Herbert Morrison

British Labour politician (1888-1965)

Herbert Stanley Morrison, Baron Morrison of Lambeth, CH PC (3 January 18886 March 1965) was a British Labour Party politician and Cabinet minister. He led the Labour Party to control the London County Council from 1934. In the wartime coalition and postwar Attlee government, Morrison held various cabinet posts, including Foreign Secretary, Deputy Prime Minister and w:Home Secretary. Morrison was very close to attaining the leadership of the party at various points in his career, but Clement Attlee distrusted him and deliberately prolonged his own leadership in order to prevent him from winning.

Herbert Stanley Morrison, 1947




  • Some of you would prefer a Tory Government. We know our enemies. I have come across a coalition of Conservatives and Communists before. Tories have a very warm place in their hearts for Communists and so have the Communists for the Tories.
    • The Times (4 November 1930), quoted in Bernard Donoughue and George Jones, Herbert Morrison: Portrait of a Politician (2001), p. 236
  • It is a bright idea that when you get a National Government in office, a mixed and assorted Government, it is to be assumed that the opposition must suddenly cease to function, and that it must discharge the duties of the Opposition and carry the burden of the baby of the Government as well. This Bill is the Government's business, and it is for us to attack it and to tear it to pieces if we like, and we are going to do what we think proper in this respect.
    • Parliamentary speech on the National Economy Bill (28 September 1931)
    • Hansard, HC 5ser vol 257 col 145.
  • The good Socialist works with religious zeal for the redemption of mankind from the evils of poverty and ignorance. ... He is conscious of the beauty of the ideal ... he works on ... for the deliverance of the human spirit from the enslavement of material things.
    • Manchester Guardian (2 July 1934), quoted in Bernard Donoughue and George Jones, Herbert Morrison: Portrait of a Politician (2001), p. 184
  • The bridge was not of such great importance or social significance, but it was symbolical that Labour was capable of decision, that the machinery of democratic public administration would work if the men and women in charge were determined that it should work.
    • The Times (10 December 1934).
    • Explaining his decision to personally begin the dismantling of the old Waterloo Bridge; the government had refused to allow the council to build a replacement so Morrison and his allies forced the issue by breaking up the existing bridge.
  • He would be prepared to say himself that no individual state should have Crown Colonies at all, and that French, Italian, and British colonies should be handed over to the League to administer under mandates controlled by the League itself. It did not follow that British Crown Colonies would no longer be under British administration. He hoped he was not a Jingo, but he still felt that the British were the best Colonial administrators of any government in the world. It would make a vital difference, however, if instead of being governed as Crown Colonies the possibility should be removed of their exploitation by British capitalism.
    • Speech to the Labour Party conference in Brighton (2 October 1935), quoted in The Times (3 October 1935), p. 7
  • A vote for the Tories is a vote for war.
    • Forward (19 October 1935), quoted in Talus, Your Alternative Government (1945), p. 26
  • The Government leaders were all urging a policy of rearmament, and Mr. Chamberlain was ready and anxious to spend millions of pounds on machines of destruction. He had not money, however, for the unemployed, the depressed areas, and social services. He would spend on the means of death, but not on the means of life, and that was the sort of fellow he looked like, too.
    • Speech in Whitechapel (3 November 1935), quoted in The Times (4 November 1935), p. 18
  • What the resolution does not contemplate being done is the lining up behind the government and voting for its rearmament programme.
    • Speech to the Labour Party conference (6 October 1936), quoted in Quintin Hogg, The Left was Never Right (1945), p. 76


  • Never again while the risk of war remained must we allow ourselves to neglect our land weapon.
    • Speech in London (16 July 1942), quoted in Quintin Hogg, The Left was Never Right (1945), p. 91
  • Our own British Communist Party – if it is our own and British – might at any time suffer a change of heart and go back to bloody revolution. For all I know it may there already, underground. Anything is possible for a party which at one and the same time shouts for a United Front and puts up candidates against us with a view to splitting the Labour vote. All this is alien to our honest, straightforward, native, Socialist thought. ... But you can't all the time say 'No, No, No' to the Communists. The real answer to the Communists is a positive answer. We have to show more vigorous fighting enthusiasm, more faith, more sense of high adventure.
    • Speech in December 1944, quoted in Peter Howard, Men on Trial (1945), p. 37-38
  • It is because I have confidence in the reasoned appeal the Socialist Party can make to all sections of the community – manual workers and black coats alike – that I have decided to go to East Lewisham, if I am selected, emphasizing by this action my conviction that the soundest socialist appeal is that which is most universal in its scope.
    • The Times (10 January 1945).
    • Morrison abandoned his safe seat in Hackney South for Lewisham East in the 1945 general election despite it being a Conservative-held seat that had never previously returned a Labour MP. The move paid off, and he was elected there.


  • We must not be rigid. We must not become conservative as is the unhappy state of some of our Liberal leaders to-day, as did the French Revolution of 1789, as has, in many respects, the Russian Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. We need the fresh air and free challenging thought of my favourite poet, Robert Burns, who was, I think, a Socialist agitator before an organised Socialist movement was born.
    • Speech ("Socialism To-day") in Perth (8 June 1950), quoted in The Times (9 June 1950), p. 6
  • You will see, therefore, that Socialism does not consist of nationalisation alone, important though that element is. It has other and very important aspects... The alternative is Tory reaction. And Tory reaction—as we have seen in other countries—breeds depression, muddle, Communism, and Fascism.
    • Speech ("Socialism To-day") in Perth (8 June 1950), quoted in The Times (9 June 1950), p. 6
  • The fact that the House of Lords has many irrational features is not, in itself, fatal in British eyes for we have a capacity for making the irrational work, and if a thing works, we tend to like it, or at any rate to put up with it.
    • Government and Parliament: A Survey from the Inside (1959), p. 194


  • Socialism is what a Labour government does.
    • An example of this attribution is Peter Riddell, "We believed you, Tony, but what comes next?", The Times, 14 January 2002, p. 16.


  • Of all the colleagues I have lost, he is the one I am least sorry to see the last of. I hope that Lewisham will throw the intruder out. He only came here because he ran away from a communist.
    • Daily Express, 5 July 1945.
    • Winston Churchill supporting Morrison's opponent in the 1945 general election.


  • We are going to build the Tories out of London.
    • An example of this quote being attributed to Morrison is Leo McKinstry, "Labour is stealing your country", The Spectator, 24 July 2004, p. 20.
    • Allegedly said in the 1930s while Leader of the London County Council, outlining a supposed Morrison policy of building LCC estates in Conservative-voting areas in order to shift elections towards the Labour Party. No source has been found and quote has not been traced earlier than the early 1960s. The Local Government Chronicle once offered a prize to anyone who could find proof that Morrison had said it; the prize remains unclaimed. Morrison's LCC built substantial numbers of homes but a large number of them were outside the County of London entirely.
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