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Herbert Stanley Morrison, Baron Morrison of Lambeth, CH, PC (3 January 1888 – 6 March 1965) was a British Labour politician who held a variety of senior positions in the Cabinet.

The Right Honourable
The Lord Morrison of Lambeth
Herbert Morrison 1947.jpg
Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
26 July 1945 – 26 October 1951
Prime Minister Clement Attlee
Preceded by Clement Attlee
Succeeded by Anthony Eden
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
In office
25 May 1945 – 2 February 1956
Leader Clement Attlee
Preceded by Arthur Greenwood
Succeeded by Jim Griffiths
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
In office
9 March 1951 – 26 October 1951
Prime Minister Clement Attlee
Preceded by Ernest Bevin
Succeeded by Anthony Eden
Lord President of the Council
In office
26 July 1945 – 9 March 1951
Prime Minister Clement Attlee
Preceded by Lord Woolton
Succeeded by The Viscount Addison
Leader of the House of Commons
In office
26 July 1945 – 16 March 1951
Prime Minister Clement Attlee
Preceded by Anthony Eden
Succeeded by James Chuter Ede
Home Secretary
In office
4 October 1940 – 23 May 1945
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Preceded by Sir John Anderson
Succeeded by Donald Somervell
Minister of Supply
In office
12 May 1940 – 4 October 1940
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Preceded by Leslie Burgin
Succeeded by Andrew Rae Duncan
Leader of the London County Council
In office
9 March 1934 – 27 May 1940
Preceded by William Ray
Succeeded by Charles Latham
Minister of Transport
In office
7 June 1929 – 24 August 1931
Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald
Preceded by Wilfrid Ashley
Succeeded by John Pybus
Chairman of the Labour Party
In office
5 October 1928 – 4 October 1929
Leader Ramsay MacDonald
Preceded by George Lansbury
Succeeded by Susan Lawrence
Member of Parliament
for Lewisham South
Lewisham East (1945–1950)
In office
5 July 1945 – 8 October 1959
Preceded by Sir Assheton Pownall
Succeeded by Carol Johnson
Member of Parliament
for Hackney South
In office
14 November 1935 – 5 July 1945
Preceded by Marjorie Graves
Succeeded by Herbert William Butler
In office
30 May 1929 – 27 October 1931
Preceded by George Garro-Jones
Succeeded by Marjorie Graves
In office
6 December 1923 – 29 October 1924
Preceded by Clifford Erskine-Bolst
Succeeded by George Garro-Jones
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
2 November 1959 – 6 March 1965
Life Peerage
Personal details
Born Herbert Stanley Morrison
(1888-01-03)3 January 1888
37, Mordaunt Street, Stockwell, London, England
Died (1965-03-06)6 March 1965 (aged 77)
Peckham, South London, England
Nationality British
Political party Labour

Margaret Kent (1919–1953)

Edith Meadowcroft (1955-1965)
Children Mary Morrison (1921-2006)

During the inter-war period, he was Minister of Transport during the 1929-31 Labour Government, then, after losing his seat in Parliament in 1931, became Leader of the London County Council in the 1930s. Returning to the Commons in 1935, he was defeated by Clement Attlee in the Labour leadership election that year, but later acted as Home Secretary in the wartime coalition.

Morrison organised Labour's victorious 1945 election campaign, and was appointed Leader of the House of Commons and Deputy Prime Minister in Attlee's governments of 1945–51. Attlee, Morrison, Ernest Bevin, Stafford Cripps and (initially) Hugh Dalton formed the "Big Five" who dominated those governments. Morrison oversaw Labour's nationalisation programme, although he opposed Aneurin Bevan's proposals for a nationalised hospital service as part of the setting up of the National Health Service. Morrison developed his social views from his work in local politics and always emphasised the importance of public works to deal with unemployment. In the final year of Attlee's premiership, Morrison had an unhappy term as Foreign Secretary. He was hailed as "Lord Festival" for his successful leadership of the Festival of Britain, a critical and popular success in 1951 that attracted millions of visitors to fun-filled educational exhibits and events in London and across the country.

Morrison was widely expected to succeed Attlee as Labour leader, but Attlee, who disliked him, postponed stepping down until 1955. Morrison, who was by then considered too old, came a poor third in the ensuing Labour leadership election.[1]


Early lifeEdit

Morrison was born in Stockwell Lambeth, London, to Priscilla (née Lyon; died 1907) and Henry Morrison (died 1917), one of six children who survived infancy. Henry Morrison was a police constable, whose Conservative political opinions his son would later come to disagree with strongly.[citation needed]

As a baby, he permanently lost the sight in his right eye due to infection. He attended Stockwell Road Primary School and, from the age of 11, St Andrew's Church of England School. He left school at 14 to become an errand boy. His 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 Letchworth in World War One.[2]

Political careerEdit

Early careerEdit

Morrison eventually became a pioneer leader in the London Labour Party. He was elected to the Metropolitan Borough of Hackney in 1919 when the Labour Party won control of the Borough, and he was Mayor in 1920–21. Morrison was a follower of Clapton Orient FC and became a shareholder in the club. He was elected to the London County Council (LCC) in 1922 and at the 1923 general election he became Member of Parliament (MP) for Hackney South, but lost that seat the following year when Ramsay MacDonald's first administration lost the general election.[2]

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, and he 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. He wrote a book Socialisation and Transport : the Organisation of Socialised Industries with Particular Reference to the London Passenger Transport Bill which encapsulated his ideas on nationalisation. Managers would be appointed to run monopoly industries in the public interest. He did not, however, envisage democratic control by the workers.[3] 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. His main achievements here included the unification of bus, tram and trolleybus services with the Underground, by the creation of the London Passenger Transport Board (colloquially known as London Transport) in 1933, and creating the Metropolitan Green Belt around the suburbs. He confronted the Government over its refusal to finance the replacement of Waterloo Bridge, and eventually they agreed to pay 60% of the cost of the new bridge.[2]

In the 1935 election, Morrison was once again elected to the House of Commons and immediately challenged Attlee for the leadership of the party. He was defeated by a wide margin in the final ballot, 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.[4] After losing, Morrison concentrated on his LCC work. He convinced Labour to adopt the new electioneering techniques that opponents had been using, especially using advertising agencies in the 1937 local elections.[5] For example, he stressed housing, education and his own leadership with posters featuring Morrison alongside children and with a backdrop of new LCC flats above slogans such as 'Labour Puts Human Happiness First', ‘Labour Gets Things Done’ and ‘Let Labour Finish the Job.’[6]

In 1939, Conservative MPs defeated Herbert Morrison's bill introducing "site value rating", a tax on similar lines to Land Value Tax, in the old London County Council area.[7][8]

By the late 1960s (long after Morrison had left the leadership of the London County Council), London Conservatives frequently accused him of seeking to 'build the Tories out of London',[9] the implication being that the LCC would deliberately build council houses in order to affect local voting patterns. His biographers, Donoghue and Jones, have written that "Morrison never said or wrote" the words attributed to him.[10]

Wartime CoalitionEdit

In 1940, Morrison was appointed the 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. He made radio appeals for more fire guards in December 1940 ('Britain shall not burn').[11]

Morrison had to take many potentially unpopular and controversial decisions by the nature of wartime circumstances. On 21 January 1941, he banned the Daily Worker for opposing war with Germany and supporting the Soviet Union. The ban lasted for a total of 18 months before it was rescinded.

The arrival of black American troops caused concern in the government, leading Morrison, the Home Secretary, to comment "I am fully conscious that a difficult social problem might be created if there were a substantial number of sex relations between white women and coloured troops and the procreation of half-caste children." That was in a memorandum for the cabinet in 1942.[12] In 1942, Morrison was confronted with an appeal from the Central British Fund for German Jewry (now World Jewish Relief) to admit 350 Jewish children from Vichy France[13]. Although Case Anton ensured the scheme's failure, Morrison had been reluctant to accept it beforehand, wanting to avoid provoking the ‘anti-foreign and anti-semitic feeling which was quite certainly latent in this country (and in some isolated cases not at all latent)’.[14]

In 1943, he ran for the post of Treasurer of the Labour Party but lost a close contest to Arthur Greenwood.[15]

Deputy Prime MinisterEdit

After the end of the war, Morrison was instrumental in drafting the Labour Party's 1945 manifesto Let us Face the Future.[2] He organised 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 supplying the country with petrol.[16][17] Labour won a massive and unexpected victory, and Morrison was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the House of Commons, having switched his own seat to Lewisham East. He was the chief sponsor of the Festival of Britain.

Morrison supervised the major Labour programme of nationalising large sectors of industry. As Lord President chaired the Committee on the Socialization of Industries, he followed the model that was already in place of setting up public corporations, such as the BBC in broadcasting (1927). The owners of corporate stock were given government bonds, and the government took full ownership of each affected company, consolidating it into a national monopoly. The management remained the same, only now they became public servants working for the government. For the Labour Party leadership, nationalisation was a method to consolidate national planning in their own hands. It was not designed to modernise old industries, make them efficient, or transform their organisational structure.[18][19]

In July 1946, Morrison, together with US ambassador Henry F. Grady proposed "The Morrison-Grady Plan", intended to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, calling for federalisation under overall British trusteeship. Ultimately, the plan was rejected by both Palestinians and Israelis.

After Ernest Bevin's resignation as Foreign Secretary, Morrison took over his role, but did not feel at ease in the Foreign Office. He took an aggressive stance against Iran's nationalist Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq and approved his overthrow.[20] His tenure there was cut short by Labour's defeat in the 1951 general election, and he was appointed a Companion of Honour in November that year.[21]

Festival of BritainEdit

The 300-foot tall Skylon at the Festival of Britain, 1951

Morrison lacked a deep concern for foreign affairs, but he was an enthusiastic leader of a major domestic project, the Festival of Britain. Starting in 1947, he was the prime mover of the 1951 fair. The original goal was to celebrate the centennial of the Great Exhibition of 1851.[22] However, the plans were changed. It was not to be another World Fair, and international themes were absent; even the Commonwealth was ignored. Instead, the Festival focused entirely on Britain and its achievements; it was funded chiefly by the government, with a budget of £12-million. The Conservatives gave little support. The Labour government was losing support and so the implicit goal of the festival was to give the people a feeling of successful recovery from the war's devastation, as well as promoting British science, technology, industrial design, architecture and the arts.[23] Historian Kenneth O. Morgan says the Festival was a "triumphant success" as thousands:

flocked to the South Bank site, to wander around the Dome of Discovery, gaze at the Skylon, and generally enjoy a festival of national celebration. Up and down the land, lesser festivals enlisted much civic and voluntary enthusiasm. A people curbed by years of total war and half-crushed by austerity and gloom, showed that it had not lost the capacity for enjoying itself....Above all, the Festival made a spectacular setting as a showpiece for the inventiveness and genius of British scientists and technologists.[24]

End of political careerEdit

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 then 67 and was seen to be too old to embark on a new leadership. During the leadership election, he was the interim Leader of the Labour Party. Although he stood, he finished last, by a wide margin, of the three candidates, with many of his supporters switching to Hugh Gaitskell. Gaitskell won the election, and Morrison resigned as Deputy Leader.

During the Suez Crisis, Morrison advocated unilateral action by the United Kingdom against Egypt, following Colonel Nasser's seizure of the Suez Canal. 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 on 2 November 1959.[25] He was appointed President of the British Board of Film Censors.

Personal LifeEdit

While working in a market garden in Letchworth during World War One, Morrison met his first wife, Margaret Kent (1896–1953), a secretary and daughter of a railway clerk. The couple married on 15 March 1919. His total involvement in politics, however, meant that theirs was not a happy marriage; his later autobiography made no mention of Kent or their daughter, Mary.

Following Kent's death in July 1953, Morrison married Edith Meadowcroft (b. c.1908), a businesswoman of Conservative politics. The pair married on 6 January 1955 and their relationship appeared much more successful.[2]

Morrison's grandson Peter Mandelson was a cabinet minister in the Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.


He died on 6 March 1965, coincidentally in the same month as the London County Council was abolished.

TV portrayalEdit

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


  1. ^ Laybourn, Keith (2002) “Morrison, Herbert Stanley” in John Ramsden, ed., The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-century British Politics. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198601344. pp. 443–44
  2. ^ a b c d e Howell, David (2004) "Morrison, Herbert Stanley, Baron Morrison of Lambeth (1888–1965)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press; doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/35121
  3. ^ Kynaston, David (2007). A World to Build. London: Bloomsbury. p. 24. ISBN 9780747585404.
  4. ^ Hamill, John; Prescott, Andrew (April 2006). "The Masons' Candidate: New Welcome Lodge No. 5139 and the Parliamentary Labour Party". Labour History Review. 71 (1): 9–41(33). doi:10.1179/174581806X103862. This cites as note number 2 H. Morrison, Herbert Morrison: An Autobiography by Lord Morrison of Lambeth, London, Odhams, 1960, p. 164
  5. ^ Dominic Wring, "“Selling socialism”-The marketing of the “very old” British Labour Party." European Journal of Marketing 35#9/10 (2001): 1038-1046. online
  6. ^ Donoughue and Jones, 1972, pp. 209-11
  7. ^ Wetzel, Dave (20 September 2004) The case for taxing land. New Statesman.
  8. ^ "London Rating (Site Values) — A Bill". Land Value Taxation Campaign. Retrieved 22 December 2008.
  9. ^ Ken Young, John Kramer, Strategy and conflict in metropolitan housing (Heinemann Educational, 1978), p. 262.
  10. ^ Donoghue and Jones, Herbert Morrison: Portrait of a Politician. p. xxxi
  11. ^ audiobook titled The Blitz
  12. ^ Marc Blitzstein, Roland Hayes and the ‘Negro Chorus’ at the Royal Albert Hall in 1943. May 2011
  13. ^ Gottlieb, Amy Zahl. Men of Vision: Anglo-Jewry's Aid to Victims of the Nazi Regime, 1933-1945. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1998, p.175
  14. ^ Gottlieb, Amy Zahl. Men of Vision: Anglo-Jewry's Aid to Victims of the Nazi Regime, 1933-1945. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1998, p.17
  15. ^ Whiting, R. C. (2004) "Greenwood, Arthur (1880–1954)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  16. ^ Contentious Cartoon by Dr Tim Benson ,
  17. ^ Tabloid Nation: The Birth of the Daily Mirror to the Death of the Tabloid, by Chris Horrie, André Deutsch (2003)
  18. ^ Sked, Alan and Cook, Chris (1979) Post-War Britain: A Political History. ISBN 0140179127. pp 31–34
  19. ^ Beer, Samuel H. (1965) British Politics in the Collectivist Age. pp 188–216
  20. ^ Painter, David S. (1988), The United States, Great Britain, and Mossadegh (PDF), Georgetown University, ISBN 1-56927-332-4, archived from the original (PDF) on 17 November 2010, retrieved 23 November 2009
  21. ^ "No. 39396". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 November 1951. p. 6235.
  22. ^ Bernard Donoughue, and G. W. Jones, Herbert Morrison: Portrait of a Politician (1973), pp 492-95.
  23. ^ F.M. Leventhal, "'A Tonic to the Nation': The Festival of Britain, 1951." Albion 27#3 (1995): 445-453.
  24. ^ Kenneth O. Morgan (1992). Britain Since 1945: The People's Peace. Oxford UP. p. 111.
  25. ^ "No. 41860". The London Gazette. 3 November 1959. p. 6942.

Further readingEdit

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 (1977), by Bernard Donoughue and George Jones. (Reprinted by Orion with an introduction by Peter Mandelson 2001). ISBN 1-84212-441-2

Biographical essays include:

  • Mackintosh, John P. 'Herbert Morrison' in the original Dictionary of National Biography (supplement).
  • Morgan, Kenneth O. "Herbert Morrison", in Morgan, Labour people (1987) pp 176–88.
  • 'Herbert Morrison' by Greg Rosen in Kevin Jefferys (ed) Labour Forces: From Ernie Bevin to Gordon Brown (2002) pp 25–42.

Scholarly studies:

  • Berger, Stefan. "Herbert Morrison's London Labour Party in the Interwar Years and the SPD: Problems of Transferring German Socialist Practices to Britain." European Review of History: Revue europeenne d'histoire 12.2 (2005): 291-306.
  • Hopkins, Michael F. "Herbert Morrison, the Cold War and Anglo-American Relations, 1945–1951." in Cold War Britain, 1945–1964 (Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2003) pp. 17–29.
  • Lowe, Peter. "Herbert Morrison, the Labour Government, and the Japanese Peace Treaty, 1951." in Kazuo Chiba, and Peter Lowe, eds. Britain, the United States and Japans Return to Normal, 1951-1972 (Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE, 1993). pp 1–27.
  • Radice, Giles. The Tortoise and the Hares: Attlee, Bevin, Cripps, Dalton, Morrison (Politico's Publishing, 2008).
  • Wring, Dominic. "“Selling socialism”-The marketing of the “very old” British Labour Party." European Journal of Marketing 35#9/10 (2001): 1038-1046. online

External linksEdit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Clifford Erskine-Bolst
Member of Parliament for Hackney South
Succeeded by
George Garro-Jones
Preceded by
George Garro-Jones
Member of Parliament for Hackney South
Succeeded by
Marjorie Graves
Preceded by
Marjorie Graves
Member of Parliament for Hackney South
Succeeded by
Herbert Butler
Preceded by
Sir Assheton Pownall
Member of Parliament for Lewisham East
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Lewisham South
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Carol Johnson
Party political offices
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Fred Knee
Secretary of the London Labour Party
Succeeded by
Donald Himson Daines
Preceded by
George Lansbury
Chair of the Labour Party
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Susan Lawrence
Preceded by
Arthur Greenwood
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
Jim Griffiths
Political offices
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Wilfrid Ashley
Minister of Transport
Succeeded by
John Pybus
Preceded by
Sir William Ray
Leader of the London County Council
Succeeded by
Lord Latham
Preceded by
Leslie Burgin
Minister of Supply
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Andrew Duncan
Preceded by
Sir John Anderson
Home Secretary
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Sir Donald Bradley Somervell
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Lord Woolton
Lord President of the Council
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Viscount Addison
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Anthony Eden
Leader of the House of Commons
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James Chuter Ede
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President of the British Board of Film Censors
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David Ormsby-Gore