Judith Hart

Constance Mary Hart, Baroness Hart of South Lanark, DBE, PC (née Ridehalgh; 18 September 1924 – 7 December 1991), known as Judith Hart, was a British Labour Party politician. She served as a government minister during the 1960s and 1970s before entering the House of Lords in 1988.

The Baroness Hart of South Lanark

Chair of the National Executive Committee
In office
24 November 1981 – 24 November 1982
LeaderMichael Foot
Preceded byAlex Kitson
Succeeded bySam McCluskie
Minister for Overseas Development
In office
21 February 1977 – 4 May 1979
Prime MinisterJames Callaghan
Preceded byFrank Judd
Succeeded byNeil Marten
In office
7 April 1974 – 10 June 1975
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byRichard Wood
Succeeded byReg Prentice
In office
6 October 1969 – 19 June 1970
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byReg Prentice
Succeeded byRichard Wood
Shadow Minister for Overseas Development
In office
4 May 1979 – 8 December 1980
LeaderJames Callaghan
Preceded byRichard Luce
Succeeded byFrank McElhone
In office
19 June 1970 – 7 April 1974
Ministerial Offices 1964-69
LeaderHarold Wilson
Preceded byBernard Braine
Succeeded byRichard Wood
In office
1 November 1968 – 6 October 1969
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byThe Lord Shackleton
Succeeded byHarold Lever
Minister of Social Security
In office
26 July 1967 – 1 November 1968
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byPeggy Herbison
Succeeded byRichard Crossman (as Secretary of State for Social Services)
Minister of State for Commonwealth Affairs
In office
6 April 1966 – 26 July 1967
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byCledwyn Hughes
Succeeded byGeorge Thomas
Under-Secretary of State for Scotland
In office
20 October 1964 – 6 April 1966
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byAnthony Stodart
Succeeded byBruce Millan
Member of Parliament
for Clydesdale
Lanark (1959–1983)
In office
8 October 1959 – 18 May 1987
Preceded byPatrick Francis Maitland
Succeeded byJimmy Hood
Personal details
Constance Mary Ridehalgh

(1924-09-18)18 September 1924
Burnley, Lancashire, England
Died7 December 1991(1991-12-07) (aged 67)
London, England
Political partyLabour
Spouse(s)Anthony Bernard ("Tony") Hart
Alma materLondon School of Economics
University of London

Early life and educationEdit

Constance Mary Judith Hart was born on 18 September 1924 in Burnley, Lancashire, England.[1] Her mother died when she was eleven years old; a year later, she adopted the name Judith on a train to London. She was educated at Clitheroe Royal Grammar School, the London School of Economics and the University of London.[2]

Political careerEdit

After joining the Labour Party aged 18, Hart was unsuccessful Labour candidate for Bournemouth West in 1951. She stood again in Aberdeen South in 1955 in "The Battle of the Housewives" but lost to Lady Tweedsmuir. She was elected as member for Lanark in 1959, winning by 700 votes after she arranged postal votes for displaced miners. She held the seat until 1983. Thereafter she sat for Clydesdale until 1987.[2]

She held ministerial office as joint Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland from 1964 to 1966, Minister of State, Commonwealth Office (1966–1967), Minister of Social Security (1967–68), Paymaster-General (with a seat in the Cabinet) from 1968 to 1969, and as Minister of Overseas Development from 1969 to 1970, 1974 to 1975 (when she resigned) and 1977 to 1979. In so doing, she became the fifth woman ever to have been included in a government cabinet in the history of Britain. She was also the first female Paymaster-General in Britain.[2]

In opposition, Hart was frontbench spokesman on overseas aid from 1970 to 1974 and 1979 to 1980. Her views were often controversial and in 1972 she was mailed a bomb over her controversial work with the Labour Party's Southern African Liberation Fund. In 1974, when Labour returned to power, Hart was nearly passed over for a ministerial post due to her and her husband's connections to communism. Prime Minister Harold Wilson eventually decided to appoint her as Minister of Overseas Development, but she was never again appointed to Cabinet due to security concerns.[2]

A trained sociologist, Hart frequently spoke and wrote on international development. She wrote several books, including Aid and Liberation: A Socialist Study of Aid Politics, which she published in 1973. In 1979, Hart developed a plan to redistribute British aid to prioritise the poorest countries, but Wilson disagreed with her approach, as it conflicted with diplomatic and trade priorities. He attempted to demote her to a post in the Department for Transport; Hart resigned in protest.[1][2]

She was Co-Chairman of the Women's National Commission (appointed by the government) from 1969 to 1970. Within the Labour Party she was a member of the National Executive Committee from 1969 to 1983, serving as Vice-Chairman in 1980–81, and as Chairman in 1981–82.[3] She was appointed a Privy Counsellor in 1967, and appointed a DBE in 1979.[4]

On 8 February 1988, she was created a life peer, as Baroness Hart of South Lanark, of Lanark in the County of Lanark.[5]

Personal lifeEdit

She met her husband, Dr Anthony Bernard Hart, at an Association of Scientific Workers meeting. They married in 1946 and had two sons. He was also politically active, but when they were both selected as candidates for the Labour party in 1959, he withdrew his candidacy to support her campaign.[2]

The family relocated to London in 1961 to allow Hart more family time. When Hart was appointed Minister of State for Commonwealth Affairs in 1966, her mother-in-law moved in to help with the children.[2]

According to her son, Hart was a functional alcoholic and smoked 60 cigarettes a day.[2]


She died of bone cancer at the Queen Mary's Hospital, Roehampton, London, in 1991, aged 67.[6]

Titles and honoursEdit

  • Miss Judith Ridehalgh (1936–1946)
  • Mrs Judith Hart (1946–1959)
  • Judith Hart MP (1959–1967)
  • The Rt. Hon. Judith Hart MP (1967–1979)
  • The Rt. Hon. Dame Judith Hart DBE MP (1979–1988)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Baroness Hart of South Lanark DBE PC (1988–1991)


  1. ^ a b "Hart, Judith (1924—) | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Reeves, Rachel, 1979- (7 March 2019). Women of Westminster : the MPs who changed politics. London. ISBN 978-1-78831-677-4. OCLC 1084655208.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ "Hart of South Lanark, Baroness, (Judith Constance Mary Hart) (18 Sept. 19248 Dec. 1991) | WHO'S WHO & WHO WAS WHO-". www.ukwhoswho.com. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.u172992. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  4. ^ "No. 47868". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 1979. p. 7600.
  5. ^ "No. 51238". The London Gazette. 11 February 1988. p. 1593.
  6. ^ "Judith Hart, 67, Dies; Labor Cabinet Minister". The New York Times. 9 December 1991. Retrieved 27 February 2019.


Sutherland, Duncan (May 2008). "Hart, Judith, Baroness Hart of South Lanark (1924–1991)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/49767. Retrieved 6 September 2009. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

External linksEdit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Patrick Maitland
Member of Parliament for Lanark
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Clydesdale
Succeeded by
Jimmy Hood
Political offices
Preceded by
Peggy Herbison
Minister of Social Security
Succeeded by
Richard Crossman
as Secretary of State for Social Services
Preceded by
The Lord Shackleton
Succeeded by
Harold Lever
Preceded by
Reg Prentice
Minister of Overseas Development
Succeeded by
Richard Wood
Preceded by
Richard Wood
Minister for Overseas Development
Succeeded by
Reg Prentice
Preceded by
Frank Judd
Minister for Overseas Development
Succeeded by
Neil Marten
Party political offices
Preceded by
Alex Kitson
Chair of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
Sam McCluskie