John Parker (British politician)

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Herbert John Harvey Parker (15 July 1906 – 24 November 1987), normally known as John Parker, was a British politician. He remains the longest-serving Labour Party Member of Parliament (MP), retaining a seat in the House of Commons for 48 years.

He was first elected to represent Romford in November 1935. After boundary changes, he continued as MP for Dagenham from 1945, remaining in the House of Commons until he retired in June 1983.[1][2] As the longest-serving MP, he was the Father of the House of Commons from 1979 to 1983. When he left parliament in 1983, he was the last serving Member of Parliament to have served in the Commons before or during World War II.

Early and private life[edit]

Parker was raised in Liverpool. He was educated at Marlborough College and St John's College, Oxford, where he was Chair of Oxford University Labour Club.[1]

He married Zena Mimardiere in 1943. They had one son.[3]

Political career[edit]

Parker contested the seat of Holland with Boston in Lincolnshire in the 1931 general election, but the sitting National Liberal MP James Blindell was reelected.

In the 1935 general election, Parker was elected as MP for Romford in Essex, which he represented until 1945. He was elected as MP for Dagenham at the 1945 general election, a new seat carved out of the Romford constituency. (His Labour colleague Thomas Macpherson was elected in Romford in 1945, but lost the seat to the Conservative John Lockwood in 1950).

Parker was a briefly a junior minister from 1945 to 1946, serving as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Dominions Office, with James Callaghan as his Parliamentary private secretary. He lost this position as a result of the strong views he held on South Africa. He remained a backbencher afterwards, serving on several Parliamentary committees, including the Procedure Committee from 1966 to 1973.[3]

His private members bill introduced in 1952 to repeal the Sunday Observance Act 1780 was rejected, but another private members bill became the Legitimacy Act 1959,dealing with the legitimacy of children whose parents married after the birth and children from void marriages. He also shepherded a ten minute rule bill into law, the British Nationality (No 2) Act 1964, which implemented the implementing the United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.[3]

Parker remained MP for Dagenham until he retired at the 1983 general election. He was the last serving MP to have been elected before the Second World War, and he was the Father of the House of Commons from 1979 to 1983, succeeded by his former PPS, Callaghan.

Labour politician Bryan Gould was elected as his replacement in Dagenham in 1983. Parker had been reelected with substantial majorities through his term as MP, and the seat has been represented by Labour politicians subsequently although with substantially reduced majorities.[4] The constituency became Dagenham and Rainham in 2010.

Parker was associated with the Fabian Society throughout his political career. He became General Secretary of the New Fabian Research Bureau in 1933, and was General Secretary of the Fabian Society from 1939 to 1945.[3] He was subsequently its Vice-Chairman and Chairman. He became President of the Fabian Society in 1980.[1]

He published several books, including 42 Days in the Soviet Union (1946) and Labour Marches On (1947), and his memoirs, Father of the House (1982). His archive of papers, spanning nearly 40 years of public office from 1943 to 1982, are held by the London School of Economics as part of the British Library of Political and Economic Science.[3]


  1. ^ a b c The Labour MP who served for longer than Tony Benn, BBC News, 19 March 2014
  2. ^ Stephen Bates (2007-10-05). "People". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-10-05. 
  3. ^ a b c d e PARKER, Herbert John Harvey (1906-1987), politician and President of the Fabian Society AIM25
  4. ^ The Almanac of British Politics, Robert Waller, Byron Criddle

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William Hutchison
Member of Parliament for Romford
Succeeded by
Thomas Macpherson
New constituency Member of Parliament for Dagenham
Succeeded by
Bryan Gould
Party political offices
Preceded by
F. W. Galton
General Secretary of the Fabian Society
1939 – 1945
Succeeded by
Bosworth Monck
Preceded by
G. D. H. Cole
Chairman of the Fabian Society
1950 – 1953
Succeeded by
Austen Albu
Preceded by
Margaret Cole
President of the Fabian Society
1980 – 1987
Succeeded by
Billy Hughes
Political offices
Preceded by
George Strauss
Father of the House
Succeeded by
James Callaghan