Manny Shinwell

From Academic Kids

Emanuel Shinwell, Baron Shinwell (October 18, 1884-May 8, 1986) (familiarly known as Manny) was born in London, but moved with his Jewish family to Scotland. He was a Trade Union official and Labour politician and was one of the leading figures of Red Clydeside.

Early career and trade union activities

Shinwell began his working life as a machinist in a clothing workshop. In 1903 he became active in the Amalgamated Union of Clothing Operatives, and joined the Glasgow Trades Council in 1906 as a delegate of that union.

In May 1911, he was seconded to help organise the seamen of Glasgow at the request of J. Havelock Wilson of the National Sailors' and Firemen's Union (NSFU). He played a prominent role in the six-week Glasgow seamen's strike which began on 14 June and which was part of a nation-wide strike movement. He subsequently became the secretary of the Glasgow branch of the NSFU. In August 1912, he participated in a revolt against the union, which resulted in the Glasgow branch becoming part of the Southampton-based British Seafarers' Union (BSU). He was the local secretary of the BSU until it became part of the Amalgamated Marine Workers' Union (AMWU) in 1922, after which he served as National Organiser of the new organisation.

In 1919, he gained national notoriety through his involvement in the Glasgow 40 Hours' Movement. This movement culminated in clashes between police and protesters in Glasgow's George Square. He was afterwards tried for incitement to riot and was sentenced to five months' imprisonment.

Political career

An Independent Labour Party (ILP) member, he became a Member of Parliament for Linlithgow in 1922. He lost his seat in 1924, but was re-elected for Linlithgow in 1928. He became a critic of Ramsay MacDonald's National Government and in 1931 he again lost his seat. He returned to the Commons in 1935 for Seaham, County Durham, whereafter he campaigned vigourously, along with left-wingers such as Aneurin Bevan for the United Kingdom to support the Popular Front government in Spain against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. He became chairman of the Labour Party in 1942.

He served in Clement Attlee's government after the Labour victory in 1945. As Minister of Fuel and Power, he presided over the nationalisation of the mining industry. In 1947, Britain experienced a severe coal shortage. He was widely criticised for his failure to avert this crisis. Shortly afterwards he took up the position of Secretary of State for War which he held until 1950. His seat became Easington in 1950, at which point he became Minister of Defence. Towards the end of his Commons career, he served as Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party 1964-67.

Shinwell was made Baron Shinwell, of Easington in the County of Durham in 1970 and died in 1986, having become the longest-lived British politician on January 1 of that year.

Shinwell's son, Ernest, was for a short period a business associate of the Kray Twins. His brother, M Shinwell, also stood as a Labour candidate.


Shinwell wrote three volumes of autobiography:

  • Conflict Without Malice (1955)
  • I've Lived Through it All (1973)
  • Lead With the Left (1981)
Preceded by:
Frederick Bellenger
Secretary of State for War
Followed by:
John Strachey

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