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The Lord Thomson of Monifieth
George Thomson in 1973
European Commissioner for Regional Policy
In office
6 January 1973 – 5 January 1977
PresidentFrançois-Xavier Ortoli
Preceded byAlbert Borschette
Succeeded byAntonio Giolitti
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
In office
8 July 1970 – 10 April 1972
LeaderHarold Wilson
Preceded byGeoffrey Rippon
Succeeded byFred Peart
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
6 October 1969 – 20 June 1970
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byFrederick Lee
Succeeded byAnthony Barber
In office
6 April 1966 – 7 January 1967
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byDouglas Houghton
Succeeded byFrederick Lee
Minister without Portfolio
In office
17 October 1968 – 6 October 1969
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byPatrick Gordon-Walker
Succeeded byThe Lord Drumalbyn
Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs
In office
29 August 1967 – 17 October 1968
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byHerbert Bowden
Succeeded byMichael Stewart (foreign and Commonwealth affairs)
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
23 March 1977 – 3 October 2008
Life peerage
Member of Parliament
for Dundee East
In office
17 July 1952 – 1 March 1973
Preceded byThomas Cook
Succeeded byGeorge Machin
Personal details
Born(1921-01-16)16 January 1921
Penn, Buckinghamshire, England
Died3 October 2008(2008-10-03) (aged 87)
London, England
Political party
Grace Jenkins
(m. 1948)
Children2, including Caroline

George Morgan Thomson, Baron Thomson of Monifieth, KT, PC, DL, FRSE (16 January 1921 – 3 October 2008) was a British politician and journalist who served as a Labour MP. He was a member of Harold Wilson's cabinet, and later became a European Commissioner.

In the 1980s, he joined the Social Democratic Party. Following the SDP's merger with the Liberal Party, he became a Liberal Democrat and sat as a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords.

Early life

Thomson was educated at Grove Academy, Broughty Ferry, Dundee. At 16 he left school to become a local reporter with the Dundee newspaper, magazine and comic publishers DC Thomson. He became deputy editor of the firms' successful comic The Dandy and for a short time was its editor, despite being only 18 years old. He left the firm in 1940 to serve in the Royal Air Force. Due to eyesight problems he was not able to take a flight crew role and served on the ground for fighter command.[1] He returned to DC Thomson in 1946, but left the firm after clashing with them over his right to join a trade union. He then became assistant editor, and later editor, of Forward, a Scottish-based socialist newspaper, from 1946 to 1953.[1][2]

Political career

At the 1950 and 1951 general elections, Thomson stood unsuccessfully in Glasgow Hillhead. In 1952, he was elected Member of Parliament in a by-election for Dundee East, where he served until his resignation in 1972. He served in the Wilson government as Minister of State, Foreign Office, from October 1964 to April 1966, then as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster from 1966 to 1967, and again from 1969 to 1970, Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs from 1967 to 1968, and Minister without Portfolio from 1968 to 1969. During his time as Commonwealth Secretary he had responsibility for trying to reach a settlement of the Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) question and for implementing sanctions against the regime there. He was one of the first British Commissioners of the European Community (EC) from 1973 to 1977, with responsibility for regional policy. As chairman of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) from 1981 to 1988 he oversaw the introduction of Channel 4 and TV-am.[3]

He was Chair of the Advertising Standards Authority from 1977 to 1980; Chair of the IBA 1981–88; a European Commissioner, with responsibility for Regional Policy 1973–76; First Crown Estate Commissioner from 1977 to 1980; and a Member of the Committee on Standards in Public Life from 1994 until 1997. He was Deputy Chair of the Woolwich Building Society from 1988 to 1991. He had been a Lords' Member of the Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit since 1993. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Royal Television Society, and a patron of Sustrans.[4]

In 1985 he was invited to deliver the MacMillan Memorial Lecture to the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland; he chose "Does Public Broadcasting Have a Future? The Challenge of the New Technologies".[5] After moving with his wife, Grace, to Charing, Kent, Thomson held the position of Party President, for Ashford Liberal Democrats, from 1999 to 2006.[citation needed]


He died on Friday 3 October 2008 at London's St Thomas' Hospital, from a viral infection.[6][7] He was survived by his wife, Grace (née Jenkins), Lady Thomson (1925–2014),[8] and their two daughters, Ailsa and Caroline,[9] the former chief operating officer of the BBC.


Thomson received an honorary doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 1973.[10]

Thomson was made a Privy Counsellor in 1966, was created a Life Peer on 23 March 1977 as Baron Thomson of Monifieth, of Monifieth in the District of the City of Dundee,[11] and became a Knight of the Thistle in 1981.[12]


  1. ^ a b Willie Russell (2008). "George Morgan Thomson" (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh Knowledge made useful. Royal Society of Edinburgh. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  2. ^ Ian MacDougall, Voices from Work and Home, p.563
  3. ^ "Lord Thomson of Monifieth". 5 October 2008. Retrieved 9 October 2015.
  4. ^ "Sustrans: join the movement". Archived from the original on 15 March 2009. Retrieved 4 October 2008.
  5. ^ "Hugh Miller Macmillan". Macmillan Memorial Lectures. Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland. Archived from the original on 4 October 2018. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  6. ^ "Former minister Lord Thomson dies". BBC. Retrieved 23 February 2023.
  7. ^ "Former minister Lord George Thomson dies aged 87". Daily Record. 4 October 2008. Retrieved 23 February 2023.
  8. ^ Tam Dalyell (24 August 2014). "Lady Thomson: Wife of the MP George Thomson who helped smooth her". The Independent. Retrieved 23 February 2023.
  9. ^ Tom Leonard (22 July 2000). "BBC steps into new bias row". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 23 February 2023.
  10. ^ "Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh: Honorary Graduates". Archived from the original on 18 April 2016. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  11. ^ "No. 47181". The London Gazette. 24 March 1977. p. 4039.
  12. ^ "No. 48810". The London Gazette. 1 December 1981. p. 15283.
Media offices Preceded byEmrys Hughes Editor of Forward 1948–1953 Position abolished Preceded byLady Plowden Chairman of the Independent Broadcasting Authority 1981–1988 Succeeded byGeorge Russell Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded byThomas Cook Member of Parliament for Dundee East 19521972 Succeeded byGeorge Machin Political offices Preceded byDouglas Houghton Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 1966–1967 Succeeded byFrederick Lee Preceded byHerbert Bowden Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs 1967–1968 Succeeded byMichael Stewartas Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Preceded byPatrick Gordon-Walker Minister without Portfolio 1968–1969 Succeeded byThe Lord Drumalbyn Preceded byFrederick Lee Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 1969–1970 Succeeded byAnthony Barber Preceded byGeoffrey Rippon Shadow Secretary of State for Defence 1970–1972 Succeeded byFred Peart New office British European Commissioner 1973–1977 Served alongside: Christopher Soames Succeeded byRoy JenkinsChristopher Tugendhat Preceded byAlbert Borschette European Commissioner for Regional Policy 1973–1977 Succeeded byAntonio Giolitti