Jump to content

Herbert Morrison

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Lord Morrison of Lambeth
Morrison in 1947
Leader of the Opposition
In office
25 November 1955 – 14 December 1955
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterAnthony Eden
Preceded byClement Attlee
Succeeded byHugh Gaitskell
Foreign Secretary
In office
9 March 1951 – 26 October 1951
Prime MinisterClement Attlee
Preceded byErnest Bevin
Succeeded byAnthony Eden
Lord President of the Council
In office
26 July 1945 – 9 March 1951
Prime MinisterClement Attlee
Preceded byThe Lord Woolton
Succeeded byThe Viscount Addison
Leader of the House of Commons
In office
26 July 1945 – 16 March 1951
Prime MinisterClement Attlee
Preceded byAnthony Eden
Succeeded byJames Chuter Ede
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
In office
25 May 1945 – 2 February 1956
LeaderClement Attlee
Preceded byArthur Greenwood
Succeeded byJim Griffiths
Home Secretary
Minister of Home Security
In office
4 October 1940 – 23 May 1945
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byJohn Anderson
Succeeded byDonald Somervell
Minister of Supply
In office
12 May 1940 – 4 October 1940
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byLeslie Burgin
Succeeded byAndrew Rae Duncan
Leader of the London County Council
In office
9 March 1934 – 27 May 1940
Preceded byWilliam Ray
Succeeded byCharles Latham
Minister of Transport
In office
7 June 1929 – 24 August 1931
Prime MinisterRamsay MacDonald
Preceded byWilfrid Ashley
Succeeded byJohn Pybus
Parliamentary offices
Member of the House of Lords
Life peerage
2 November 1959 – 6 March 1965
Member of Parliament
for Lewisham South
Lewisham East (1945–1950)
In office
5 July 1945 – 18 September 1959
Preceded bySir Assheton Pownall
Succeeded byCarol Johnson
Member of Parliament
for Hackney South
In office
14 November 1935 – 15 June 1945
Preceded byMarjorie Graves
Succeeded byHerbert William Butler
In office
30 May 1929 – 7 October 1931
Preceded byGeorge Garro-Jones
Succeeded byMarjorie Graves
In office
6 December 1923 – 9 October 1924
Preceded byClifford Erskine-Bolst
Succeeded byGeorge Garro-Jones
Personal details
Herbert Stanley Morrison

(1888-01-03)3 January 1888
London, England
Died6 March 1965(1965-03-06) (aged 77)
Sidcup, Kent, England
Political partyLabour
Margaret Kent
(m. 1919; died 1953)
Edith Meadowcroft
(m. 1955)
RelativesPeter Mandelson (grandson)

Herbert Stanley Morrison, Baron Morrison of Lambeth, CH, PC (3 January 1888 – 6 March 1965) was a British politician who held a variety of senior positions in the Cabinet as a member of the Labour Party. During the inter-war period, he was Minister of Transport during the Second MacDonald ministry, then after losing his parliamentary seat in the 1931 general election, he became Leader of the London County Council in the 1930s. After returning to the Commons, he was defeated by Clement Attlee in the 1935 Labour Party leadership election but later acted as Home Secretary in the wartime coalition.

Morrison organised Labour's victorious 1945 election campaign, and was appointed Leader of the House of Commons and acted as Attlee's deputy in the Attlee ministry of 1945–51. Attlee, Morrison, Ernest Bevin, Stafford Cripps, and initially Hugh Dalton formed the "Big Five" who dominated those governments. Morrison oversaw Labour's nationalisation programme, although he opposed Aneurin Bevan's proposals for a nationalised hospital service as part of the setting up of the National Health Service. Morrison developed his social views from his work in local politics and always emphasised the importance of public works to deal with unemployment. In the final year of Attlee's premiership, Morrison had an unhappy term as Foreign Secretary. He was hailed as "Lord Festival" for his successful leadership of the Festival of Britain, a critical and popular success in 1951 that attracted millions of visitors to fun-filled educational exhibits and events in London and across the country.

Morrison was widely expected to succeed Attlee as Labour leader but Attlee, who disliked him, postponed stepping down until 1955. Morrison, who was by then nearing 70 and considered too old, came a poor third in the 1955 Labour Party leadership election.[1]

Early life


Morrison was born in Stockwell, Lambeth, London, youngest child (there being three boys and four girls) of police constable Henry Morrison (died 1917) and Priscilla Caroline, née Lyon (died 1907), daughter of an East End carpet fitter. Henry Morrison had a "weakness for the bottle", and with his Conservative political opinions his son would later come to disagree strongly.[2]

As a baby, he permanently lost the sight in his right eye due to infection. He attended Stockwell Road Primary School and, from the age of 11, St Andrew's Church of England School. He 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 One.[3]

Political career


Early career


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. He wrote a book Socialisation and Transport : the Organisation of Socialised Industries with Particular Reference to the London Passenger Transport Bill which encapsulated his ideas on nationalisation. Managers would be appointed to run monopoly industries in the public interest. He did not, however, envisage democratic control by the workers.[4] 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.[3]

In the 1935 election, Morrison was once again elected to the House of Commons and immediately challenged Attlee for the leadership of the party. He was defeated by a wide margin in the final ballot, 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. He convinced Labour to adopt the new electioneering techniques that opponents had been using, especially using advertising agencies in the 1937 local elections.[6] For example, he stressed housing, education and his own leadership with posters featuring Morrison alongside children and with a backdrop of new LCC flats above slogans such as "Labour Puts Human Happiness First", "Labour Gets Things Done" and "Let Labour Finish the Job."[7]

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.[8][9]

In 1945 he attended the World Trade Union Conference at County Hall.[10]

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",[11] the implication being that the LCC would deliberately build council houses in order to affect local voting patterns. His biographers, Bernard Donoghue and George W. Jones, have written that "Morrison never said or wrote" the words attributed to him.[12]

Wartime Coalition


In 1940, Morrison was appointed the first Minister of Supply by Winston Churchill, but shortly afterwards succeeded 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. He made radio appeals for more fire guards in December 1940 ('Britain shall not burn').[13]

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 for opposing war with Germany and supporting the Soviet Union. The ban lasted for a total of 18 months before it was 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." That was in a memorandum for the cabinet in 1942.[14] In 1942, Morrison was confronted with an appeal from the Central British Fund for German Jewry (now World Jewish Relief) to admit 350 Jewish children from Vichy France.[15] Although Case Anton ensured the scheme's failure, Morrison had been reluctant to accept it beforehand, wanting to avoid provoking the 'anti-foreign and anti-semitic feeling which was quite certainly latent in this country (and in some isolated cases not at all latent)'.[16]

In 1943, he ran for the post of Treasurer of the Labour Party but lost a close contest to Arthur Greenwood.[17]

Labour Government, 1945–51


Following the end of the war, Morrison was instrumental in drafting the Labour Party's 1945 manifesto Let us Face the Future.[3] 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 supplying the country with petrol.[18][19] Labour won a massive and unexpected victory, and Morrison was appointed Leader of the House of Commons, having switched his own seat to Lewisham East. He was the chief sponsor of the Festival of Britain.

Morrison supervised the major Labour programme of nationalising large sectors of industry. As Lord President he chaired the committee on the Socialization of Industries, and 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 public 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.[20][21]

In July 1946, Morrison, together with US ambassador Henry F. Grady proposed "The Morrison-Grady Plan", intended to resolve the Palestine conflict, calling for federalisation under overall British trusteeship. Morrison was a longtime sympathizer with Zionism, but the plan was ultimately rejected by both Palestinians and Zionists.

Following 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.[22] His tenure there was cut short by Labour's defeat in the 1951 general election, and he was appointed a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour in November that year.[23]

Festival of Britain

The 300-foot-tall Skylon at the Festival of Britain, 1951

Morrison lacked a deep concern for foreign affairs, but he was an enthusiastic leader of a major domestic project, the Festival of Britain. Starting in 1947, he was the prime mover of the 1951 fair. The original goal was to celebrate the centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1851.[24] However, the plans were changed. It was not to be another World Fair, and international themes were absent; even the Commonwealth was ignored. Instead, the Festival focused entirely on Britain and its achievements; it was funded chiefly by the government, with a budget of £12 million. The Conservatives gave little support. The Labour government was losing support, and the implicit goal of the festival was to give the people a feeling of successful recovery from the war's devastation, as well as promoting British science, technology, industrial design, architecture and the arts.[25] Historian Kenneth O. Morgan says the Festival was a "triumphant success" as thousands:

flocked to the South Bank site, to wander around the Dome of Discovery, gaze at the Skylon, and generally enjoy a festival of national celebration. Up and down the land, lesser festivals enlisted much civic and voluntary enthusiasm. A people curbed by years of total war and half-crushed by austerity and gloom, showed that it had not lost the capacity for enjoying itself....Above all, the Festival made a spectacular setting as a showpiece for the inventiveness and genius of British scientists and technologists.[26]

End of political career


Although Morrison had effectively been Attlee's heir presumptive 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 then 67, and was seen to be too old to embark on a new leadership role. 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. Ironically, Gaitskell's early death in 1963 meant he predeceased Morrison by two years.

During the Suez Crisis, Morrison advocated unilateral action by the United Kingdom against Egypt, following Colonel Nasser's seizure of the Suez Canal. Morrison 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.[27] He was appointed President of the British Board of Film Censors.[3]

During 1961–65, Morrison was Director of the FCI News Agency,[28] an organisation reporting on events behind the Iron Curtain and run by exiles from Marxist regimes such as the journalist Josef Josten.

Personal life


While working in a market garden in Letchworth during World War One, Morrison met his first wife, Margaret Kent (1896–1953), a secretary and daughter of a railway clerk. The couple married on 15 March 1919. His total involvement in politics, however, meant that theirs was not a happy marriage; his later autobiography made no mention of Kent or their daughter, Mary.[3] Morrison had a protracted affair with Labour MP and Minister Ellen Wilkinson, who died in 1947, although views differ as to whether this was a platonic or sexual relationship.[29]

Following Kent's death in July 1953, Morrison married Edith Meadowcroft (b. 1908), a businesswoman of Conservative politics. The pair married on 6 January 1955 and their relationship appeared much more successful.[3]

Morrison's grandson Peter Mandelson was a cabinet minister in the Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Morrison died from a stroke at Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup, on 6 March 1965, aged 77.[3][30] His death occurred the same month the London County Council was abolished, and he had advocated against its replacement.[3]

TV portrayal


Morrison was Foreign Secretary at the time of the defection of the double agents Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean. In the 1977 Granada 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.[31]


  1. ^ Laybourn, Keith (2002). "Morrison, Herbert Stanley". In Ramsden, John (ed.). The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-century British Politics. Oxford University Press. pp. 443–444. ISBN 0198601344.
  2. ^ https://www.oxforddnb.com/display/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-35121?rskey=MtbNCT&result=1
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Howell, David (2004) "Morrison, Herbert Stanley, Baron Morrison of Lambeth (1888–1965)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press; doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/35121
  4. ^ Kynaston, David (2007). A World to Build. London: Bloomsbury. p. 24. ISBN 9780747585404.
  5. ^ Hamill, John; Prescott, Andrew (April 2006). "The Masons' Candidate: New Welcome Lodge No. 5139 and the Parliamentary Labour Party". Labour History Review. 71 (1): 9–41(33). doi:10.1179/174581806X103862. This cites as note number 2 H. Morrison, Herbert Morrison: An Autobiography by Lord Morrison of Lambeth, London, Odhams, 1960, p. 164
  6. ^ Dominic Wring, ""Selling socialism"-The marketing of the "very old" British Labour Party." European Journal of Marketing 35#9/10 (2001): 1038-1046. online
  7. ^ Donoughue and Jones, 1972, pp. 209-11
  8. ^ Wetzel, Dave (20 September 2004) The case for taxing land. New Statesman.
  9. ^ "London Rating (Site Values) — A Bill". Land Value Taxation Campaign. Archived from the original on 27 September 2020. Retrieved 22 December 2008.
  10. ^ "Gambian trade union official Ibrahima Momodou Garba-Jahumpa ,..." Getty Images. Retrieved 3 June 2023.
  11. ^ Ken Young, John Kramer, Strategy and conflict in metropolitan housing (Heinemann Educational, 1978), p. 262.
  12. ^ Donoghue and Jones, Herbert Morrison: Portrait of a Politician. p. xxxi
  13. ^ audiobook titled The Blitz
  14. ^ Marc Blitzstein, Roland Hayes and the 'Negro Chorus' at the Royal Albert Hall in 1943. nickelinthemachine.com. May 2011
  15. ^ Gottlieb, Amy Zahl. Men of Vision: Anglo-Jewry's Aid to Victims of the Nazi Regime, 1933-1945. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1998, p.175
  16. ^ Gottlieb, Amy Zahl. Men of Vision: Anglo-Jewry's Aid to Victims of the Nazi Regime, 1933-1945. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1998, p.17
  17. ^ Whiting, R. C. (2004) "Greenwood, Arthur (1880–1954)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  18. ^ Contentious Cartoon by Dr Tim Benson , PoliticalCartoon.co.uk
  19. ^ Tabloid Nation: The Birth of the Daily Mirror to the Death of the Tabloid, by Chris Horrie, André Deutsch (2003)
  20. ^ Sked, Alan and Cook, Chris (1979) Post-War Britain: A Political History. ISBN 0140179127. pp 31–34
  21. ^ Beer, Samuel H. (1965) British Politics in the Collectivist Age. pp 188–216
  22. ^ Painter, David S. (1988), The United States, Great Britain, and Mossadegh (PDF), Georgetown University, ISBN 1-56927-332-4, archived from the original (PDF) on 17 November 2010, retrieved 23 November 2009
  23. ^ "No. 39396". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 November 1951. p. 6235.
  24. ^ Bernard Donoughue, and G. W. Jones, Herbert Morrison: Portrait of a Politician (1973), pp 492-95.
  25. ^ F.M. Leventhal, "'A Tonic to the Nation': The Festival of Britain, 1951." Albion 27#3 (1995): 445-453.
  26. ^ Kenneth O. Morgan (1992). Britain Since 1945: The People's Peace. Oxford UP. p. 111. ISBN 9780191587993.
  27. ^ "No. 41860". The London Gazette. 3 November 1959. p. 6942.
  28. ^ Polišenská, Milada (2009). Zapomenuty "Nepřitel" (Forgotten Enemy) - Josef Josten. Prague, Czechia: Libri. p. 350. ISBN 978-80-7277-432-6.
  29. ^ Rachel Reeves (2020) Women of Westminster
  30. ^ "Morrison Asked For "Jolly" Funeral Music". The Daily Telegraph. 8 March 1965. p. 1. Retrieved 27 May 2024 – via Newspapers.com.
  31. ^ Angelini, Sergio. "Philby, Burgess and Maclean (1977)". BFI screenonline. Archived from the original on 21 December 2019. Retrieved 19 January 2020.

Further reading


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

  • Socialisation and Transport, (1933).
  • Looking Ahead; War-time Speeches, (1943).
  • Parliamentary Government in Britain, (1949).

The main biography is:

  • Herbert Morrison – Portrait of a Politician (1977), by Bernard Donoughue and George Jones. (Reprinted by Orion with an introduction by Peter Mandelson 2001). ISBN 1-84212-441-2

Biographical essays include:

  • Mackintosh, John P. 'Herbert Morrison' in the original Dictionary of National Biography (supplement).
  • Morgan, Kenneth O. "Herbert Morrison", in Morgan, Labour people (1987) pp 176–88.
  • 'Herbert Morrison' by Greg Rosen in Kevin Jefferys (ed) Labour Forces: From Ernie Bevin to Gordon Brown (2002) pp 25–42.

Scholarly studies:

  • Berger, Stefan. "Herbert Morrison's London Labour Party in the Interwar Years and the SPD: Problems of Transferring German Socialist Practices to Britain." European Review of History 12.2 (2005): 291–306.
  • Hopkins, Michael F. "Herbert Morrison, the Cold War and Anglo-American Relations, 1945–1951." in Cold War Britain, 1945–1964 (Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2003) pp. 17–29.
  • Lowe, Peter. "Herbert Morrison, the Labour Government, and the Japanese Peace Treaty, 1951." in Kazuo Chiba, and Peter Lowe, eds. Britain, the United States and Japans Return to Normal, 1951-1972 (Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE, 1993). pp 1–27.
  • Radice, Giles. The Tortoise and the Hares: Attlee, Bevin, Cripps, Dalton, Morrison (Politico's Publishing, 2008).
  • Wring, Dominic. ""Selling socialism"-The marketing of the "very old" British Labour Party." European Journal of Marketing 35#9/10 (2001): 1038–1046. online
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Hackney South
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Hackney South
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Hackney South
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Lewisham East
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Lewisham South
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Secretary of the London Labour Party
Succeeded by
Preceded by Leader of the Labour Party on London County Council
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
Preceded by Leader of the Labour Party on London County Council
Succeeded by
Preceded by Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Transport
Succeeded by
Preceded by Leader of the London County Council
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Supply
Succeeded by
Preceded by Home Secretary
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Home Security
Office abolished
Preceded by Lord President of the Council
Succeeded by
Preceded by Leader of the House of Commons
Succeeded by
Preceded by Foreign Secretary
Succeeded by
Media offices
Preceded by
Sidney Harris
President of the British Board of Film Censors
Succeeded by