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Herbert Stanley Morrison, Baron Morrison of Lambeth, CH, PC (3 January 1888 – 6 March 1965) was a British Labour politician; he held a various number of senior positions in the Cabinet, including Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister.

Morrison was the son of a police constable and was born in Lambeth, London. As a baby he lost the sight in his right eye due to infection. Morrison, like many early Labour leaders, had little in the way of formal education and left school at 14 to become an errand boy. Morrison's 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 Letchworthmarker in World War I. Morrison eventually became a pioneer leader in the London Labour Party.

Morrison was elected to the Metropolitan Borough of Hackneymarker in 1919 when the Labour Party won control of the Borough. He was Mayor in 1920-21. Morrison was also elected to the London County Council (LCC) in 1922 and the following year he became MP for South Hackney in the 1923 General Election, 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. Morrison 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. 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. Morrison's main achievement in London included the unification of bus, tram, trolleybus services with the Underground, with the creation of the London Passenger Transport Board (colloquially known as London Transport) in 1933, and creating a 'green belt' around the suburbs. He confronted the Government over its refusal to finance the replacement of Waterloo Bridgemarker, and eventually they agreed to pay 60% of the cost of the new bridge.

Morrison is often credited as saying that he would "build the Tories out of London", ie. build enough council housing to ensure Labour a solid majority of Labour voters, the opposite intent to that attributed to Westminster Council under the leadership of Shirley Porter in the 1980s. Morrison's biographers Donoughue & Jones insist that the quotation is apocryphal.

In the 1935 election Morrison was once again elected to the House of Commonsmarker and immediately challenged Clement Attlee for the leadership of the party. He lost badly, 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.

In 1940 Morrison was appointed as first Minister of Supply by Winston Churchill, but shortly afterwards succeeded Sir 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. However, Morrison had to take many potentially unpopular and controversial decisions by the nature of wartime circumstances. In 1943, Morrison ran for the post of Treasurer of the Labour Party, but lost a close contest to Arthur Greenwood.

After the end of the war, Morrison was instrumental in drafting the Labour Party's 1945 manifesto Let us Face the Future. He was the organiser of 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 the supplying the country with petrol.Tabloid Nation: The Birth of the Daily Mirror to the Death of the Tabloid, by Chris Horrie, André Deutsch (2003) Labour won a massive and unexpected victory. Morrison was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the House of Commons. In this capacity Morrison was the chief sponsor of the Festival of Britain. After Ernest Bevin's resignation as Foreign Secretary, Morrison took over his role, but did not feel at ease in the Foreign Office. However, Morrison took an aggressive stance against Iranmarker's democratic socialist Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq and approved his overthrow for what would later be known as Operation Ajax. His tenure there was cut short by Labour's defeat in the 1951 general election.

Although Morrison had effectively been Attlee's heir apparent 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 67 and was seen to be too old to embark on a new leadership. Although he stood, he finished bottom - by a wide margin - of the three candidates, with many of his supporters switching to Gaitskell. Hugh Gaitskell won the election, and Morrison resigned as Deputy Leader.

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. He was appointed President of the British Board of Film Censors.

He died in 1965, symbolically in the same month as the London County Council was abolished. His grandson Peter Mandelson was a cabinet minister in the Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. (Interestingly, whilst Morrison had held the post of Deputy Prime Minister, 2009 saw his grandson appointed First Secretary of State, notwithstanding the fact that the titles are sometimes though incorrectly seen as synonymous.)

Morrison was Foreign Secretary at the time of the defection of the double agents Guy Burgess and Donald Duart Maclean. In the 1977 BBC TV play Philby, Burgess and Maclean by Iain Curteis, Arthur Lowe made a cameo appearance as Morrison - glowering to camera in his final shot to show the opaque right lens of his spectacles.


  1. The Masons' Candidate: New Welcome Lodge No. 5139 and the Parliamentary Labour Party, By John Hamill and Andrew Prescott, Labour History Review, Volume 71, Number 1, April 2006 , pp. 9-41(33); this cites as note number 2 H. Morrison, Herbert Morrison: An Autobiography by Lord Morrison of Lambeth, London, Odhams, 1960, p. 164
  2. "Greenwood, Arthur", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  3. Contentious Cartoon by Dr Tim Benson,

Further reading

Herbert Morrison published his Autobiography in 1960. His other publications included:
  • Socialisation and Transport, 1933;
  • Looking Ahead (wartime speeches), 1933;
  • Parliamentary Government in Britain, 1949.

The main biography is:

  • Herbert Morrison - Portrait of a Politician, by Bernard Donoughue and George Jones. (Reprinted by Orion with an introduction by Peter Mandelson 2001). ISBN 1842124412

Biographical essays include:

  • 'Herbert Morrison' by John P. Mackintosh in the original Dictionary of National Biography (supplement).
  • 'Herbert Morrison' by Greg Rosen in Kevin Jefferys (ed) Labour Forces IB Taurus, 2003.

External links

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