Manny Shinwell

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Lord Shinwell
Shinwell in the 1940s
Minister of Defence
In office
28 February 1950 – 26 October 1951
Prime MinisterClement Attlee
Preceded byA. V. Alexander
Succeeded byWinston Churchill
Secretary of State for War
In office
7 October 1947 – 28 February 1950
Prime MinisterClement Attlee
Preceded byFrederick Bellenger
Succeeded byJohn Strachey
Minister of Fuel and Power
In office
3 August 1945 – 7 October 1947
Prime MinisterClement Attlee
Preceded byGwilym Lloyd George
Succeeded byHugh Gaitskell
Secretary for Mines
In office
5 June 1930 – 3 September 1931
Prime MinisterRamsay MacDonald
Preceded byBen Turner
Succeeded byIsaac Foot
In office
23 January 1924 – 11 November 1924
Prime MinisterRamsay MacDonald
Preceded byGeorge Lane-Fox
Succeeded byGeorge Lane-Fox
Financial Secretary to the War Office
In office
11 June 1929 – 5 June 1930
Prime MinisterRamsay MacDonald
Preceded byDuff Cooper
Succeeded byWilliam Sanders
Parliamentary offices
Member of the House of Lords
Life peerage
29 June 1970 – 8 May 1986
Member of Parliament
for Easington
(Seaham 1935–1950)
In office
14 November 1935 – 29 May 1970
Preceded byRamsay MacDonald
Succeeded byJack Dormand
Member of Parliament
for Linlithgowshire
In office
4 April 1928 – 7 October 1931
Preceded byJames Kidd
Succeeded byAdrian Baillie
In office
15 November 1922 – 9 October 1924
Preceded byJames Kidd
Succeeded byJames Kidd
Personal details
Emanuel Shinwell

(1884-10-18)18 October 1884
Spitalfields, London, England
Died8 May 1986(1986-05-08) (aged 101)
London, England
Political partyLabour
Fanny Freeman
(m. 1903; died 1954)
Dinah Meyer
(m. 1956; died 1971)
Sarah Sturgo
(m. 1972; died 1977)

Emanuel Shinwell, Baron Shinwell, CH, PC (18 October 1884 – 8 May 1986) was a British politician who served as a government minister under Ramsay MacDonald and Clement Attlee. A member of the Labour Party, he served as a Member of Parliament (MP) for 40 years, for Linlithgowshire, Seaham and Easington respectively.

Born in the East End of London to a large family of Jewish immigrants, Shinwell moved to Glasgow as a boy and left school at the age of eleven. He became a trade union organiser and one of the leading figures of Red Clydeside. He was imprisoned in 1919 for his alleged involvement in the disturbances in Glasgow in January of that year. He served as a Labour MP from 1922 to 1924, and from a by-election in 1928 until 1931, and held junior office in the minority Labour Governments of 1924 and 1929–1931. He returned to the House of Commons in 1935, defeating former UK Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, who by that time had been expelled from the Labour Party. During the Second World War, he was a leading backbencher critic of the Coalition Government.

Shinwell is perhaps best remembered as the Minister of Fuel and Power in the Attlee ministry that nationalised coal mining in 1946. He was in charge of Britain's coal supply during the extremely harsh winter of January to March 1947, during which the supply system collapsed, leaving the United Kingdom to freeze and close down. He became unpopular with the public and was sacked in October 1947. He then served as Secretary of State for War, and then as Minister of Defence from 1950 to 1951. The high defence spending which he demanded, partly to pay for British involvement in the Korean War, was a major factor causing then-Chancellor of the Exchequer Hugh Gaitskell to impose NHS charges, prompting the resignation of Aneurin Bevan from the Cabinet.

After Labour's defeat in 1951, Shinwell continued to serve in the Shadow Cabinet in Opposition until he stepped down in 1955. Thereafter he was a senior backbencher until 1970, by which time he was in his mid-eighties. That year he accepted a life peerage and was an active member of the House of Lords until shortly before his death, aged 101, in 1986.

Early life, career and trade union activities[edit]

Shinwell was born in Spitalfields, London, but his family moved to Glasgow, Scotland. His father was a Polish Jew who had a small clothing shop, and his mother, a Dutch Jew, was a cook from London.[1] He was the eldest of thirteen children.[2]

He educated himself in a public library and at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery. He enjoyed sport, particularly boxing, and he was the trainer of a local football team. He left school at age eleven to be apprenticed as a tailor, and began his working life as a machinist in a clothing workshop. In 1903, he became active in the Amalgamated Union of Clothiers' Operatives, and joined the Glasgow Trades Council in 1906 as a delegate of that union.[2]

In May 1911, he was seconded to help organise the seamen of Glasgow at the request of Havelock Wilson of the National Sailors' and Firemen's Union (NSFU). He played a prominent role in the six-week Glasgow seamen's strike which began on 14 June and which was part of a nationwide strike. He subsequently became the secretary of the Glasgow branch of the NSFU. In August 1912, he participated in a revolt against the union, which resulted in the Glasgow branch becoming part of the Southampton-based British Seafarers' Union (BSU). He was the local secretary of the BSU until it became part of the Amalgamated Marine Workers' Union (AMWU) in 1922, after which he served as National Organiser of the new organisation.[2]

Shinwell (left) at an election meeting in 1918

In 1918, he stood unsuccessfully for Linlithgowshire[2] (alternative name West Lothian[3]).

In 1919, he gained national notoriety through his involvement in the Glasgow 40 Hours' Movement. This movement culminated in clashes between police and protesters in Glasgow's George Square in January 1919, in which he was alleged to have been involved. He was afterwards tried for incitement to riot and was sentenced to five months' imprisonment in Calton Jail, Edinburgh.[4][2]

Political career[edit]

Interwar and World War Two[edit]

Shinwell in 1920

An Independent Labour Party (ILP) member, he was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for Linlithgowshire at the 1922 general election.[2]

In 1924 he was Secretary for Mines (not a Cabinet-level post)[5] in the First Labour Government. He lost his seat in 1924, but was re-elected for Linlithgowshire at a by-election in 1928.[2]

In the second Labour Government of 1929–31 Ramsay MacDonald appointed him Financial Secretary to the War Office (1929–30); Cowling says that MacDonald believed he had rescued Shinwell's ministerial career when no minister would take him. He then served again as Secretary for Mines from 1930 to 1931. At the time Shinwell was an admirer of MacDonald and tried to dissuade him from forming a National Government in 1931. He again lost his seat at the general election that year.[2]

He returned to the Commons in 1935 after defeating MacDonald for Seaham Harbour, County of Durham (later renamed Easington after boundary changes in the late 1940s).[2]

He campaigned vigorously, along with left-wingers such as Aneurin Bevan, for Britain to support the Popular Front government in Spain against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. On 4 April 1938, during a heated House of Commons debate in which he had been criticising the government's foreign policy, he struck Conservative MP Commander Robert Tatton Bower in the face- causing internal bleeding and a burst eardrum-[6] after Bower told him to "go back to Poland!".[2][7] Shinwell said he had taken this to be an anti-semitic remark.[8]

In May 1940 he refused a position in Winston Churchill's Coalition Government in the Ministry of Food. He became chairman of the Labour Party in 1942. During the Second World War he was a vigorous but patriotic backbench critic of Churchill. He and Earl Winterton, another serial critic of the government, were known as "Arsenic and Old Lace".[9]

Attlee Governments: 1945–51[edit]

Minister of Fuel and Power[edit]

He served in Clement Attlee's Cabinet after the Labour victory in 1945 as Minister of Fuel and Power, and in 1946 he presided over the nationalisation of the mining industry. He also negotiated a miners' charter with the NUM. He declared the middle class "not worth a tinker's cuss".[2] His insistence on the open-cast mining of the park of the Wentworth Woodhouse estate, to the doorsteps of the house, when the quality of the coal was poor, was viewed by its owners and the local mining community, which opposed it, as pure vindictiveness – an act of class warfare.[10] In 1947-8 he was Chairman of the Labour Party.[2]

In 1947, Britain experienced, in an exceptionally severe winter, a serious coal shortage. The supply system collapsed, leaving Britain to freeze and close down. Shinwell denied there were problems and refused to assume responsibility, blaming the climate, the railway system, or capitalism generally.[11] Shinwell was widely criticised for his failure to avert this crisis. His earlier comment that "There will be no fuel crisis. I am Minister of Fuel and Power and I ought to know", was later included in the official handbook for Conservative Party members to use in speeches and leaflets.[12]

In 1947 Shinwell presided over the nationalisation of electricity. In October 1947 he was sacked. He was bitterly resentful at being replaced by Hugh Gaitskell, his former deputy and a public schoolboy. He was also attacked by James Callaghan (then a junior minister) for his lack of zeal about further nationalisation.[2]

Secretary of State for War[edit]

Shinwell was demoted to Secretary of State for War (Minister for the Army, but no longer a full member of the Cabinet) a position which he held until 1950. He was a vigorous War Minister, who got on well with the Army and was seen as jingoistic.[2]

In November 1947 a report from MI5 alleged that Shinwell had passed secret information to a man named "Stanley", who had passed it on to Zionist paramilitary group, the Irgun. Shinwell knew self-styled "contact man" Sidney Stanley, whom he had approached for help in finding employment for his son Ernie, and Stanley had obtained information on the disbandment of the Transjordan Frontier Force from some government source.[13]

Minister of Defence[edit]

Shinwell's seat became Easington at the February 1950 election, after which he was promoted to Minister of Defence and became a full member of the Cabinet once more. Edmund Dell described him as "putty in the hands of the defence chiefs" and his promotion as "[a] ludicrous appointment. No failure was ever great enough to persuade Attlee to deny one of his cohorts new opportunities to do damage … Shinwell never forgave Gaitskell, whom he blamed for his disgrace." Gaitskell, promoted to Chancellor of the Exchequer later in the year, recorded in his diary that Shinwell "never loses an opportunity of picking a quarrel with me, sometimes on the most ridiculous grounds".[14]

His term of office saw the Malayan Emergency and the early stages of Korean War, which began in June 1950 and to which British troops were deployed.[2] Shinwell was responsible for the rearmament programme which precipitated the resignation of Aneurin Bevan from the Cabinet in the spring of 1951, although Gaitskell actually gave him less defence spending than he wanted.[14] In the summer of 1951 the Cabinet blocked him from sending British troops to Abadan when the oil refineries were nationalised by the Iranian government.[2]

Shinwell was by now seen as being on the right of the Labour Party. At the Labour Party Conference at Scarborough that autumn, he lost his place as an elected constituency representative on the Labour Party National Executive Committee (NEC), the members of which were increasingly elected by Bevanites in the constituency parties. Labour lost the general election a month later.[15][16]

Later political career[edit]

Shinwell stepped down from the Shadow Cabinet (which at that time was elected by Labour MPs when the party was in opposition) in 1955. That year he published a volume of memoirs, Conflict Without Malice.[2] By the early 1960s he had changed his mind about nuclear weapons and opposed the deployment of US nuclear submarines to Holy Loch.[2]

Shinwell did not resume ministerial office when Labour returned to power in October 1964, but instead the new Prime Minister Harold Wilson appointed him Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, and during the 1964-6 Parliament he worked hard to drum up backbench support for the government, which had a very narrow majority.[2] He was appointed to the Order of the Companions of Honour in the 1965 Birthday Honours.[17] He was vehemently opposed to Wilson's attempt to enter the EEC in 1966, and resigned as Chairman of the Labour Party in 1967.[2]

He got on well both with Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery and with the journalist Sir John Junor.[2]

Shinwell was created a life peer as Baron Shinwell, of Easington in the County of Durham, on 29 June 1970.[18][19] He later became chair of the All-Party Lords Defence Study Group. In 1973 he published another volume of memoirs, I've Lived through It All. He voted against the Labour Government in 1976. He resigned the Labour Party whip in 1982 in protest at left wing militancy.[2]


In October 1984 Shinwell celebrated his hundredth birthday against the backdrop of the miners' strike.[2] He continued to be active in the House of Lords until shortly before his death.[20] He became the longest-lived peer on 26 March 1986, dying a little over a month later on 8 May, aged 101. He held the record for the second longest-lived British MP (after Theodore Cooke Taylor) until overtaken by Bert Hazell in November 2008.[2]

Shinwell's estate was valued for probate at £271,509 (around £700,000 at 2016 prices).[2][21]

Personal life[edit]

Shinwell was married three times: from 1903 to 1954 to Fay (Fanny) Freeman, by whom he had two sons and a daughter, from 1956 to 1971 to Dinah Meyer, who was Danish, and from 1972 to 1977 to Sarah Sturgo.[2] He outlived all three of his wives.[22] Shinwell's great-niece is the former MP for Liverpool Wavertree, Luciana Berger.[23]

Shinwell sat for sculptor Alan Thornhill for a portrait[24] in clay. The correspondence file relating to the Shinwell portrait bust is held as part of the Thornhill Papers (2006:56) in the archive[25] of the Henry Moore Foundation's Henry Moore Institute in Leeds and the terracotta remains in the collection of the artist. A bronze (accession number S.309) was purchased for the Collection of Glasgow City Art Gallery in 1973.[26]

Shinwell was a lifelong smoker, having smoked tobacco from the age of 13; on many occasions he was seen smoking with his pipe. Shinwell was also an enthusiastic drinker of spirits, particularly whisky.[27]


  1. ^ Samuelson, Maurice. "Lord Shinwell Dead at 101". Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z Matthew 2004 pp364-5
  3. ^ Edinburgh Gazette, Issue 14007, Page 417, 21 March 1924
  4. ^ "Diagram of George Square used by defence lawyers in trial of Emanuel Shinwell". Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  5. ^ ODNB has him as Parliamentary Under-Secretary, which appears to be an error
  6. ^ "Foreign News: Anti-Semitic". Time. 18 April 1938. Retrieved 18 February 2019 – via
  7. ^ "SPAIN". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). 4 April 1938. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  8. ^ "Foreign News: Anti-Semitic". TIME. 18 April 1938. Archived from the original on 20 December 2008. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  9. ^ Matthew 2004 pp364-5 Winterton was an Irish peer and thus eligible to sit in the Commons
  10. ^ Bailey, Catherine (2007). Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty. London: Penguin. pp. 385–93. ISBN 978-0670915422.
  11. ^ Kenneth O. Morgan, The people's peace: British history, 1945–1990 (1992) pp 68–69.
  12. ^ Rees-Mogg 2011, p 77
  13. ^ Andrew, C. (2009). The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5. London, UK: Allen Lane. pp. 360–62. ISBN 978-0-141-02330-4.
  14. ^ a b Dell 1997, pp. 145, 153
  15. ^ The ODNB erroneously states that he lost his NEC seat at the infamous Morecambe Conference in 1952, the year in which Dalton and Herbert Morrison were voted off
  16. ^ Campbell 1987, p. 256
  17. ^ "No. 43667". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 June 1965. p. 5496.
  18. ^ "No. 45134". The London Gazette. 23 June 1970. p. 6943.
  19. ^ "No. 45137". The London Gazette. 26 June 1970. p. 7103.
  20. ^ Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Lord Shinwell
  21. ^ "Compute the Relative Value of a U.K. Pound". Archived from the original on 31 March 2016. Retrieved 21 August 2017.
  22. ^ "Oldest British Lord Was 101 : Lord Shinwell, Scrappy Laborite, Dies". 6 December 2010. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  23. ^ Luciana Berger’s departure is the beginning of the end for Labour | Coffee House
  24. ^ portrait head of Lord Shinwell Archived 19 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine image of sculpture
  25. ^ HMI Archive Archived 12 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine; accessed 13 May 2014.
  26. ^ Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum; accessed 13 May 2014.
  27. ^


Shinwell wrote three volumes of autobiography:

  • Conflict Without Malice (1955)
  • I've Lived Through it All (1973)
  • Lead With the Left (1981)

Shinwell wrote "When The Men Come Home" (1944)


  • Slowe, Peter, "Manny Shinwell" Pluto Press (1993), foreword by Harold Wilson. ISBN 9780745307374

Scholarly studies:

  • Robertson Alex J.. The Bleak Midwinter 1947 (Manchester University Press. 1987). pp. x, 207

Book used for citations:


External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Linlithgowshire
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Linlithgowshire
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Seaham
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Easington
Succeeded by
Preceded by Oldest sitting member
(nb not Father of the House)

Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Secretary for Mines
Succeeded by
Preceded by Financial Secretary to the War Office
Succeeded by
Preceded by Secretary for Mines
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Fuel and Power
Succeeded by
Preceded by Secretary of State for War
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Defence
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Scottish Division representative on the National Administrative Council of the Independent Labour Party
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the Labour Party
Succeeded by