John Hodge in or before 1905
John Hodge in or before 1905

John Hodge (29 October 1855 – 10 August 1937) was a Labour Party and later Coalition Labour politician in the United Kingdom. He was the UK's first Minister of Labour, and the second Minister of Pensions.

Early life

Hodge was born in Linkeyburn, Ayrshire and attended Ironworks School and Hutchesons' Grammar School. When he was thirteen Hodge left school to become a solicitor's clerk and then worked a grocer's shop before joining the local iron works as a puddler—the same job as his father.

Hodge first became involved with trade unionism while at the local iron works. Hodge helped form the British Steel Smelters' Association in 1885, of which he would be elected secretary, after bosses at Colville in Motherwell informed workers that their wages would be twenty per cent lower than before. The BSSA was a success and by the summer of 1886 practically every smelter in Scotland had become a member and by 1888 the BSSA had members joining from England and Wales and become affiliated with the TUC. The BSSA rarely organised strikes, but Hodge was successful at negotiating increases in wages.

Hodge also helped form the Associated Society of Millmen, acting as its secretary and treasurer for a year before its members could hold an election.[1]

Political career

Hodge (third from right) in 1906, with other leading figures in the party
Hodge (third from right) in 1906, with other leading figures in the party

Hodge was a member of the Manchester City Council from 1897 to 1901.[citation needed]

At the 1900 general election, Hodge unsuccessfully contested Gower.[2] He was unsuccessful again in Preston at the by-election in May 1903.[2]

He finally won a seat at the 1906 general election, when he was elected as the Labour Party Member of Parliament for Manchester Gorton.[2] When the United Kingdom declared war and entered World War I in 1914, Hodge took a very patriotic stance and criticised other Labour politicians for opposing it. From 1915 to 1916 Hodge was Acting Chairman of the Labour Party. In 1916 he was part of the Mesopotamia Commission of Inquiry. He was also elected as president of the British Iron, Steel & Kindred Trades Association which he had helped to form with other iron and steel unions. He was Chairman of the 'patriotic labour' British Worker's National League[3]

From December 1916 to August 1917, Hodge was the first Minister of Labour and had a seat in the Cabinet. At this job Hodge claimed that all strikes during war-time were acts of treason and Hodge successfully made striking boilermakers to go back to work by threatening to charge them with the Defence of the Realm Act. Hodge supported the Empire Resources Department Committee, signing its manifesto.[4] From August 1917 to January 1919, Hodge was Minister of Pensions in the Lloyd George Coalition Government. In 1919 he appeared in the film Broken in the Wars directed by Cecil Hepworth to advertise a fund set up for ex-servicemen.

Hodge kept his seat in both the general election of 1918 and the general election of 1922 but retired from Parliament at the general election of 1923. Hodge continued to argue against strikes during the General Strike of 1926 and retired from the presidency of the British Iron, Steel & Kindred Trades Association in 1931.

Hodge was turned down for military service because he was too old. Arthur Griffith-Boscawen, who served under Hodge, called him a "fat, rampaging and most patriotic Tory working man".[5]


  1. ^ Arthur Marsh and Victoria Ryan, Historical Directory of Trade Unions, vol.2, pp.271-272
  2. ^ a b c Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1974]. British parliamentary election results 1885–1918 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. pp. 173, 317, 478. ISBN 0-900178-27-2.
  3. ^ Hendley, Matthew C. Organized Patriotism and the Crucible of War McGill-Queen's University Press (2012) note 189 p244
  4. ^ Constantine, Stephen, The Making of British Colonial Development Policy 1914–1940 Frank Cass (1984)
  5. ^ Sir Arthur Griffith-Boscawen, Memoirs (1925), p. 207.
Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded byErnest Frederic George Hatch Member of Parliament for Manchester Gorton 19061923 Succeeded byJoseph Compton Trade union offices Preceded byNew position General Secretary of the British Steel Smelters' Association 1886 – 1917 Succeeded byPosition abolished Preceded byNew position General Secretary of the Associated Society of Millmen 1888 – 1889 Succeeded byJohn Cronin Preceded byThomas Burt President of the Trades Union Congress 1892 Succeeded bySamuel Munro Preceded byJoseph Nicholas Bell and Allan Gee Trades Union Congress representative to the American Federation of Labour 1907 With: David Shackleton Succeeded byHerbert Skinner and John Wadsworth Preceded byNew position President of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation 1917 – 1931 Succeeded byLincoln Evans Political offices New title Minister of Labour 1916–1917 Succeeded byGeorge Henry Roberts Preceded byGeorge Barnes Minister of Pensions 1917–1919 Succeeded bySir Laming Worthington-Evans, Bt Party political offices Preceded byWilliam Charles Steadman Chairman of the Annual Conference of the Labour Representation Committee 1901 Succeeded byWilliam John Davis Preceded byRichard Bell Chairman of the Labour Representation Committee 1903–1904 Succeeded byDavid Shackleton Preceded byJoseph Nicholas Bell Chairman of the Annual Conference of the Labour Representation Committee 1904 Succeeded byArthur Henderson