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James Keir Hardie

Labour Leader 1906 - 1908

Better known as Keir Hardie he was born on 15th August 1856 to Mary Keir, a servant from Legbrannock in Scotland. His Mother later married a David Hardie and they moved to Glasgow.

His first job was at the age of 7 as a message boy before, at the age of 10, he started work down the mines. While still a teenager he was already gaining a reputation with the mine owners and by his mid 20’s helped to establish a union at his local colliery. Leading a strike in 1880 led to his dismissal and blacklisting by the local mine owners. To make ends meet, Hardie turned to journalism and in 1887 he launched a new publication called “The Miner”.  In August 1886 his ongoing efforts to build a Union of Scottish miners were rewarded when they formed (and he became secretary of) the Ayrshire Miners Union. More...


Arthur Henderson

Labour Leader 1908 - 1910; 1914 - 1917; 1931

Born in Glasgow in 1863 Arthur Henderson was to become the Labour Party’s key organiser from 1911 when he became Party Secretary - helping to create a national structure and individual membership - through to his death in the mid 1930’s.

His early life was based in Newcastle Upon Tyne (he moved here after the death of his father and his mother remarrying around the age of 10) and by the age of 12 he began work at the Stephenson Locomotive Works. Upon completion of his apprenticeship he briefly moved to Southampton before returning to Newcastle as an Iron Moulder. More...


George Nicoll Barnes

Labour Leader 1910 - 1911

Born in 1859 in Dundee, he was the son of a Yorkshire mill manager. The family returned to Middlesex where - unlike Hardie and Henderson - he received an education until the age of 11, at which time he obtained his first job a as a clerk. By the age of 13 he was an apprentice engineer, spending much of the next 10 years in London.

Barnes was involved in attempts in the 1880’s to politicise the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, being elected onto its executive in 1889, becoming its Assistant Secretary in 1892 and it’s General Secretary in 1896. More...


Ramsey MacDonald

Labour Leader 1911 - 1914 & 1922 - 1931

James Ramsay Macdonald was born 12th October 1866 in Lossiemouth, Scotland, son of a farm labourer and housemaid. He attended a local free school at Drainie run by the Church of Scotland, becoming a pupil-teacher at the school in 1881. At this time of his life he was associated with the radical wing of the Liberal Party.  

In 1885 he moved to Bristol and became an assistant to a clergyman.  While in Bristol he became involved with the Social Democratic Federation and Bristol Socialist Society. He moved to London in 1886 and a year later was witness to the Bloody Sunday massacre in Trafalgar Square. It was while in London that he joined the Fabian Society. His ambition by this stage of his life was to become a teacher of science but this coincided with a period of poor health and he had to give up his studies. More...


William Adamson

Labour Leader 1917 - 1921

Born in Dunfermline on 2nd April 1863, son of a Coalminer, he would begin is career in his fathers footsteps from the age of 11 after leaving school working in the mines. He was an activist within the Fife and Kinross Miners' Association of the NUM from the 1880’s, holding a number of positions within the branch until becoming its secretary in 1908. He was also a devout Baptist, he also co-founded the Dunfermline Temperance Council and a local mutual society. More...


John R Clynes

Labour Leader 1921 - 1922

Born in Oldham in 1869 he was the son of an Irish Labourer who would become, briefly, the first English born Leader of the Labour Party. Working by the age of 10 in a local cotton mill, he used the Oldham Cooperative’s Library to educate himself to the degree that by the age of 16 he was writing articles about child labour in the Textile industry.

He was active within the trade union movement at an early age and by the age of 17 was already setting up a local trade union. He slowly built up his influence and by 1891 was district organiser for National Union of Glassworkers and General Labourer’s Union and a year later president of Oldham Trades Council. More...


George Lansbury

Labour Leader 1932 - 35

Lansbury was born near Lowestoft, Suffolk, in 1859. At the age of nine he moved to East London and by the age of eleven started work in an office – but was able a year later to return to school until the age of fourteen. This was followed by a succession of jobs as clerk/grocer and working in a coffee bar. He eventually started up his own business working as a contractor for the Great Eastern Railway. In 1880 he married Elizabeth Brine and in 1884, now with three children, emigrated to Australia only to return a year later.  More...


Clement Attlee

Labour Leader 1935 - 1955

The son of a wealthy solicitor, Clement Attlee was born 3 January 1883 being educated at home until he was nine before entering the public school system in Hertfordshire. In 1901 he began studding at University College, Oxford before training for the Bar in his father’s footsteps, passing these examinations in 1905.

A visit to a club set up by his old school for poor east end children affected him to the point that by 1907 he had started to manage the club. His later belief that charities were ineffectual in attempting to end poverty ant that political action was necessary were probably developed during this time and led to him joining the ILP.  More...


Hugh Gaitskell

Labour Leader 1955 - 1963

Born on 9th April 1906 into a middle class family with a history linked to administrative service for India and Empire. At an early age he began public schooling leading to attendance at Oxford reading politics and economics. He lectured in economics to the wider labour movement during the 1920’s and by the 1930’s was also director of an independent think tank. More...


Harold Wilson

Labour Leader 1963 - 1976

James Harold Wilson was born in Huddersfield on 11th March 1916. He had a middle class upbringing with his father being an industrial chemist. As a boy he regularly attended church and Sunday school, this continuing at Oxford where he still went to College chapel. He was even to marry the daughter of a Congregationalist minister.

Wilson’s family background was steeped in politics with his grandfather being an active National Liberal, his great uncle being a Liberal Lord Mayor of Manchester, while his uncle was Keir Hardie’s agent in the ILP. His mother was also politically active and his father became a strong Labour supporter. Early work as a researcher for Beverage allowed Wilson to gain contacts – especially with the NUM - who helped him to gain the nomination for the West Lancashire Ormskirk constituency in the 1945 Election. More...


James Callaghan

Labour Leader 1976 - 1980

James Callaghan was born on 27 March 1912 and for the most part was brought up by his mother (his father died when he was young). There was no Oxbridge education here, but after leaving school he took – and passed – the entrance examination for the civil service.

By 1929 at the age of 17, Callaghan was working for the Inland Revenue and was instrumental in establishing the Association of Tax Officers for those in his profession. A couple of years later he had joined the local branch of the Labour Party. He married Audrey Elizabeth Moulton in 1938. More...


Michael Foot

Labour Leader 1980 - 1983

Michael Foot was born in Plymouth on 23rd July 1913, son of a Solicitor and Liberal MP Isaac Foot. He was educated at Oxford and upon graduating he took up a job in Liverpool. It is said that the poverty he witnessed at this time was the driving force behind him joining the Labour Party in 1935. He stood for the Labour Party at the 1935 General Election in the seat of Monmouth, a Conservative stronghold, making little impact. More...


Neil Kinnock

Labour Leader 1983 - 1992

Born in 1942, Neil Kinnock was the son of a coal miner, spending much of his education (including his degree in 1965) within his homeland of Wales. It was while he was still at school – the age of 15 – that he joined the Labour Party. He married Glynis (who he had met while at university) in 1967. Though coming from a welsh background he strongly opposed devolution for Wales.  More...


 John Smith

Labour Leader 1992 - 1994

John Smith, son of a Headteacher, was born on 13th September 1938 in the village of Dalmally in Argyll and Bute. He joined the Labour Party in 1956 at the age of 18 before studying at the University of Glasgow to be a solicitor. More...


Tony Blair

Labour Leader 1994 - 2007

Tony Blair was born in Edinburgh on 6th May 1953, attending the prestigious Fettes College in Edinburgh before heading off to Oxford - graduating in 1976 with a second class honors degree in Jurisprudence. It was while enrolled as a pupil barrister that he met his future wife, Cherie Booth.

Blair joined the Labour Party at the age of 22 and by the early 1980s was involved in Labour politics in London. He was persuaded to stand at the Beaconsfield By-Election (a safe Tory seat) in 1982 but made little impact - the labour vote fell by around 10 points from the previous General Election. However in 1983, at the 11th hour, he was shortlisted for the Sedgefield constituency and won the nomination and entered Parliament after the 1983 General Election. More...


Gordon Brown

Labour Leader 2007 - 2010

Born 20th February 1951, Gordon Brown was brought up in Kirkcaldy, Fife with his father, who was a minister in the Church of Scotland, having a strong influence on his early life. During primary school he was placed on a fast stream for the gifted & talented which continued into High school, ending up at the University of Edinburgh at the age of 16 (it was here that during a rugby match he damaged and became blind in one eye). He obtained is degree in history at the age of 21, but continued with his education and achieved his PhD in history – achieved 10 years later. More...


Ed Miliband

Labour Leader 2010 - 2015

Ed Miliband was born on 24th December 1969, the son of a Marxist radical who fled to the UK during the Second World War. He was educated at Haverstock Comprehensive before obtaining a degree from Oxford and Masters from the London School of economics.

Following a brief time as a journalist, he became an advisor to Harriet Harman in 1993 then a year later to Gordon Brown. In 2005 he resigned from his position to stand for the safe labour seat of Doncaster North.  More...


Jeremy Corbyn

Labour Leader 2015 - current

The 18th and current Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was born on 26th May 1949 in Chippenham in Wilshire, his mother a teacher and father an electrical engineer. Both his parents were peace campaigners who had met during the Spanish civil war.  More...


Unless stated the above accounts has been derived from: