Milner Gray (politician)

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Milner Gray (1871 – 10 April 1943) was a British Liberal politician.

Family life and business[edit]

Gray was born in Luton, Bedfordshire, the son of a Baptist Minister,[1] although he himself was a Methodist in religion.[2] He was educated at Greenwich. In 1902 he married Elizabeth Eleanor Luck of Lewisham. They never had children. In business Gray was chairman of Frank Harden Ltd of Luton (manufacturers of ladies' hats) and a director of the United Match Industries.[3]


Gray first tried to enter Parliament in 1911.[4] At the 1918 general election he contested Wellingborough as a Coalition Liberal, i.e. a supporter of the coalition government between those members of the Liberal Party led by David Lloyd George and the Conservatives but he lost in a straight fight to Labour.[5] He stood as Liberal candidate at then December 1919 by-election in St Albans but he came last, losing his deposit.[6] He was unsuccessful at the 1923 general election at Bedford where he also stood again without success in 1924. However he was finally elected as a Liberal MP for Mid Bedfordshire at the 1929 general election. He was briefly Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Labour in 1931 during the period the Liberal Party supported the National Government of Ramsay Macdonald.[1] Gray had styled himself a Liberal National candidate for the 1931 although he was never a member of the Liberal National group led by Sir John Simon. Initial indications were that the Conservatives would stand aside for him in 1931 and Gray thought they should[7] but his hopes were soon dashed however and he was opposed by a Unionist candidate, Alan Lennox-Boyd who also supported the National Government.[8]

In 1934 Gray tried to persuade Lloyd George to take a more active part in leading the party again, inviting him to speak at the annual meeting of the National Liberal Federation (NLF) meeting in Bournemouth but LG refused saying the NLF had always made him feel like the prodigal son.[9] Gray stood again in Mid Bedfordshire at the 1935 election but did not win it back. In 1936 he was elected to serve on the Liberal Party Council.[10]

He attempted to enter Parliament again at a by-election in June 1938 in West Derbyshire but despite an energetic campaign and his personal qualities as a political speaker,[11] he came bottom of the poll in a three cornered contest.[12] Perhaps as a consolation for losing his Parliamentary seat, he was made a CBE in 1937.


Throughout his career Gray took a particular interest in foreign affairs, was strongly in favour of an effective League of Nations[13] and was prominent in highlighting the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany. In November 1938, he led a deputation from the Liberal Party organisation to number 10 Downing Street to deliver a resolution calling for government action and urging more generous offers of political asylum.[14] Later that month he was also one of a number of signatories – politicians, artists, writers etc. – to a letter to The Times objecting to the persecution of the Jews in Germany.[15] On other policy matters Gray was regarded as an authority on employment issues, presumably one result of his experience at the Ministry of Labour and in 1933 he chaired a Liberal Party policy committee on unemployment insurance.[16]


Gray was chairman of the executive of the Liberal Party organisation for six years and was a member of the Council of the Liberal Party at the time of his death. He died at his home in Wheathampstead in Hertfordshire.[4]


  1. ^ a b Who was Who, OUP 2007
  2. ^ The Times, 26.5.38
  3. ^ The Times, 22.10.28
  4. ^ a b The Times, 12.4.43
  5. ^ The Times, 22.11.19
  6. ^ The Times, 24.12.19
  7. ^ Philip Murphy; Alan Lennox Boyd; A Biography; St Martin’s Press, 1999 p.31
  8. ^ The Times, 19.10.31
  9. ^ Frances Stevenson: Lloyd George, A Diary, edited by A J P Taylor; Hutchinson, 1971 p.263
  10. ^ The Liberal Magazine, 1936
  11. ^ The Times, 1.6.38
  12. ^ The Times, 4.6.38
  13. ^ e.g. the Times 17.12.36
  14. ^ The Times, 17.11.38
  15. ^ The Times, 22.11.38
  16. ^ The Times, 22.4.33

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William Ward Warner
Member of Parliament for Mid Bedfordshire
Succeeded by
Alan Lennox-Boyd
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ronald Walker
Chairman of the National Liberal Federation
Succeeded by
Harry Spencer
Preceded by
Harry Spencer
Chairman of the Liberal Party
Succeeded by
Philip Fothergill