Deputy Leaders of the Labour Party

Deputy Leaders of the Labour Party have included some of the most important and interesting  figures in our movement's history. Throughout the year we will profile each of the 16 Deputy Leaders in separate blogposts. The first Deputy Leader was J.R. Clynes (1922-1932), a Fabian and Trade Unionist, who began working in a cotton mill when he was ten years old, helped form the Piercers' Union at seventeen years old, leading the Labour party in the 1922 elections before becoming Deputy Leader. In his final years as Deputy, Clynes shared the position with Scottish MP William Graham (1931-1932).

Clement Attlee (1932-1935), Herbert Morrison (1945-1955) and Aneurin Bevan (1959-1960), three big beasts integral to implementing the welfare state, each served as Deputy Leader, with Attlee going on to became Leader and later Prime Minister. They were joined as Deputy by Arthur Greenwood (1935-1945), a working class intellectual and fierce opponent of Nevile Chamberlain's policy of appeasement towards Nazi Germany, and Jim Griffiths (1955-1959), the first Secretary of State for Wales.

Following Aneurin Bevan’s death in 1960, George Brown (1960-1970) became Deputy. Born into a working class family in South London, Brown left school at 15, became an organiser in the trade union movement, and went on to be Foreign Secretary. He was replaced by the Welsh son of a coal miner Roy Jenkins (1970-1972), who served as Home Secretary, and later left the Labour Party to form the Socialist Democratic Party.

After Jenkins, Edward Short (1972-1976) was voted new Deputy. A proud northerner and party loyalist, he introduced statutory funding of opposition parties ("Short money") as leader of the House of Commons . Afterwards, the Deputy Leadership was held by Michael Foot (1976-1980), a gifted intellectual, journalist and writer who became leader and led the party to one of its worst electoral defeats in 1983. His election manifesto was dubbed “the longest suicide note in history” for its advocacy of nuclear disarmament, withdrawal from the European Economic Community, and introduction of a minimum wage.

Foot was succeeded by Denis Healey (1980-1983), a Yorkshireman who became a communist party member and fought for 5 years with the Royal Engineers in World War II. During the war, Healey left the communists, joined Labour upon his return, and after entering parliament in 1952 had long periods as Deputy Leader, Chancellor, Defence Secretary, and was a member of the Fabian Society executive. He was replaced by the prolific writer and journalist Roy Hattersley (1983-1992), whose 9 years as Deputy were spent entirely in opposition.

Labour elected Margaret Beckett (1992-1994) as their first female Deputy Leader. A scientist by training, she became Acting Leader following the death of John Smith, was Britain's first female Foreign Secretary, and a minister for both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Beckett was followed by John Prescott (1994-2007), who worked in the Merchant Navy and was a trade union official before entering parliament. He was the Labour's longest serving Deputy Leader, and Deputy Prime Minister between 1997-2007.

The current Deputy Leader, Harriet Harman (2007-Present), was a successful solicitor and worked for Liberty before becoming an MP. She became Secretary of State for Social Security in 1997, was sacked but returned to government as Solicitor General for England and Wales between 2001-2005. Harman was Acting Leader following Gordon Brown's resignation, and is currently Shadow Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport.

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