Oldest British Lord Was 101 : Lord Shinwell, Scrappy Laborite, Dies

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From Times Wire Services

Lord Emanuel (Manny) Shinwell, a lifelong Socialist who fought for his beliefs on the streets, earning him the sobriquet “Britain’s Oldest Rebel,” died Thursday at his home here.

The oldest member of the House of Lords, he was 101.

Shinwell, a former government minister and elder statesman of the opposition Labor Party, contracted bronchial pneumonia several weeks ago, and the antibiotics used to cure it caused further complications to his frail health.

His son, Ernest, said his father had refused to go to a hospital because he wanted to die at his north London home. Shinwell’s family said his body will be cremated.


Born in the run-down East End of London, one of 13 children of an impoverished Jewish immigrant tailor from Poland, Shinwell began his political career organizing Scottish clothing workers.

Shinwell once served five months in prison for incitement to riot during the Glasgow strikes of 1919, when 10,000 troops and six tanks roamed the streets.

Elected to Parliament three years later, he became a minister in 1945 after Labor’s postwar landslide victory over Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s Conservative Party. He once strode across the floor of Parliament and punched a Conservative with whom he had been arguing.

Given a life peerage in 1970, Shinwell remained a defender of the working class from which he had sprung, and the scourge of the pompous and bigoted. He found his peerage odd inasmuch as he had for years advocated abolishment of the House of Lords, saying that it symbolized British class distinction.

Former Labor Prime Minister James Callaghan said Shinwell “had been a boxer in his early days and he never lost the taste for a fight. He did not believe in winning on points if he could secure a knockout.”

On his 100th birthday, Oct. 18, 1984, Shinwell addressed the House of Lords amid an outpouring of affection and respect from political friends and foes.


In part, Shinwell attributed his longevity to a regular glass of whiskey. “If it doesn’t help, I ring up the doctors and they tell me to take some more,” he quipped.

Has a Final Glass

His son said his father had what proved to be his final glass before retiring Tuesday night.

Apart from two brief interruptions, Shinwell was a member of the House of Commons, mainly representing north England mining districts, for nearly half a century until 1970.

He held three successive posts in Prime Minister Clement Attlee’s postwar Labor government--minister of fuel and power, war secretary and then minister of defense for a year until Churchill regained power in 1951.

He was married and widowed three times, and is survived by four children.