New biography tells story of legendary South Shields MP James Chuter Ede

A new book celebrates the life of a South Shields MP who became the longest serving Home Secretary in the last 200 years.

Saturday, 20th March 2021, 6:00 am

James Chuter Ede: Humane Reformer and Politician, penned by writer Stephen Hart, is the first time that Chuter Ede, South Shields’s MP for over thirty years and member of Clement Attlee's legendary 1945 cabinet, has had his story told.

The town MP served the longest term of office as Home Secretary in the last 200 years, three weeks more than Theresa May, and before that was a major influence in English education, leading up to his role in the 1944 Education Act.

The author is well equipped to tell Chuter Ede's unsung history, and the title covers some immense achievements: from reorganising public services after World War II to paving the way for the abolition of capital punishment.

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Author Stephen Hart with his new book
Author Stephen Hart with his new book

Stephen said: “It has been a fascinating experience, researching the life of Chuter Ede, who left several books of diaries and numerous boxes of papers when he died.

"Many of these have hardly been looked at previously, and never to write a complete life. I think of this as an introductory biography, as other researchers may want to spend more time investigating this interesting man.”

Chuter Ede lived from 1882-1965 and was a senior member of the Attlee governments from 1945-51 – but was the only member of Attlee's legendary 1945 cabinet not yet to have found a biographer

Stephen said Ede’s contribution to that Government was immense. Alongside towering achievements such as Nye Bevan's NHS, his own measures, in administrative, legal and social reform, did much to set the seal on Labour's reforming programme, including the Criminal Justice Act 1948, paving the way for the abolition of capital punishment.

Previously, working with RA Butler, he provided a major contribution to the Education Act 1944. He represented suburban Mitcham and then industrial South Shields in Parliament, where his performances were legendary in an age of oratory and were regarded as low-key, yet cutting and decisive.

His name lives on in South Shields in a number of place names.

::James Chuter Ede: Humane Reformer and Politician, by Stephen Hart, is released on hardback this month priced £25.

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