Hore-Belisha, Leslie, Lord

views updated


HORE-BELISHA, LESLIE, LORD (1898–1957), British politician. Hore-Belisha was of Sephardi origin and educated at Clifton College and at Oxford, where he was president of the Union. He served with distinction in World War i. His father, Jacob Isaac Belisha (son of Isaac *Belisha), died when Hore-Belisha was an infant and his mother married a non-Jew, Sir Adair Hore, whose surname he added to his own. He was admitted to the bar in 1923 and in the same year entered Parliament as a Liberal. In 1931 he was appointed parliamentary secretary to the Board of Trade in the National Government coalition under Ramsay Macdonald. When the majority of the Liberal Party left the coalition, he remained in the government as a National Liberal. He was financial secretary to the Treasury from 1932 to 1934, when he was made minister of transport. In this capacity he introduced various measures against road accidents, including the illuminated beacons at pedestrian crossings known as "Belisha Beacons." In 1936 he was brought into the cabinet and in 1937 was made secretary of state for war.

One of the most popular and visible members of the government, he initiated numerous reforms involving the reorganization of the top ranks of the army. As a member of the War Cabinet on the outbreak of World War ii, he was responsible for the efficient dispatch of the British Expeditionary Force to France. Nevertheless, his democratization of the army administration was bitterly resented and the ensuing attacks upon him probably contained an element of antisemitism. He accordingly resigned in January 1940 and sat as an independent member of Parliament from 1942 to the end of the war. In 1945he was minister of national insurance in Winston *Churchill's caretaker government but lost his seat in the general election of 1945 and retired from politics. He was raised to the peerage in 1954. Hore-Belisha was an elder of the Spanish and Portuguese congregation for many years.


R.J. Minney (ed.), Private Papers of Hore-Belisha (1960). add. bibliography: odnb online; A.J. Trythall, "The Downfall of Leslie Hore-Belisha," in: Journal of Contemporary History, 16 (1981); B. Bond, "Leslie Hore-Belisha at the War Office," in: I.F.W Beckett and John Gooch, (eds.), Politicians and Defense (1981); W.D. Rubinstein, Great Britain, 264–65.

[Vivian David Lipman]