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Peter David Shore, Baron Shore of Stepney PC (20 May 1924 – 24 September 2001) was a British Labour politician and former Cabinet Minister, noted in part for his opposition to the United Kingdom's entry into the European Economic Community. He was described in a obituary by the Conservative journalist Patrick Cosgrave as "Between Harold Wilson and Tony Blair, the only possible Labour Party leader of whom a Conservative leader had cause to walk in fear."

Early life

Shore was the son of a Merchant Navy captain and was brought up in a middle-class environment. He attended the Quarry Bank Grammar Schoolmarker in Liverpoolmarker, England after passing his eleven plus, and went from there to King's College, Cambridgemarker, to study history, where he was a member of the Cambridge Apostles, a secret society with an elite membership. During the later stages of World War II he served in the Royal Air Force, spending most time in India.

Member of Parliament

He had specialised in political economy during part of his degree and joined the Labour Party in 1948. He spent the 1950s working for the party and after two unsuccessful Parliamentary contests, he was appointed as Head of the Labour Party's Research Department in 1959 and took charge of the renewal of party policy following its third successive defeat. Shore was not a supporter of Hugh Gaitskell but worked well with Harold Wilson once he had been elected as Leader, and was the main author of the Labour Party manifesto for the 1964 general election. At the last minute he was selected to fight the safe seat of Stepney in the election, and kept it easily.

After only a short time on the backbenches, Wilson chose Shore to be his Parliamentary Private Secretary, responsible for liaising between the Prime Minister and Labour MPs, though Denis Healey termed him "Harold's lapdog". Shore was responsible for drafting the 1966 and 1970 election manifestos. Shore's job as Wilson's PPS kept them in close contact and he was impressed enough to give Shore rapid promotion. In August 1967, aged 43 and after less than three years as an MP, Shore became a member of the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Economic Affairs.

In government

This Department had been created by Wilson to undertake long-term planning of the economy. Shore declared immediately his belief in state-controlled economic planning, together with regulation of prices and wages. This view was unpopular with the trade unions, who had great influence. Early in 1968 the responsibility for prices and incomes was transferred to another department. The Treasurymarker had never approved of the creation of the Department for Economic Affairs and began reasserting its influence, depriving it of any significant power. The Department was wound up in October 1969. At the same time, Shore sided with those in cabinet who were opposed to Barbara Castle's White Paper In Place of Strife. In a conversation with Richard Crossman at the time, Wilson was frustrated with Shore: "I over-promoted him. He's no good."

Shore was retained in the Cabinet as a Minister without Portfolio and Deputy Leader of the House of Commons. He played a key part, behind the scenes, in planning the Labour Party's unsuccessful 1970 general election campaign. In opposition, Shore was appointed as spokesman on Europe, taking the lead in opposing the Heath government's application to join the European Economic Community. Shore had already become convinced that membership of the EEC would be a disaster because it would forbid a British government from taking necessary economic action. However, due to organisation by pro-EEC Labour backbenchers, Heath was able to steer his policy successfully through Parliament.

EEC

When Wilson returned to government in 1974, Shore was appointed as Secretary of State for Trade. His term in office was dominated by the renegotiation of the terms of British membership of the EEC, a pledge contained in the Labour manifesto as a preparation for a national referendum on membership; this compromise had reunited the Labour Party on the issue. Shore participated in the discussions without believing that any new terms would be acceptable, and during the referendum he joined with other anti-EEC 'dissenting ministers' in opposing membership.

The results of the 1975 Referendum, giving a two-to-one majority in favour of remaining members, damaged Shore along with the other dissenting ministers. His inclination to support an autarkic economy ruled him out of consideration as a new Chancellor of the Exchequer, but Shore was moved to Secretary of State for the Environment by new Prime Minister James Callaghan in 1976. This move was a promotion but involved him in considerable political controversy. He called on local authorities to cut spending and waste, and criticised the trade unions representing local authority staff for failure to support modernisation. Shore also launched a campaign to revitalise the inner cities of Britain.

Labour leadership candidate

When the Labour Party went into opposition in 1979, Shore was made Shadow Foreign Secretary, having recanted on his previous support for CND. He was persuaded to stand as a candidate in the election of a new party Leader in November 1980 by Michael Foot who thought he was the best-placed soft-left candidate to defeat Denis Healey. However, Shore came bottom of the poll with 32 votes when Foot was himself persuaded to stand. Foot then made him Shadow Chancellor where his support for interventionist measures met with Foot's approval; party policy also became opposed to EEC membership, which suited Shore well.

Shadow Cabinet, Backbenches and retirement

He fought for the leadership again after Foot resigned, but obtained a dismal vote of 3%, being supported by no Constituency Labour Parties at all. Shore served as Shadow Leader of the House of Commons for four years under Neil Kinnock but his influence with the leadership was negligible and he was not re-elected to the Shadow Cabinet in 1985. He stood down from the front bench in 1987 and thereafter served on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, devoting himself to European Union questions. Tony Blair selected him as a senior Labour statesman as his nominee for the Committee on Standards in Public Life when it was set up in 1994.

After several attempts in his constituency to deselect him, he finally stood down from Parliament at the 1997 general election, taking a life peerage as Baron Shore of Stepney, of Stepney in the London Borough of Tower Hamletsmarker in the dissolution honours' list. His book Separate Ways (2001) advocated a multi-speed Europe, with some countries as merely associate members, so as to allow the centre to forge a political union at its own pace.

In popular culture

Shore was portrayed by Ron Meadows in the 2002 BBC production of Ian Curteis's controversial The Falklands Play.

References

  1. Patrick Cosgrave "Lord Shore of Stepney", The Independent, 26 September 2001. Retrieved on 20 May 2009.
  2. Tam Dalyell "Lord Shore of Stepney", The Independent, 26 September 2001. Retrieved on 20 May 2009.
  3. Edward Pearce "Lord Shore of Stepney", The Guardian, 26 September 2001. Retrieved on 20 May 2009.
  4. "Time for Decision", - Text of the 1966 Labour Party manifesto, Keele University website.
  5. "Now Britain's Strong - Let's Make It Great to Live In", - Text of the 1970 Labour Party manifesto, Keele University website.


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