Mallalieu was educated at the Dragon School in Oxford, Cheltenham College, Trinity College, Oxford and the University of Chicago. He was President of the Oxford Union in 1930 and a Rugby blue. He served in the Royal Navy 1942-45. His novel, Very Ordinary Seaman, is based on his experiences in the navy.
Mallalieu was Member of Parliament for Huddersfield from 1945 to 1950, and for Huddersfield East after boundary changes from 1950 to 1979. He had various ministerial positions under Harold Wilson, including Defence for the Royal Navy (1964–1967), the Board of Trade (1967–1968) and Technology (1968–1969).
Mallalieu is the author of Rats! (Left Book Club, 1941) under the pseudonym 'The Pied Piper'.
A collection of his writing on various sports, mostly written for The Spectator magazine, was published as Sporting Days (The Sportsmans Book Club, 1957).
He was given the Freedom of Kirklees in West Yorkshire on 27 January 1980.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Joseph Mallalieu
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