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Thomas, J. H.

Thomas, J. H. (1874–1949). Jimmy Thomas, one of the most colourful politicians of his day, was an h-dropping, hard-drinking gambler and a joy to the cartoonists. Brought up in Newport (Mon.) by a washerwoman grandmother, he became a GWR engine-cleaner and rose rapidly in the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants. Elected as a Labour MP in 1910 for Derby, a railway town, Thomas gave strong support to the war effort. MacDonald appointed him Colonial Secretary in 1924 when The Times hailed him as a man who had demonstrated Labour's fitness to govern. In 1929 he became Lord Privy Seal with a special brief to tackle unemployment, but moved in 1930 to the Dominions Office. In the crisis of 1931 he stayed with MacDonald, held his seat at Derby, and retained his cabinet post. His career ended abruptly in 1936 when he was censured for a budget leak: ‘he let his tongue wag when he was in his cups’, remarked Baldwin charitably. Thomas resigned both post and seat, telling the Commons, in a moving farewell, ‘my vices, if they are vices, have always been open and never disguised’.

J. A. Cannon

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