J. R. Clynes

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The Right Honourable
John Robert Clynes
Home Secretary
In office
8 June 1929 – 26 August 1931
Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald
Preceded by Sir William Joynson-Hicks
Succeeded by Sir Herbert Samuel
Lord Privy Seal
In office
22 January 1924 – 6 November 1924
Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald
Preceded by Robert Cecil
Succeeded by James Gascoyne-Cecil
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
In office
21 November 1922 – 25 October 1932
Preceded by Office Created
Succeeded by Clement Attlee
Leader of the Labour Party
In office
14 February 1921 – 21 November 1922
Preceded by William Adamson
Succeeded by Ramsay MacDonald
Minister of Food Control
In office
9 July 1918 – 10 January 1919
Prime Minister David Lloyd George
Preceded by David Alfred Thomas
Succeeded by George Henry Roberts
Member of Parliament
for Manchester Platting
Manchester North East (1906–1918)
In office
14 November 1935 – 5 July 1945
Preceded by Alan Chorlton
Succeeded by Hugh Delargy
In office
8 February 1906 – 27 October 1931
Preceded by James Fergusson
Succeeded by Alan Chorlton
Personal details
Born 27 March 1869
Oldham, Lancashire, England
Died 23 October 1949(1949-10-23) (aged 80)
London, England
Political party Labour

John Robert Clynes PC (27 March 1869 – 23 October 1949)[1] was a British trade unionist and Labour Party politician. He was a Member of Parliament (MP) for 35 years, and as Leader of the Labour Party (from 14 February 1921 to 21 November 1922), led the party in its breakthrough at the 1922 general election. He was the first Englishman to serve as leader of the Labour Party.

Early life

The son of a labourer named Patrick Clynes, he was born in Oldham, Lancashire, and began work in a local cotton mill when he was 10 years old. At the age of 16, he wrote a series of articles about child labour in the textile industry, and a year later he helped form the Piercers' Union.

Trade union and political involvement

In 1892, Clynes became an organiser for the Lancashire Gasworkers' Union and came in contact with the Fabian Society. Having joined the Independent Labour Party, he attended the 1900 conference where the Labour Representation Committee was formed; this committee soon afterwards became the Labour Party.

Clynes stood for the new party in the 1906 general election and was elected to Parliament for Manchester North East,[1][2] becoming one of Labour's bright stars. In 1910 he became the party's deputy chairman.

Parliamentary career

During the First World War Clynes was a supporter of British military involvement (in which he differed from Ramsay MacDonald), and in 1917 became Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Food Control in the Lloyd George coalition government. The next year he was appointed Minister of Food Control, and at the 1918 general election he was returned to Parliament for the Manchester Platting constituency.[3]

Clynes became leader of the party in 1921, and led it through its major breakthrough in the 1922 general election. Before that election, Labour only had 52 seats in parliament; but as a result of the election, Labour's total number of seats rose to 142.

MacDonald had resigned as Labour leader in 1914, due to his wartime pacifism, and at the 1918 general election he lost his seat. Not for another four years did he return to the House of Commons. By that stage, MacDonald's pacifism had been forgiven. When the occupant of the Labour leadership had to be decided on through a vote of Labour parliamentarians, MacDonald narrowly defeated Clynes.

Governmental office

When MacDonald became Prime Minister he made Clynes the party's leader in the Commons until the government was defeated in 1924. During the second MacDonald government of 1929–1931, Clynes served as Home Secretary. In this role, Clynes gained literary prominence, when he explained in the Commons his refusal to grant a visa[4] to the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, then living in exile in Turkey, who had been invited by Ramsay MacDonald's party to give a lecture in Britain. Clynes had then been immortalised by the scathing criticism of Clynes' concept of the right to asylum, voiced by Trotsky in the last chapter of his autobiography "My Life" entitled "The planet without visa".[5]

In 1931, Clynes sided with Arthur Henderson and George Lansbury, against MacDonald's support for austerity measures to deal with the Great Depression. Clynes split with MacDonald when the latter left Labour to form a National Government. In the 1931 election, Clynes was one of the casualties, losing his Manchester Platting seat.[3] Nevertheless, he regained this constituency in 1935,[3] and then remained in the House of Commons until his retirement ten years later at the 1945 general election.[3]

Family and death

He died in 1949. He had married Mary Harper, a mill worker, in 1893.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "M" (part 1)[self-published source][better source needed]
  2. Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1974]. British parliamentary election results 1885–1918 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 142. ISBN 0-900178-27-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Craig, F. W. S. (1983) [1969]. British parliamentary election results 1918–1949 (3rd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 191. ISBN 0-900178-06-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "M. TROTSKY. (Hansard, 18 July 1929)". hansard.millbanksystems.com. 18 July 1929. Retrieved 17 August 2012. In regard to what is called "the right of asylum," this country has the right to grant asylum to any person whom it thinks fit to admit as a political refugee. On the other hand, no alien has the right to claim admission to this country if it would be contrary to the interests of this country to receive him.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Trotsky, Leon (1930). "Chapter 45: The Planet Without a Visa". My Life. marxists.org. Retrieved 17 August 2012. The pious Mr. Clynes ought at least to have known that democracy, in a sense, inherited the right of asylum from the Christian church, which, in turn, inherited it, with much besides, from paganism. It was enough for a pursued criminal to make his way into a temple, sometimes enough even to touch only the ring of the door, to be safe from persecution. Thus the church understood the right of asylum as the right of the persecuted to an asylum, and not as an arbitrary exercise of will on the part of pagan or Christian priests.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir James Fergusson
Member of Parliament for Manchester North East
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Manchester Platting
Succeeded by
Alan Chorlton
Preceded by
Alan Chorlton
Member of Parliament for Manchester Platting
Succeeded by
Hugh James Delargy
Political offices
Preceded by
The Lord Rhondda
Minister of Food Control
Succeeded by
George Henry Roberts
Preceded by
The Viscount Cecil of Chelwood
Lord Privy Seal
Succeeded by
The Marquess of Salisbury
Preceded by
Sir William Joynson-Hicks
Home Secretary
Succeeded by
Sir Herbert Samuel
Trade union offices
Preceded by
Herbert Skinner and John Wadsworth
Trades Union Congress representative to the American Federation of Labour
With: Alfred Henry Gill
Succeeded by
William Brace and Ben Turner
Party political offices
Preceded by
William Adamson
Chairman of the British Labour Party
Succeeded by
Ramsay MacDonald