Patrick Gordon Walker

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Gordon-Walker
File:Patrick Gordon Walker in 1969.jpg
Secretary of State for Education and Science
In office
29 August 1967 – 6 April 1968
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Preceded by Anthony Crosland
Succeeded by Edward Short
Minister Without Portfolio
In office
6 April 1966 – 29 August 1967
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Preceded by Peter Carington
Succeeded by George Thomson
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
In office
16 October 1964 – 22 January 1965
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Preceded by Richard Austen Butler
Succeeded by Michael Stewart
Shadow Foreign Secretary
In office
14 February 1963 – 16 October 1964
Leader Harold Wilson
Preceded by Harold Wilson
Succeeded by Rab Butler
Shadow Home Secretary
In office
13 May 1957 – 12 March 1962
Leader Hugh Gaitskell
Preceded by Kenneth Younger
Succeeded by George Brown
Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations
In office
28 February 1950 – 26 October 1951
Prime Minister Clement Attlee
Preceded by Philip Noel-Baker
Succeeded by Hastings-Ismay, 1st Baron Ismay
Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations
In office
7 October 1947 – 28 February 1950
Prime Minister Clement Attlee
Preceded by Arthur Bottomley
Succeeded by Angus Holden
Member of Parliament
for Leyton
In office
31 March 1966 – 28 February 1974
Preceded by Ronald Buxton
Succeeded by Bryan Magee
Member of Parliament
for Smethwick
In office
1 October 1945 – 15 October 1964
Preceded by Alfred Dobbs
Succeeded by Peter Griffiths
Personal details
Born (1907-04-07)7 April 1907
Worthing, Sussex, England
Died 2 December 1980(1980-12-02) (aged 73)
London, England
Political party Labour

Patrick Chrestien Gordon Walker, Baron Gordon-Walker, CH, PC (7 April 1907 – 2 December 1980) was a British Labour Party politician. He was a Member of Parliament (MP) for nearly thirty years, and served twice as a Cabinet minister. He is best-remembered for the circumstances surrounding the loss of his Smethwick parliamentary seat at the 1964 general election, in a bitterly racial campaign carried on in the wake of local factory closures.

Early life

Born in Worthing, Sussex, Gordon Walker was the son of Alan Lachlan Gordon Walker, a Scottish judge in the Indian Civil Service. He was educated at Wellington College and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he took a Second in Modern History in 1928 and subsequently gained a B. Litt.[1] He served as a Student [Fellow] in history at Christ Church from 1931[2] until 1941.[3]

From 1940 to 1944, he worked for the BBC's European Service, where from 1942 he arranged the BBC's daily broadcasts to Germany. In 1945 he worked as Assistant Director of BBC's German Service working from Radio Luxembourg, travelling with the British forces. He broadcast about the liberation of the German concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen, and wrote a book on the subject called "The Lid Lifts".[4][5]

From 1946 to 1948, he was Chairman of the British Film Institute.[6]

Political career

He first stood for Parliament at the 1935 general election, when he was unsuccessful in the Conservative-held Oxford constituency.[4]

Gordon Walker did not contest the 1945 general election, but was elected later in 1945 as Member of Parliament (MP) for Smethwick in a by-election on 1 October 1945 after Labour's Alfred Dobbs was killed in a car accident one day after winning the seat at the 1945 general election.[4]

Once in Parliament, Gordon Walker was promoted rapidly through the ranks of Clement Attlee's Labour government. In 1946, he was appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Herbert Morrison, the Leader of the House of Commons. From 1947 to 1950 he was a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Commonwealth Relations Office, and in 1950 he joined the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, serving until Labour's defeat at the 1951 general election.[4] He refused to move his home from London to live nearer to his Smethwick constituency and from 1950 onwards, his support in the town declined.[7]

At the 1964 general election, following a successful career in opposition, he was destined to become Foreign Secretary in a widely anticipated Labour government; he had held the shadow role for the previous year.

Although Labour did win that election to end 13 years of Conservative rule, Gordon Walker was defeated in controversial circumstances by the Conservative candidate Peter Griffiths. Smethwick had been a focus of immigration from the Commonwealth but the economic and industrial growth of the years following World War II were coupled with local factory closures, an ageing population and a lack of modern housing. Griffiths ran a campaign critical of the opposition's, and the government's, policies, including immigration policies. Griffiths was also accused of exploiting the slogan "If you want a nigger neighbour, vote Labour".[4] but the Socialist Review claimed that Gordon Walker had himself pandered to such sentiment when his local party ran an eve-of-poll leaflet saying:[8]

Be fair. Immigrants only arrived in Smethwick in large numbers during the past ten years--while the Tory [conservative] government was in power. You can't blame Labour or Gordon Walker for that. Labour favours continued control of immigration, stricter health checks and deportation of those convicted of criminal offences. Labour will give local authorities greater power to help overcrowding. Labour will provide new and better housing.

Despite, therefore, not being an MP or peer able to answer to Parliament, he was appointed to the Foreign Office by Harold Wilson. To resolve this unusual situation, he stood for the safe Labour constituency of Leyton in the Leyton by-election in January 1965, losing again, and was finally forced to resign as Foreign Secretary.[4] After a sabbatical conducting research in Southeast Asia,[citation needed] he finally won Leyton in the 1966 general election. Following this election, he served in the Cabinet in 1967-8, first as Minister without Portfolio, then as Secretary of State for Education and Science. On his retirement from the Cabinet in 1968, he was made a Companion of Honour.[4]

Gordon Walker retired from the House of Commons at the February 1974 general election. On 4 July that same year he was made a life peer as Baron Gordon-Walker, of Leyton in the County of Essex in 1974 and was briefly a Member of the European Parliament.[4]

Personal life

In 1934 he married Audrey Muriel Rudolf. They subsequently had twin sons and three daughters. Gordon Walker died in London in 1980, aged 73.[4]

See also


  1. Oxford University Calendar 1932, Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1932, pg.268, 817.
  2. Oxford University Calendar 1932, Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1932, pg.541.
  3. The Times, 3 December 1980, p.19 col.6
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 Pearce (2004)
  5. Celinscak, Mark (2015). Distance from the Belsen Heap: Allied Forces and the Liberation of a Concentration Camp. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 9781442615700.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. BFI Annual Reports, London: BFI
  7. Smethwick (UK Parliament constituency)
  8. Gareth Jenkins (1999). "Labour and immigration: the badge of prejudice". Socialist Review. pp. No.234. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved August 26, 2007. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Publications by Patrick Gordon Walker

  • Gordon Walker, P. C. (1939). An Outline of Man's History. London: N.C.L.C. Publishing Society.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Restatement of Liberty. London: Hutchinson. 1951.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • The Lid Lifts: An Account of the Author’s Experiences During Two Visits to Occupied Germany in the Spring of 1945. London: Victor Gollancz Ltd. 1945.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • The Commonwealth. London: Secker & Warburg. 1962.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • The Cabinet. London: Cape. 1970. ISBN 0-224-61819-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Robert Pearce (editor), ed. (c. 1991). Patrick Gordon Walker: Political Diaries 1932-1971. London: Historians' Press. ISBN 1-872273-05-X.CS1 maint: extra text: editors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Alfred Dobbs
Member of Parliament for Smethwick
Succeeded by
Peter Griffiths
Preceded by
Ronald Buxton
Member of Parliament for Leyton
1966Feb 1974
Succeeded by
Bryan Magee
Political offices
Preceded by
Philip Noel-Baker
Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations
Succeeded by
Lord Ismay
Preceded by
Harold Wilson
Shadow Foreign Secretary
Succeeded by
R. A. Butler
Preceded by
R. A. Butler
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Michael Stewart
Preceded by
Anthony Crosland
Secretary of State for Education and Science
Succeeded by
Edward Short