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Shinwell, Emanuel, Baron


SHINWELL, EMANUEL, BARON (1884–1986), British Labour politician. Born in London, the son of a small clothing manufacturer, Shinwell was brought up in South Shields and in Glasgow, where he lived for many years. He joined the British Labour Party at the age of 19 and was active in trade union work, often as a militant, becoming a member of the Glasgow Trades Council in 1906. During World War i he worked as an official of the Seamen's Union. He denied that he was a conscientious objector, claiming that his job was a reserved occupation. Nevertheless he supported J. Ramsay MacDonald's campaign in 1917 for a negotiated peace. In the immediate post-1918 period Shinwell was seen as an extreme leftist, one of the so-called "Red Clydesiders." This impression proved inaccurate: he was a consistent Labour moderate who became even less extreme over most issues as the years passed.

Shinwell entered Parliament in 1922 and was minister for mines in the short-lived Labour government of 1924. He lost his seat at the general election of that year, but returned to Parliament in 1928, and was a junior member of the Labour government of 1929 to 1931. Shinwell refused to follow Ramsay MacDonald into the 1931 national coalition and defeated Mac-Donald in his constituency of Seaham Harbour in 1935. Following the Labour election victory of 1945, Shinwell became minister of fuel and power with a seat in the cabinet. He was widely criticized for his apparent complacency during the severe winter of 1947–48 and was demoted to a post outside the cabinet in 1948, as minister for war. In 1950–51 he reentered the cabinet as minister for defense. From 1964 to 1967 he was chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party. "Manny" Shin-well was for several years a veteran member of the House of Commons where he was a popular figure. In 1970, on his retirement, he was created a life peer. In his later years Shinwell vehemently opposed British entry into the European Economic Community. His writings include The Britain I Want (1943), When the Men Come Home (1944), Conflict Without Malice (1955), and The Labour Story (1963).

Though never officially associated with Jewish or Zionist organizations, Shinwell always prided himself on his Jewish origin. In 1938 he was involved in an incident in the House of Commons when a member uttered an antisemitic threat. He crossed the floor and delivered a resounding smack to the member in front of the whole House. In 1948, when Britain surrendered the mandate for Palestine and withdrew her forces, Shinwell, as minister for war, took measures so that Jews would not be discriminated against in the disposal of surplus military supplies. In later years he enthusiastically supported Israel's cause and took pride in her ability to defend herself. He wrote two volumes of autobiography, I've Lived Through It All (1973) and Lead With the Left: My First Ninety-Six Years (1981). A respected elder statesman, Shinwell died at the age of 101.


Current Biography (Jan. 1943), 44–46. add. bibliography: odnb online.

[Vivian David Lipman]

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