The Lord Morrison of Lambeth
|Leader of the Opposition|
25 November 1955 – 14 December 1955
|Prime Minister||Anthony Eden|
|Preceded by||Clement Attlee|
|Succeeded by||Hugh Gaitskell|
9 March 1951 – 26 October 1951
|Prime Minister||Clement Attlee|
|Preceded by||Ernest Bevin|
|Succeeded by||Anthony Eden|
|Lord President of the Council|
26 July 1945 – 9 March 1951
|Prime Minister||Clement Attlee|
|Preceded by||The Lord Woolton|
|Succeeded by||The Viscount Addison|
|Leader of the House of Commons|
26 July 1945 – 16 March 1951
|Prime Minister||Clement Attlee|
|Preceded by||Anthony Eden|
|Succeeded by||James Chuter Ede|
|Deputy Leader of the Labour Party|
25 May 1945 – 2 February 1956
|Preceded by||Arthur Greenwood|
|Succeeded by||Jim Griffiths|
Minister of Home Security
4 October 1940 – 23 May 1945
|Prime Minister||Winston Churchill|
|Preceded by||John Anderson|
|Succeeded by||Donald Somervell|
|Minister of Supply|
12 May 1940 – 4 October 1940
|Prime Minister||Winston Churchill|
|Preceded by||Leslie Burgin|
|Succeeded by||Andrew Rae Duncan|
|Leader of the London County Council|
9 March 1934 – 27 May 1940
|Preceded by||William Ray|
|Succeeded by||Charles Latham|
|Minister of Transport|
7 June 1929 – 24 August 1931
|Prime Minister||Ramsay MacDonald|
|Preceded by||Wilfrid Ashley|
|Succeeded by||John Pybus|
Herbert Stanley Morrison
3 January 1888
|Died||6 March 1965 (aged 77)|
(m. 1919; died 1953)
|Relatives||Peter Mandelson (grandson)|
Herbert Stanley Morrison, Baron Morrison of Lambeth, CH, PC (3 January 1888 – 6 March 1965) was a British politician who held a variety of senior positions in the UK Cabinet as member of the Labour Party. During the inter-war period, he was Minister of Transport during the Second MacDonald ministry, then after losing his parliamentary seat in the 1931 United Kingdom general election, he became Leader of the London County Council in the 1930s. After returning to the Commons, he was defeated by Clement Attlee in the 1935 Labour Party leadership election but later acted as Home Secretary in the wartime coalition.
Morrison organised Labour's victorious 1945 election campaign, and was appointed Leader of the House of Commons and acted as Attlee's deputy in the Attlee ministry of 1945–51. Attlee, Morrison, Ernest Bevin, Stafford Cripps, and initially Hugh Dalton formed the "Big Five" who dominated those governments. Morrison oversaw Labour's nationalisation programme, although he opposed Aneurin Bevan's proposals for a nationalised hospital service as part of the setting up of the National Health Service. Morrison developed his social views from his work in local politics and always emphasised the importance of public works to deal with unemployment. In the final year of Attlee's premiership, Morrison had an unhappy term as Foreign Secretary. He was hailed as "Lord Festival" for his successful leadership of the Festival of Britain, a critical and popular success in 1951 that attracted millions of visitors to fun-filled educational exhibits and events in London and across the country.
Morrison was widely expected to succeed Attlee as Labour leader but Attlee, who disliked him, postponed stepping down until 1955. Morrison, who was by then considered too old, came a poor third in the 1955 Labour Party leadership election.
Morrison was born in Stockwell, Lambeth, London, to Priscilla (née Lyon; died 1907) and Henry Morrison (died 1917), one of six children who survived infancy. Henry Morrison was a police constable, with whose Conservative political opinions his son would later come to disagree strongly.
As a baby, he permanently lost the sight in his right eye due to infection. He attended Stockwell Road Primary School and, from the age of 11, St Andrew's Church of England School. He left school at 14 to become an errand boy. His early politics were radical, and he briefly flirted with the Social Democratic Federation over the Independent Labour Party (ILP). As a conscientious objector, he worked in a market garden in Letchworth in World War One.
Morrison eventually became a pioneer leader in the London Labour Party. He was elected to the Metropolitan Borough of Hackney in 1919 when the Labour Party won control of the Borough, and he was Mayor in 1920–21. Morrison was a follower of Clapton Orient FC and became a shareholder in the club. He was elected to the London County Council (LCC) in 1922 and at the 1923 general election he became Member of Parliament (MP) for Hackney South, but lost that seat the following year when Ramsay MacDonald's first administration lost the general election.
Morrison returned to Parliament in the 1929 general election, and MacDonald appointed him Minister of Transport. Morrison, like many others in the party, was deeply disheartened by MacDonald's national government, and he lost his seat again in 1931.
Morrison continued to sit on the London County Council and in 1933 was elected to lead the Labour Group. He wrote a book Socialisation and Transport : the Organisation of Socialised Industries with Particular Reference to the London Passenger Transport Bill which encapsulated his ideas on nationalisation. Managers would be appointed to run monopoly industries in the public interest. He did not, however, envisage democratic control by the workers. Unexpectedly, Labour won the 1934 LCC election and Morrison became Leader of the council. This gave him control of almost all local government services in London. His main achievements here included the unification of bus, tram and trolleybus services with the Underground, by the creation of the London Passenger Transport Board (colloquially known as London Transport) in 1933, and creating the Metropolitan Green Belt around the suburbs. He confronted the Government over its refusal to finance the replacement of Waterloo Bridge, and eventually they agreed to pay 60% of the cost of the new bridge.
In the 1935 election, Morrison was once again elected to the House of Commons and immediately challenged Attlee for the leadership of the party. He was defeated by a wide margin in the final ballot, a defeat ascribed to his unfamiliarity with the MPs who had served in the previous Parliament. Both he and his supporter Hugh Dalton put some of the blame on the Masonic New Welcome Lodge, who, they claimed, backed the third-place leadership candidate Arthur Greenwood and then switched their votes to Attlee. After losing, Morrison concentrated on his LCC work. He convinced Labour to adopt the new electioneering techniques that opponents had been using, especially using advertising agencies in the 1937 local elections. For example, he stressed housing, education and his own leadership with posters featuring Morrison alongside children and with a backdrop of new LCC flats above slogans such as "Labour Puts Human Happiness First", "Labour Gets Things Done" and "Let Labour Finish the Job."
In 1939, Conservative MPs defeated Herbert Morrison's bill introducing "site value rating", a tax on similar lines to Land Value Tax, in the old London County Council area.
By the late 1960s, long after Morrison had left the leadership of the London County Council, London Conservatives frequently accused him of seeking to "build the Tories out of London", the implication being that the LCC would deliberately build council houses in order to affect local voting patterns. His biographers, Bernard Donoghue and George W. Jones, have written that "Morrison never said or wrote" the words attributed to him.
In 1940, Morrison was appointed the first Minister of Supply by Winston Churchill, but shortly afterwards succeeded John Anderson as Home Secretary. Morrison's London experience in local government was particularly useful during the Blitz, and the Morrison shelter was named after him. He made radio appeals for more fire guards in December 1940 ('Britain shall not burn').
Morrison had to take many potentially unpopular and controversial decisions by the nature of wartime circumstances. On 21 January 1941, he banned the Daily Worker for opposing war with Germany and supporting the Soviet Union. The ban lasted for a total of 18 months before it was rescinded.
The arrival of black American troops caused concern in the government, leading Morrison, the Home Secretary, to comment "I am fully conscious that a difficult social problem might be created if there were a substantial number of sex relations between white women and coloured troops and the procreation of half-caste children." That was in a memorandum for the cabinet in 1942. In 1942, Morrison was confronted with an appeal from the Central British Fund for German Jewry (now World Jewish Relief) to admit 350 Jewish children from Vichy France. Although Case Anton ensured the scheme's failure, Morrison had been reluctant to accept it beforehand, wanting to avoid provoking the ‘anti-foreign and anti-semitic feeling which was quite certainly latent in this country (and in some isolated cases not at all latent)’.
In 1943, he ran for the post of Treasurer of the Labour Party but lost a close contest to Arthur Greenwood.
Following the end of the war, Morrison was instrumental in drafting the Labour Party's 1945 manifesto Let us Face the Future. He organised the general election campaign and enlisted the help of left-wing cartoonist Philip Zec, with whom he had clashed during the early stages of the war when, as Minister of Supply, he took exception to an illustration commenting on the costs of supplying the country with petrol. Labour won a massive and unexpected victory, and Morrison was appointed Leader of the House of Commons, having switched his own seat to Lewisham East. He was the chief sponsor of the Festival of Britain.
Morrison supervised the major Labour programme of nationalising large sectors of industry. As Lord President chaired the committee on the Socialization of Industries, he followed the model that was already in place of setting up public corporations, such as the BBC in broadcasting (1927). The owners of corporate stock were given government bonds, and the government took full ownership of each affected company, consolidating it into a national monopoly. The management remained the same, only now they became public servants working for the government. For the Labour Party leadership, nationalisation was a method to consolidate national planning in their own hands. It was not designed to modernise old industries, make them efficient, or transform their organisational structure.
In July 1946, Morrison, together with US ambassador Henry F. Grady proposed "The Morrison-Grady Plan", intended to resolve the Palestine conflict, calling for federalisation under overall British trusteeship. Morrison was a longtime sympathizer with Zionism, but the plan was ultimately rejected by both Palestinians and Zionists.
Following Ernest Bevin's resignation as Foreign Secretary, Morrison took over his role, but did not feel at ease in the Foreign Office. He took an aggressive stance against Iran's nationalist Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq and approved his overthrow. His tenure there was cut short by Labour's defeat in the 1951 general election, and he was appointed a Companion of Honour in November that year.
Main article: Festival of Britain
Morrison lacked a deep concern for foreign affairs, but he was an enthusiastic leader of a major domestic project, the Festival of Britain. Starting in 1947, he was the prime mover of the 1951 fair. The original goal was to celebrate the centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1851. However, the plans were changed. It was not to be another World Fair, and international themes were absent; even the Commonwealth was ignored. Instead, the Festival focused entirely on Britain and its achievements; it was funded chiefly by the government, with a budget of £12-million. The Conservatives gave little support. The Labour government was losing support, and the implicit goal of the festival was to give the people a feeling of successful recovery from the war's devastation, as well as promoting British science, technology, industrial design, architecture and the arts. Historian Kenneth O. Morgan says the Festival was a "triumphant success" as thousands:
Although Morrison had effectively been Attlee's heir presumptive since the 1930s, Attlee had always distrusted him. Attlee remained as Leader through the early 1950s and fought the 1955 election, finally announcing his retirement after Labour's defeat. Morrison was then 67, and was seen to be too old to embark on a new leadership role. During the leadership election, he was the interim Leader of the Labour Party. Although he stood, he finished last, by a wide margin, of the three candidates, with many of his supporters switching to Hugh Gaitskell. Gaitskell won the election, and Morrison resigned as Deputy Leader.
During the Suez Crisis, Morrison advocated unilateral action by the United Kingdom against Egypt, following Colonel Nasser's seizure of the Suez Canal. Morrison stood down at the 1959 general election and was made a life peer as Baron Morrison of Lambeth, of Lambeth in the County of London on 2 November 1959. He was appointed President of the British Board of Film Censors.
During 1961–65, Morrison was Director of the FCI News Agency, an organisation reporting on events behind the Iron Curtain and run by exiles from Marxist regimes such as the journalist Josef Josten.
While working in a market garden in Letchworth during World War One, Morrison met his first wife, Margaret Kent (1896–1953), a secretary and daughter of a railway clerk. The couple married on 15 March 1919. His total involvement in politics, however, meant that theirs was not a happy marriage; his later autobiography made no mention of Kent or their daughter, Mary. Morrison had a protracted affair with Labour MP and Minister Ellen Wilkinson, who died in 1947, although views differ as to whether this was a platonic or sexual relationship.
Following Kent's death in July 1953, Morrison married Edith Meadowcroft (b. c.1908), a businesswoman of Conservative politics. The pair married on 6 January 1955 and their relationship appeared much more successful.
Morrison's grandson Peter Mandelson was a cabinet minister in the Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
He died on 6 March 1965, coincidentally in the same month as the London County Council was abolished.
Morrison was Foreign Secretary at the time of the defection of the double agents Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean. In the 1977 Granada TV play Philby, Burgess and Maclean by Iain Curteis, Arthur Lowe appeared as Morrison – glowering to the camera in his final shot to show the opaque right lens of his spectacles.
Herbert Morrison published his Autobiography in 1960. His other publications included:
The main biography is:
Biographical essays include: