British Labour politician. In 1935 he defeated Ramsay MacDonald at Seaham Harbour, Durham, in one of the most bitterly contested British election battles of modern times. From 1942 he was chair of the Labour Party committee which drafted the manifesto ‘Let us face the future’, on which Labour won the 1945 election. As minister of fuel and power (1945–47) he nationalized the coal mines in 1946.
In 1947, when he was said to be a scapegoat for the February fuel crisis, he became secretary of state for war. From 1950 to 1951 he was minister of defence. He was parliamentary Labour Party chair from 1964 to 1967.
Born in Spitalfields, London, England, but spent his early years in Glasgow, Scotland, and began work as an errand boy in Glasgow at the age of 12. An early student of public-library and street-corner socialism, he was elected to the Glasgow Trades Council in 1911 and, as one of the ‘Red Crusaders’, served a five-month prison sentence for incitement to riot in 1919.
He was elected Labour member of Parliament for Linlithgow (1922–24 and 1928–31), for Seaham (1935–50), and for Easington (1950–70). He was appointed secretary to the department of mines in 1924 and 1930–31. Shinwell's considerable administrative ability outshone his prickly party-political belligerence and earned him the respect of Churchill and Montgomery. In his later years he mellowed into a backbench ‘elder statesman’. He was created a Companion of Honour in 1965 and was awarded a life peerage in 1970.
His publications include The Britain I Want (1943), Conflict without Malice (1955), The Labour Story (1973), I've Lived Through It All (1973), and Lead with the Left (1981).