Wellbeloved was educated at South London Technical College and was a commercial and industrial correspondent. He served as a councillor on Erith Borough Council from 1956, and was the first leader of the London Borough of Bexley from 1964. He was elected Labour Party Member of Parliament (MP) for Erith and Crayford at a 1965 by-election following the death of Norman Dodds, whose constituency chairman he had been.
Wellbeloved served successively as parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to Defence Minister Gerry Reynolds and Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart, and was also a junior defence minister in the Callaghan government. In 1981, he was among the Labour MPs who defected to the Social Democratic Party. At the 1983 general election, he lost his seat by just 920 votes to the Conservative David Evennett.
After his defection, he was referred to as "the inappropriately named Wellbeloved" by then Labour leader Michael Foot. Wellbeloved subsequently rejoined the Labour Party as a member.
- "Telegraph Obituary - James Wellbeloved". Retrieved 11 September 2012.
- Times Guide to the House of Commons, 1966 & 1983
- Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs
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