Ernest Brown (British politician)

Alfred Ernest Brown CH MC PC (27 August 1881 – 16 February 1962) was a British politician who served as leader of the Liberal Nationals from 1940 until 1945. He was a member of Parliament and also held many other political offices throughout the Second World War.

Ernest Brown
Minister of Aircraft Production
In office
25 May 1945 – 5 July 1945
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byStafford Cripps
Succeeded byOffice abolished
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
11 November 1943 – 25 May 1945
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byDuff Cooper
Succeeded byJames Arthur Salter
Minister of Health
In office
8 February 1941 – 11 November 1943
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byMalcolm MacDonald
Succeeded byHenry Willink
Chairman of the National Liberal Party
In office
Preceded byJohn Simon
Succeeded byJames Henderson-Stewart
Secretary of State for Scotland
In office
14 May 1940 – 8 February 1941
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byJohn Colville
Succeeded byTom Johnston
Minister of Labour
In office
7 June 1935 – 14 May 1940
Prime MinisterStanley Baldwin
Neville Chamberlain
Preceded byOliver Stanley
Succeeded byErnest Bevin
Secretary for Mines
In office
30 September 1932 – 18 June 1935
Prime MinisterRamsay MacDonald
Preceded byIsaac Foot
Succeeded byHarry Crookshank
Member of Parliament
for Leith
In office
23 March 1927 – 5 July 1945
Preceded byWilliam Wedgwood Benn
Succeeded byJames Hoy
Member of Parliament
for Rugby
In office
6 December 1923 – 29 October 1924
Preceded byEuan Wallace
Succeeded byDavid Margesson
Personal details
Born(1881-08-27)27 August 1881
Torquay, Devon, United Kingdom
Died16 February 1962(1962-02-16) (aged 80)
Political partyNational Liberal

Biography edit

Born in Torquay, Devon, Brown was the son of a fisherman and prominent Baptist and it was through following his father that he came to preach, gaining much experience as a public speaker. He soon came to the attention of the local Liberals and became a prominent public speaker at political meetings.

Brown served in the First World War: in 1914 he joined the Sportsman's Battalion and in 1916 was commissioned as an officer in the Somerset Light Infantry. He was mentioned in dispatches and was awarded the Military Cross and Italian Silver Star.

After three unsuccessful attempts in other constituencies, he was elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for Rugby in the 1923 general election but lost his seat in the 1924 general election. In 1927 he returned to Parliament in a by-election at Leith. During this time he became a devoted follower of Sir John Simon as the latter became increasingly at odds with the leader of the Liberals, David Lloyd George, and the party's support, from 1929, for the minority Labour government of Ramsay MacDonald. In 1931 he followed Simon in resigning the Liberal party whip and then subsequently in setting up the Liberal Nationals.

In cabinet edit

In the National Government of Ramsay MacDonald, Brown became Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health in November 1931. The following year the official Liberal Cabinet ministers resigned from the government and Brown was promoted to become Secretary for Mines. In 1935 when MacDonald was succeeded as Prime Minister by Stanley Baldwin, Brown entered the Cabinet as Minister of Labour. This proved controversial as many believed that the Minister of Transport Leslie Hore-Belisha, had a stronger claim to be the next Liberal National to enter the Cabinet, though as unemployment was one of the government's biggest problems, many others felt that Brown's appointment to the job was not one to envy. He held the post for the next five years under both Baldwin and his successor, Neville Chamberlain. One of his most prominent achievements was the Unemployment Insurance (Agriculture) Act, 1936 which extended social security to nearly all workers in agriculture, forestry and horticulture. In another sphere he oversaw the formation of the National Joint Advisory Committee which assisted in wage control, compulsory arbitration, and direction of labour. He also helped workers in distributing to organise and took great pride when in 1937 the Trades Union Congress passed a unanimous resolution thanking him for this. In 1939 his department was expanded to incorporate overseeing National Service.

Party leadership edit

When Chamberlain fell in 1940 he was succeeded by Winston Churchill who moved Brown to the position of Secretary of State for Scotland, an unusual move as Brown, despite sitting for a Scottish constituency, was English by birth. At the same time Brown became the leader of the Liberal Nationals after Sir John Simon was transferred to the House of Lords. Brown served as Secretary of State for Scotland for a year before becoming Minister of Health for two years and finally Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Brown's tenure as leader of the Liberal Nationals was one of decline, as the party saw its influence diminish. Many in the party had regretted the division of Liberal forces a decade earlier and Brown undertook negotiations with the Liberal Party leader Sir Archibald Sinclair over a potential reunion, but these talks foundered on the question of continued support for the National Government after the war. The change in the leadership of the Conservatives was also unfavourable and when, in 1945, Churchill formed his "Caretaker" government he did not include Brown or any other senior Liberal Nationals except Lord Rosebery in the Cabinet, despite claiming to head a "National" administration. Brown was instead appointed Minister of Aircraft Production. In the 1945 general election Brown lost his seat.

Retirement and legacy edit

After the war Brown devoted his attention to the church, often visiting other parts of the Commonwealth.

Brown had a reputation for being a fast speaker and many contemporary political commentators estimated that he could deliver a statement to the House of Commons faster than any other minister. The size of his voice was also noted. Baldwin once saw Brown in a phonebox at the House of Commons and is said to have remarked, "I didn't think he needed a phone to communicate with his constituents." Another more famous story reflecting on Brown's strong voice, is told of when Stanley Baldwin was living at 11 Downing Street he was startled by a great shouting in the building. When informed that it was Ernest Brown talking to Scotland, Baldwin said "Why doesn't he use the telephone?"[1]

References edit

  1. ^ Baldwin, Arthur (1955). My Father The True Story. George Allen & Unwin Ltd. p. 107.

Bibliography edit

External links edit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Rugby
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Leith
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Labour
Succeeded byas Minister of Labour and National Service
Preceded by Secretary of State for Scotland
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Health
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Aircraft Production
Office abolished
Party political offices
Preceded by Leader of the Liberal National Party
Succeeded by