968) and he joined the Labour Party in 1933. During World War II, Freeman saw active service in the Middle East, North Africa, Italy and North West Europe and was commissioned in the Rifle Brigade in 1940. He was appointed MBE in 1943. After his return to the UK, he was selected as Labour candidate for Watford and was elected in the 1945 election victory.

Originally Freeman was on the Bevanite left-wing of the Party although also supported by Hugh Dalton who liked to go 'talent-spotting' among young MPs. He rose quickly through the ministerial ranks, but resigned along with Aneurin Bevan and Harold Wilson in 1951 over National Health Service charges. He stood down as an MP at the 1955 general election.

Freeman became a presenter of Panorama and was editor of the New Statesman from 1961 to 1965. He also presented the interview programme, Face to Face. While Harold Wilson was Prime Minister, Freeman was appointed the British High Commissioner in India (1965–1968) and Ambassador in Washington DC (1969–1971). Freeman was appointed to the Privy Council in 1966.

Freeman became Chairman of London Weekend Television Ltd in 1971, serving until his retirement in 1984. During this period, he wrote an article in 1981 which criticised what he saw as the heavy-handed, interventionist broadcasting policy of the British government expressed in the ethos of the Independent Broadcasting Authority, and expressed views which would soon come to be closely associated with Margaret Thatcher and the deregulatory, laissez-faire new school of Conservative Party politics. He was director of several other companies in this period and President of ITN (1976–1981).

Following his retirement he commentated on bowls for Granada Television. From 1985 to 1990 he was Visiting Professor of International Relations at the University of California, Davis. Following the death of Morgan Morgan-Giles on 4 May 2013, Freeman is currently the oldest surviving former MP. He is the last survivor of those elected to Parliament in 1945, and the former MP with the earliest date of first election. Following the death of Tony Benn on 14 March 2014, he is also, at the age of 99, the last surviving member of the 1950 parliament.

Personal life[edit]

Freeman has been married four times:

  1. Elizabeth Allen Johnston (1938–1948; dissolved)
  2. Margaret Ista Mabel Kerr (1948–1957; widowed)
  3. Catherine Dove (1962–1976; dissolved)
  4. Judith Mitchell (since 1976)

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William Helmore
Member of Parliament for Watford
Succeeded by
Frederick Farey-Jones
Political offices
Preceded by
Frederick Bellenger
Financial Secretary to the War Office
Succeeded by
(office merged into Under-Secretary of State for War)
Preceded by
The Lord Pakenham
Under-Secretary of State for War
Succeeded by
Michael Stewart
Media offices
Preceded by
Kingsley Martin
Editor of the New Statesman
Succeeded by
Paul Johnson
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sir Paul Gore-Booth
High Commissioner to India
Succeeded by
Sir Morrice James
Preceded by
Sir Patrick Dean
British Ambassador to the United States
Succeeded by
George Baring, 3rd Earl of Cromer