Douglas Patrick Thomas Jay, Baron Jay, PC (23 March 1907 – 6 March 1996) was a British Labour Party politician.

The Lord Jay
Jay, pictured in 1949
President of the Board of Trade
In office
18 October 1964 – 29 August 1967
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byEdward Heath
Succeeded byAnthony Crosland
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
In office
23 February 1950 – 30 October 1951
Prime MinisterClement Attlee
Preceded byGlenvil Hall
Succeeded byJohn Boyd-Carpenter
Economic Secretary to the Treasury
In office
13 November 1947 – 23 February 1950
Prime MinisterClement Attlee
Preceded byOffice created
Succeeded byJohn Edwards
Member of Parliament
for Battersea North
In office
26 July 1946 – 13 May 1983
Preceded byFrancis Douglas
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Personal details
Douglas Patrick Thomas Jay

(1907-03-23)23 March 1907
Died6 March 1996(1996-03-06) (aged 88)
Political partyLabour
Spouse(s)Peggy Jay
Mary Thomas
Children4, including Peter Jay (born 1937), Helen and Catherine Jay (born 1945)[1]
Alma materNew College, Oxford

Early life and education edit

Educated at Winchester College[2] and New College, Oxford, Jay won the Chancellor's English Essay in 1927 and gained a First in Literae Humaniores ('Greats') in 1929.[3] He was a Fellow of All Souls from 1930 to 1937. His early career was as an economics journalist, working for The Times (1929–33), The Economist (1933–37) and the Daily Herald (1937–41), then as a civil servant in the Ministry of Supply and the Board of Trade. From 1943 he was a personal assistant to Hugh Dalton.

Political career edit

Jay was a convinced democratic socialist from a young age, but only joined the Labour Party in the winter of 1933–34, whereupon he became a member of Paddington constituency party.[4] In his capacity as a journalist he was a senior figure in the XYZ Club, a clandestine organisation in the City of London dedicated to supplying Labour with financial intelligence.[5] Alongside Evan Durbin and Hugh Gaitskell, he brought the thinking of John Maynard Keynes to the party, especially in relation to price determination.

In The Socialist Case (1937), his first book, Jay wrote: "in the case of nutrition and health, just as in the case of education, the gentleman in Whitehall really does know better what is good for people than the people know themselves". This statement was mercilessly exploited by the Conservatives and won him long-lasting notoriety; it has often been paraphrased as "the man in Whitehall knows best". In fact, Jay was always rather sceptical of planning and bureaucracy when compared to his contemporaries; as Geoffrey Foote noted, he denied the "identification of planning with socialism", instead viewing Labour's creed as "being about the suppression of unearned income, not the abolition of the market economy".[6] Later his views somewhat changed, as he became influenced by the successful operation of rationing during the war.

Jay was elected a Labour Member of Parliament for Battersea North at a by-election in July 1946.[7] and held the seat until the constituency was abolished at the 1983 general election. After entering Westminster, he served as Economic Secretary to the Treasury from 1947 to 1950, Financial Secretary to the Treasury from 1950 to 1951 and President of the Board of Trade from 1964 until being sacked in 1967. Jay's politics during his period at the Board of Trade were characterised by a spirited fight for regional development and an aversion to currency devaluation, but it was his opposition to closer integration with Europe (see below) that led Harold Wilson to relieve him of his brief – a decision which Wilson, ever averse to conflict, explained was due to the need to have no ministers in the Cabinet over the age of 60.[8][9] Jay was sworn of the Privy Council in 1951.[10]

Jay was always fervently opposed to the UK's entry into the European Communities, and in 1970 was the first leading politician to argue that, because all three mainstream parties in Britain supported membership, only a national referendum of all electors could decide the matter in a fair manner.[11] When that referendum eventually transpired in 1975, he campaigned for a 'no' vote.

Honours edit

Jay was created a life peer as Baron Jay, of Battersea in Greater London, on 8 October 1987.[12]

Family edit

Jay's grave at St. Kenelm's Church in Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire, in 2022

In 1933 he married the councillor Peggy Jay; their marriage ended in divorce. Their eldest son is the economist Peter Jay, who married (and later divorced) Margaret Callaghan, daughter of James Callaghan with whom Douglas Jay had served in government. Their twin daughters, Helen and Catherine, achieved a fashionable profile in the 1960s.[13] Douglas Jay's second wife, Mary Thomas, had been one of his assistant private secretaries at the Board of Trade.

Publications edit

  • The Socialist Case (1937)
  • Who is to Pay for the War and the Peace? (1941)
  • Socialism in the New Society (1962)
  • After the Common Market (1968)
  • Change and Fortune (1980) (autobiography)
  • Sterling: A Plea for Moderation (1985)

Notes and references edit

  1. ^ "The Jay Twins".
  2. ^ Adrian Wooldridge (27 April 2006). Measuring the Mind: Education and Psychology in England C.1860-c.1990. Cambridge University Press. p. 186. ISBN 978-0-521-02618-5.
  3. ^ Oxford University Calendar 1932, pp. 273, 488
  4. ^ Douglas Jay, Change and Fortune: a Political Record (London: Hutchinson, 1980), pp. 56-7.
  5. ^ Jay, Change and Fortune, p. 60.
  6. ^ Geoffrey Foote, The Labour Party's Political Thought (London: Croom Helm, 1985), p. 201.
  7. ^ Craig, F. W. S. (1983) [1969]. British parliamentary election results 1918–1949 (3rd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 3. ISBN 0-900178-06-X.
  8. ^ Roger Broad, Labour's European Dilemmas: from Bevin to Blair (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001), p. 84.
  9. ^ Jay, Change and Fortune, p. 407.
  10. ^ "No. 39396". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 November 1951. p. 6235.
  11. ^ Douglas Jay, "Joining the Six – the case for a referendum", The Times, 1 August 1970, p. 13.
  12. ^ "No. 51090". The London Gazette. 13 October 1987. p. 12667.
  13. ^ Lesley Garner (26 March 1995). "Twin faces of a fast decade". The Independent. Retrieved 15 February 2021.

External links edit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Battersea North
constituency abolished
Political offices
New office Economic Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Preceded by Financial Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the Board of Trade
Succeeded by