Born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1906, Platts-Mills was educated at Nelson College from 1919 to 1924. He graduated with a first-class honours degree in law from Victoria University of Wellington and in 1928 won a Rhodes Scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford. At one time identifying with the conservative English Mistery group, it was the Hoare–Laval Pact which permanently altered his political outlook.
After graduating he was called to the Bar from the Inner Temple in 1932, then worked as a barrister in London, and in 1936 joined the Labour Party. On the outbreak of the Second World War he joined the Royal Air Force. However he was later told to leave, and it was suspected that this was due to his communist sympathies. Once the Soviet Union entered the war, the military was more enthusiastic about his involvement.
In the Commons Platts-Mills emerged as one a small number of MPs with pro-Soviet sympathies. Platts-Mills' opposition to NATO and his claim that the United States had too much power in Europe brought him into conflict with the leadership of the Labour Party.
In April 1948, Platts-Mills organised a petition in support of Pietro Nenni and the Italian Socialist Party in its general election campaign. Controversial because Nenni was in alliance with the Italian Communist Party, this action became the foundation of the Labour Independent Group. He gained support from other MPs including Konni Zilliacus, D. N. Pritt, Geoffrey Bing and William Warbey. This went against government policy. Platts-Mills was expelled from the Labour Party, and standing as an independent, he lost his seat in the 1950 general election.
He returned to his legal career and established himself as one of Britain's leading barristers. He was made a QC in 1964, and readmitted to the Labour Party in 1969. "A master of courtroom theatre and his clashes with the Bench entered into legal legend", his clients as Defence Counsel included the Great Train Robbers and the Kray twins.
Platts-Mills died on 26 October 2001.
He was the father of forester Tim Platts-Mills, Lonrho director Jonathan Platts-Mills, allergist Thomas Platts-Mills, film director Barney Platts-Mills, wood sculptor Benjamin Platts-Mills and QC Mark Platts-Mills.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by John Platts-Mills
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
George Savile Woods
|Member of Parliament for Finsbury