Roy Jenkins

Roy Jenkins was born in Abersychan, Monmouthshire, on 11th November, 1920. His father was Arthur Jenkins, president of the South Wales Miners' Federation and the Labour Party MP for Pontypool. Jenkins was educated at Abersychan Grammar School and Balliol College, Oxford, where he won a first in 1941.

According to John Campbell, the author of Roy Jenkins (2014), Jenkins had a homosexual relationship with Anthony Crosland, while at Oxford. The book claims that they had a "homosexual fling" and quotes Jenkins as telling Crosland that they had “an intense friendship of a kind that neither of us are ever likely to experience again”. They shared their time “in complete mutual absorption and complete mutual loyalty… wrapped up in our own two interwoven lives”.

During the Second World War Jenkins served in the Royal Artillery and for a while he worked as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park. In 1945 he married Jennifer Morris. Philip Johnston has argued: "Their homoerotic partnership (with Crosland) was broken by two events: the outbreak of war and Roy’s realisation that he preferred women, after meeting his future wife Jennifer, to whom he was married for 58 years. He would later become something of a Lothario, boasting many affairs, including with the wives of two of his closest friends."

A member of the Labour Party, Jenkins was elected to the House of Commons in 1948. At first he represented Central Southwark but at the 1950 General Election moved to Stechford, Birmingham. This was a time when the Conservative Party held power but Jenkins gradually became a leading figure in the shadow cabinet.

After the Labour Party won the 1964 GeneraI Election the new prime minister, Harold Wilson, appointed Jenkins as aviation minister. The following year, Jenkins became home secretary. While in this post he encouraged the passing of private members' bills that legalized homosexuality and abortion. He also abolished theatre censorship. As a result the Daily Telegraph called him the “father of permissiveness”.

Denis Healey later argued: "In my view, Roy Jenkins's best period in office was as Home Secretary in the Cabinet of 1966; he then succeeded in stamping his liberal humanism on a department not notorious for that quality. He was not well suited to the politics of class and ideology which played so large a role in the Labour Party. His natural environment was the Edwardian age on which he wrote so well. He saw politics very much like Trollope, as the interplay of personalities seeking preferment, rather than, like me, as a conflict of principles and programmes about social and economic change."

In 1967 Jenkins became chancellor of the exchequer, the second most important post in the Cabinet. Over the next three years his main strategy was to get the balance of payments in the black. By the time of the 1970 General Election he had acquired the nickname of "Surplus Jenkins".

The Conservative Party won the 1970 election. When the new House of Commons assembled Jenkins was elected deputy leader of the Labour Party. At the 1971 Party Conference he argued strongly for Britain to join the European Community. Jenkins lost the vote by five-to-one and he upset the party when he defied a three-line whip to vote with the Conservatives on this issue.

The Labour Party won the 1974 General Election and Jenkins once again became home secretary. He was responsible for two important pieces of legislation, the Sex Discrimination Act (1975) and the Race Relations Act (1976). He also led the successful "yes" campaign in the referendum on membership of the European Economic Community. When Harold Wilson resigned in 1976 Jenkins stood for the leadership of the party. However, he came only third behind James Callaghan and Michael Foot.

In 1977 Jenkins left the House of Commons to become president of the European Commission in Brussels. In this post he began to advocate the idea of European monetary union. This was considered to be too radical at the time and the result was the introduction of the European monetary system. However, he had laid the foundations for what was later to become the single currency in 2002.

The political views of Jenkins were unpopular in the Labour Party and in 1981 he joined Shirley Williams, David Owen and William Rodgers in setting up the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Jenkins became leader of the new party and in 1982 he returned to the House of Commons as MP for Glasgow Hillhead.

At the 1983 General Election the SDP-Liberal Alliance achieved 25% of the popular vote. However, the SDP won only 6 seats. After the election Jenkins resigned as leader and was replaced by David Owen. In the 1987 General Election Jenkins lost his seat at Glasglow Hillhead. Created Lord Jenkins of Hillhead he became the leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords.

In retirement Jenkins concentrated on writing and published several books including an autobiography, A Life At The Centre (1991) and two best-selling biographies, Gladstone (1995) and Churchill (2001).

Roy Jenkins died on 5th January, 2003.

Hugh Gaitskell showed great courage in leading and organizing a nationwide campaign against Suez. He was an obvious target for the Conservative press, who were loyally supporting their Prime Minister, for, as past history since the Boer War has shown, calm statesman-like criticism of a government's action during a war is quickly branded as treachery and a betrayal of HM forces.

We all took part in the operation, christened the 'Law not War' campaign. At one Shadow Cabinet meeting I reminded my colleagues of the occasion during the Boer War (when the Liberal Opposition was split on the issue) that Lloyd George had had to be smuggled out of Birmingham Town Hall disguised as a policeman to save his life. I said that I hoped that the luck of the draw would not lead to my being sent to Birmingham.

I was, in fact, sent there. The main hall was packed, as was a smaller hall which was linked to the platform by a public address system. Roy Jenkins, himself a Birmingham MP, rightly accused the Government of causing "enormous damage" to the chances of success of the simultaneous Hungarian revolt against Russia "for the sake of a squalid adventure in the Middle East". In fact, I did not have to don police uniform and, together with Roy, was cheered to the echo.

In my view, Roy Jenkins's best period in office was as Home Secretary in the Cabinet of 1966; he then succeeded in stamping his liberal humanism on a department not notorious for that quality. He saw politics very much like Trollope, as the interplay of personalities seeking preferment, rather than, like me, as a conflict of principles and programmes about social and economic change.

Though his father had been a miners' agent in South Wales, who served as Attlee's Parliamentary Private Secretary, Roy's drawling voice, his pronunciation of 'r' as 'w', and his sometimes lackadaisical manner limited his appeal to the Party activists. Yet he was a brilliant Parliamentary debater, and could rouse enthusiasm even in the Labour Party Conference when he spoke on a subject like the Common Market, on which he was passionately committed. He had the same capacity as Nye Bevan and Hugh Gaitskell to inspire a deep and personal devotion among his disciples.

Former Labour Chancellor and Home Secretary Lord Jenkins of Hillhead has died, aged 82. He collapsed at his home in Oxfordshire on Sunday morning, a spokeswoman for his family said.

After serving twice as home secretary in a Labour Government, Lord Jenkins was one of the "Gang of Four" who formed the breakaway SDP party in 1981.

Former Labour Prime Minister Lord Callaghan said: "He was one of the outstanding statesmen of his era."

Lord Owen, a co-founder of the SDP, said: "He was by any standards a major political figure and historical figure in the context of the last century."

Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith said: "He was a big political figure and his passing is a sad moment."

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy said: "Roy Jenkins was a great man and a great personal friend."

Roy Jenkins was one of the most remarkable people ever to grace British politics. His influence on it is as great as many who held the office of Prime Minister. He had intellect, vision and an integrity that saw him hold firm to his beliefs of moderate social democracy, liberal reform and the cause of Europe throughout his life.

Even those of us who disagreed with the decision to form the SDP admired the way he never wavered from the view that the British people should have the chance to vote for a progressive politics free from rigid doctrine and ideology and one that stood in the tradition of Lloyd George, Keynes and Beveridge as much as Keir Hardie, Attlee and Bevan.

He was a friend and support to me and someone I was proud to know as a politician and as a human being. As his brilliant biographies demonstrate he had extraordinary insight and a naturally unprejudiced mind. He was above all a man of reason. I will miss him deeply.

The son and grandson of miners, raised in the South Wales coalfield - his trade union father was actually imprisoned during the General Strike of 1926 - Jenkins had an impeccable Labour pedigree. It was of the sort romantic class warriors from Hampstead and Holland Park such as Left-wing Labourites Michael Foot and Tony Benn would have given their eye-teeth for.

But from the very start, he never attempted to play on his background. At Oxford University, friends urged him to make more of it when standing for office in the Union, but he refused. "The poor are poor," he told them. He didn’t want "any sob-stuff" to promote his cause. He would not act up to the part.

All his adult life, he indulged in expensive pleasures, delighted in high-born company and presented an air of lordly entitlement. As a Labour politician (until he defected to the SDP), this left him open to charges of hypocrisy and betraying his roots. He didn’t care. He was what he was, and that was that.

His origins, anyway, were less horny-handed than many imagined from his Welsh valley roots. His father had been a miner, certainly, but there was never any question of his son following him down the pit. By the time Roy was born in 1920, Arthur Jenkins was already a full-time union official on a middle-class salary, chairman of the Pontypool Labour Party and a county councillor.

When Roy was 14, Jenkins Snr was elected MP for Pontypool. He quickly became Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the party leader, Clement Attlee, and held that position throughout World War II when Attlee was deputy Prime Minister. He was then briefly a minister in the Labour government that triumphed in the 1945 election.

Arriving at Oxford University from lowly Abersychan County School in South Wales in 1938, Roy Jenkins acquired a new accent - that distinctive and rather posh drawl that was to be the delight of impressionists in years to come. His ‘Rs’ came out as ‘Ws’, and the sound he made was such that a fellow undergraduate took him for an Old Etonian peer’s son.

It wasn’t the only significant change in him. The miner’s son brushed up against young men from public schools, most notably Tony Crosland - ‘the most exciting friend of my life’ - with whom he would be intimately entangled for the next 38 years in a relationship that was both personal and political.

The young Crosland was a striking figure, 15 months older than Jenkins and a year ahead of him at Oxford. He was from the Home Counties, his father a senior civil servant, his mother an academic.

‘Tony was immensely good-looking and elegant,’ Jenkins recalled. ‘He wore a long camel-hair overcoat, and drove a powerful MG sports car known as the Red Menace. I found him rather intimidating, until he came to my rooms on some minor Labour Club business and remained talking for nearly two hours. Thereafter, I saw him nearly every day.’
Crosland at this time in his life was openly gay - it was part of his slightly dangerous glamour - and part of Roy’s attraction for him was probably sexual. There is a strong homoerotic undercurrent in his letters. Years later, Roy confessed that Tony had successfully seduced him at least once.

As Home Secretary in the Sixties, Jenkins would become a driving force behind the decriminalisation of homosexuality, but he himself was not by nature gay - far from it, as his string of mistresses later in life showed. But he fell for a time so wholly under Crosland’s spell that he might have tried anything.

In one of their first letters when both were at their respective homes in Pontypool and Sussex for Christmas, Crosland teasingly likened his ‘boy friend’ to a ‘handsome (& pansy) Beau Geste’ and warned him not to forget that ‘drink, women and sleep are all things to be taken in small quantities!’

In the early days of their relationship Jenkins was clearly the junior partner. The more confident Crosland embraced an upper-middle-class form of socialist politics that was at once cerebral and romantic, egalitarian and elitist.

Roy Jenkins, Baron Jenkins of Hillhead

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Roy Jenkins, Baron Jenkins of Hillhead, in full Roy Harris Jenkins, (born November 11, 1920, Abersychan, Monmouthshire, England—died January 5, 2003, East Hendred, Oxfordshire), British politician, a strong supporter of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Community. Formerly a Labourite, he was the first leader of the Social Democratic Party (1982–83) and later was leader of the Social and Liberal Democratic Peers (1988–98).

Educated at Balliol College, Oxford, from which he graduated in 1941, Jenkins served in the Royal Artillery in World War II and first entered Parliament in 1948. He could claim family roots in the Labour movement his father had been a miners’ union official, a member of Parliament, and parliamentary private secretary to the Labourite prime minister Clement Attlee. Jenkins at one time considered giving up politics for writing, but, in the formation of the 1964 government of Harold Wilson, he joined the cabinet as air minister (1964–65) he then became home secretary (1965–67) and chancellor of the Exchequer (1967–70). In 1972 he resigned from the Labour Party in protest of its decision to support a referendum on whether Britain should remain in the Common Market. He reentered the shadow cabinet in 1973 as shadow home secretary and became home secretary after Labour’s victory in 1974. In 1976 he resigned from the cabinet and Parliament to become president of the executive branch of the European Community, and he remained in that post until 1981. In 1981 he and other dissidents from the increasingly leftist Labour Party formed the Social Democratic Party, of which he was briefly leader. In 1987 he accepted a life peerage and moved from the House of Commons to the House of Lords, where he was a leader of the new Social and Liberal Democratic Party. He subsequently became chancellor of the University of Oxford (1987–2003). In 1993 Jenkins was elected to the Order of Merit.

Jenkins wrote numerous books, including biographies such as Asquith: Portrait of a Man and an Era (1964), Baldwin (1987), Gladstone (1995), and Churchill (2001), and political works such as Mr. Balfour’s Poodle: Peers vs. People (1954), The Labour Case (1959), and Afternoon on the Potomac?: A British View of America’s Changing Position in the World (1972). A Life at the Centre: Memoirs of a Radical Reformer (1991) recounts Jenkins’s own political career.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Michael Levy, Executive Editor.

Who is the real Leeroy Jenkins?

The man behind the character is Ben Schulz. He's a Denver-based gamer who made the video with his friends from college.

"Alex Trebek said my name," Schulz said to Westword. "When I saw that, I realized it had gone beyond anything I could control."

Schulz also in 2017 admitted the video was staged while sharing his friend's plea to raise awareness for net neutrality.

"This should answer the on-going question that we all already knew the answer to, and hopefully support a good cause," he writes.

Schulz has also made appearances at BlizzCon, the gaming convention held by Blizzard Entertainment (the creator of World of Warcraft).

Also, in case you weren't completely sure, Leeroy says, "at least I have chicken" at the end of the video despite several people believing the line is "at least i ain't chicken." This was confirmed by Vinson on a forum when the video was first gaining popularity.


Roy Jenkins was born in Abersychan, Monmouthshire, Wales in 1920, and he was educated at Abersychan County School and Oxford. During World War II he worked as a code-breaker, and became a Labour Party MP in the 1948 Southwark by-election. He was an effective Minister of Aviation from 1964 to 1965, though his reputation was made as one of the most successful Home Secretaries (1965-7) and Chancellors of the Exchequer since the war. In the former position, he instituted a string of liberal reforms, notably the legalization of abortion and homosexuality. As Chancellor, his budgets eliminated a large balance of payments deficit, though the austerity which so effectively reduced consumption did little to endear his government to large sections of the electorate. As Foreign Secretary in Harold Wilson's last government (1974-6), he was a committed advocate of British membership in the EEC. He became President of the European Commission in 1976, having lost to James Callaghan in the election for the Labour leadership. Alarmed by Labour's drift to the left, he re-entered British politics and co-founded the UK Social Democratic Party in 1981. He was its leader until 1983, when he was replaced by David Owen. He gained a sensational by-election victory for the SDP in 1982 at Glasgow Hillhead, a seat he lost in 1987. He was elected Chancellor of Oxford University in 1987, and was raised to the peerage in 1988. He wrote a number of biographies which, despite the absence of new or controversial insights, enjoyed considerable popularity, including Asquith (1964), Truman (1986), Baldwin (1987), and Gladstone (1995).

After the 1970 election Jenkins was moved to the foreign office. Wilson had at various times during the previous parlimament promised the office to Jenkins, Callaghan and Healey, and this created some animosity between the men.

Jenkins was responsible for gaining british entry into the EEC, he was by far the most pro-european cabinet member. Harold Wilson had hinted after the 1970 election that he would resign during the next parliament, and hinted that the October 1972 labour conference would be the time. Wilson remained quiet about the resignation issue after his reelection, and it was not until March 1973 that he announced he would resign in June.

Jenkins was the clear odds on favorite to suceed wilson, having served as Home Secretary, Chancellor and Foreign Secretary, he was one of only a handful of men to serve in three of the four great offices of state.

Labour will win by changing minds – not pandering to rightwing voters

S ix months before the 1959 general election, Roy Jenkins, then a young Labour MP for Stechford in Birmingham, wrote a short book laying out The Labour Case. The final chapter was titled Is Britain Civilised?. To which his tacit answer was no – not unless Britain abolished the death penalty, decriminalised homosexuality and suicide, made divorce easier and abortion legal, and promoted racial harmony.

At that point, Labour had been out of power for eight years. The party wouldn’t win for another five. Reading Jenkins’ book recently, I found myself wondering whether Jenkins – who, once Labour finally won in 1964 carried through all those promised reforms as home secretary – gave much thought to whether his opinions tallied with those of his voters. What did he do when his constituents told him to “send ’em back”? Did he argue with them, or did he nod sympathetically?

Whatever happened on the doorstep, he didn’t let it influence what he did in office.

I tried to imagine Jenkins – a social liberal, though not a socialist (who eventually left Labour to set up the SDP in the early 80s) – tossing his programme of reforms in the bin, swayed by voters’ “legitimate concerns”, but I couldn’t. He knew the stakes were too high: that the future health of British society depended on doing things that the majority didn’t necessarily approve of, and that without radical change what was merely stagnant could rapidly become necrotic.

That’s where we were at the end of the 1950s, and it’s where we are again now. The young and indebted have effectively been taken hostage by the old and propertied, regardless of occupational class. The economic and social wellbeing of the country is now being held back in favour of an elaborate courtship ritual towards those who voted Tory, perhaps for the first time, last December.

Where is Jenkins’ equivalent, now we need them most? It’s looking less and less likely that it’s going to be Keir Starmer. Since succeeding Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader in April, Starmer hasn’t just shown caution on social issues that are deemed to put “red wall” voters into a red mist. He appears to have assumed that in order to win those voters back, Labour must try and prove its cultural conservatism.

Why else would Starmer take positions that will lose him as many supporters as he possibly stands to gain? It’s impossible to imagine an 18-year-old hear him equivocate over the Black Lives Matter movement and believe he had any desire, let alone a vision, to help society move forward. Nor when he blindly applauded the police, shortly after it transpired that police officers had taken selfies with the bodies of the murdered black women Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman.

Starmer could be taking his cue from Robbie McGrath, a white headteacher in Sheffield, who wrote to parents in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing, encouraging them to talk to their children about structural racism. Instead of press-ganging his shadow cabinet into wild displays of flag-waving on last month’s Armed Forces Day, he could have encouraged them to highlight what Labour would do for ex-soldiers’ mental health, their risk of homelessness, and the fact many young men join the army after being actively recruited from places in the country where there are few other options to obtain a decent, regular income.

In 1994, aged 18 and living in a part of the Midlands where working-class Tory voting is not a new phenomenon, I watched Tony Blair’s first speech as Labour leader on TV and joined the party on the spot. He attacked the Tories and everything they stood for like an angry wasp, calling them “the most feckless, irresponsible group of incompetents ever to be let loose in government”. At the same time, he offered a clear and detailed alternative that, at the time, showed no patience for the social conservatism that went along with that fecklessness.

Of course, we know what happened next. Like many others, I had mistaken Blair’s fanatical globalism for genuine internationalism, and believed he’d be as “tough on the causes of crime” as he ended up being on the people who committed them. Nevertheless, he understood that education was a social good and that it was possible for people, with support, to learn the value of difference.

For all its manifest faults, New Labour stuck broadly with Roy Jenkins’ belief that social progressivism was necessary for the broader health of society, and that to ditch it was to do everyone a disservice. Freedom of movement was one example: the academic Harris Beider notes that opposition to large-scale immigration has been a majority opinion since 1964, regardless of who is in power or how well or badly the economy has been doing.

In his infamous 1968 Rivers of Blood speech, Enoch Powell told of meeting “a quite ordinary working man” who expressed racist fears that “in 15 or 20 years’ time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man”. Powell’s fig leaf had to be “a quite ordinary working man” it was the 1968 version of hearing “legitimate concerns on the doorstep”.

If you’re a politician now, the choice is the same as it was then. You can take great care to amplify what voters tell you, regardless of how ignorant or prejudiced, or you can refuse to get drawn in, with good reason. The very voters who complain constantly of being ignored by a supposed “liberal elite” are those for whom every policy tweak and public announcement is calibrated. It’s true that many voters, particularly in newly Tory seats, have been ignored for decades. One of the things people hope for from government is the promise of economic security, and no one has delivered that since the 1970s. But paying attention and pandering are entirely different things. The very least we ought to expect from the leader of a progressive party is to know the difference.

You could ban immigration, as the Labour peer Maurice Glasman recommended in 2011, and the demands would shift to repatriation. You could pretend, as Owen Smith did in 2016, that you’ve never seen a cappuccino when there’s a Costa in every petrol station. And, yes, you could get us out of the EU, knowing it’s only being done to assuage feelings rather than solve real problems.

But there are some people you can never please. Perhaps the solution, then, is not to try, but instead to attempt to shape a vision of society that you believe will benefit everyone. Starmer’s attempts to “lead from the top”, as he is fond of repeating, will work only if he refuses to cave to those in Labour who tell him his job is to follow voters and not to try to change their minds. I grew up in that country, and I don’t want it back.

Lynsey Hanley is a freelance writer and the author of Estates: an Intimate History, and Respectable: Crossing the Class Divide

Welsh History Month: Roy Jenkins, a more civilised society and Labour's 'moral crusade'

When asked to name a notable Welsh politician who has had significant impact beyond Wales, most will turn to the two great orators, David Lloyd George and Aneurin Bevan Lloyd George’s place secured by his wartime premiership and role in laying the early foundations of the welfare state and Bevan for creating its longest-lasting achievement, the NHS. Roy Jenkins is unlikely to be the first name that comes to mind.

Roy Jenkins, a native of Pontypool and son of Monmouthshire miner’s leader Arthur Jenkins, was Home Secretary twice, from 1965 to 1967 and from 1974 to 1976. His time in this office was filled with effective and positive reform. Jenkins famously supported the passing of legislation on liberalising the State’s attitude to abortion, theatre censorship and homosexuality. Jenkins was far from the only Welsh MP to be a member of the “Old Labour” Governments of the 1960s and 1970s. Between 1964 and 1979, every Labour Home Secretary who served in the governments of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan either sat for a Welsh seat, or were Welsh by birth. Several more Welsh MPs also served in junior capacities at the Home Office.

In his long and impactful career, Jenkins was also Chancellor of the Exchequer after the devaluation crisis, leader of the Yes campaign during the 1975 European referendum, the only British President of the European Commission and one of the “Gang of Four” who founded the Social Democratic Party in 1981. Any of these achievements would be deserving of an article in this series, but it is Jenkins’ tenures at the Home Office that did most to improve life in Britain.

In his lecture about Jenkins the Parliamentarian, former cabinet minister Andrew Adonis, has argued that his term of office was a perfect example of the “transformational minister”. This is a minster who, in the words of Winston Churchill, makes the political weather, and does not have his course dictated by it. This claim is however based on Jenkins’ promotion of, and support for, legislation to create a “civilised” society, but does not pay attention to his significant and often forgotten role in attempts to reform Race Relations legislation. On his return to the Home Office in the 1970s, he continued the crusade, legislating against racial and sexual discrimination. Jenkins’ impact on race relations is undoubtedly a forgotten aspect of his career.

There were a number of race riots throughout the 1950s and 1960s

From the late 1950s, mass immigration had a major impact on British, predominantly urban, society. This caused problems for the Labour Party, not least because it claimed to represent a white working class that often felt threatened and angered by immigration. There were a number of race riots throughout the 1950s and 1960s and there were conflicting opinions within the Labour Party itself.

Trade unions at the local level often supported their members in their implementation of colour bars in employment and places of leisure. The Bristol Bus Boycott of 1963 was a fine example of this and Unite, the successor union of the Transport and General Workers Union that colluded in the colour bar at the Bristol Omnibus Company, apologised for its predecessor’s role on the 50th anniversary of the boycott. Despite these issues at the local level, nationally the Labour Party was very supportive of equality and in 1958 the Labour Party’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) published a statement against racial discrimination, supported by the party’s conference.

Leftwing MP Fenner Brockway’s eighth attempt to pass an anti-discrimination Private Members’ Bill (a piece of legislation promoted by a backbench MP after winning a ballot of colleagues) was unsuccessful. The new Labour leader Harold Wilson therefore decided to announce to an anti-apartheid rally on March 17, 1963 in Trafalgar Square that “When we have a Labour majority we will enact it as a Government measure”. This was Wilson’s first statement of intent to pass legislation on the issue of race relations. The Labour leadership and the party at the national level were coming out as against racial discrimination not just at home, but all over the world.

After the election, Jenkins was appointed Minister of Aviation

On October 15, 1964 the general election brought the Wilson Government to power.

Racism raised its head in the election, with the Shadow Foreign Secretary Patrick Gordon Walker defeated in his campaign for re-election in the Smethwick constituency by Conservative local councillor Peter Griffiths. The campaign was full of racial innuendo and more blatant displays of anti-immigrant feeling. Griffiths even condoned the election slogan “if you want a n***** for neighbour vote Liberal or Labour”. In a heated Parliamentary exchange, Harold Wilson referred to Griffiths as a “Parliamentary leper”. Wilson appointed Gordon Walker as Foreign Secretary, but required him to find a new seat as soon as possible. This led to the January 1965 Leyton by-election, in which Gordon Walker attempted to get back into Parliament. He lost again and resigned as Foreign Secretary.

After the election, Jenkins was appointed Minister of Aviation, in which he was a relatively successful minister. In the reshuffle following Gordon Walker’s resignation, he was offered the Ministry of Education, but turned it down hoping to be offered the Home Office when it became available. This may have seemed foolish, but Jenkins already had a manifesto for reform he could implement at the Home Office. In his book The Labour Case, which had been published as a Penguin Special for the 1959 election, Jenkins laid out a series of reforms that could be implement by an incoming Labour Government. These reforms could only by promoted by an activist minister at the Home Office. The aging Home Secretary, Sir Frank Soskice, resigned and was succeeded by Jenkins in December 1965.

Jenkins was the youngest Home Secretary since Churchill.

Once he was ensconced in the Home Office, Jenkins set about reforming it. He negotiated the retirement of the Permanent Secretary and replaced him as soon as he could with Philip Allen, a Civil Servant who shared similar views about improving the State’s role within society. Allen said of Jenkins’ first period at the Home Office that it had a “marked and lasting effect on the country’s culture and social values”. The Race Relations Act (1965) had passed in August, but and it had become obvious that as it did not cover discrimination in employment and housing, it was too weak to be effective.

In the summer of 1966, Jenkins gave support to David Steel

The Home Secretary Set about promoting a number of reforms, including the Criminal Justice Act (1967) which abolished flogging in prisons and introduced majority verdicts by juries. He also used powers already invested in the Home Secretary to merge police forces, reducing the number from 117 to 49. Jenkins then set about supporting two Private Members’ Bills that stand above others as exemplar of the Government’s support of the “civilised society”. In the summer of 1966, Jenkins gave support to David Steel, then the fresh-faced and newly elected Liberal MP for his Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill. This later became the Abortion Act (1967), and banished for good the existence of the backstreet abortion. The second was Leo Abse’s Sexual Offences Bill, which decriminalised homosexuality in line with proposals from a decade earlier made by the Wolfenden Committee. Both had the support of the Government with drafting and extra parliamentary time, and would not have made it onto the statute book without Jenkins’ support.

Jenkins’ contribution to race relations legislation was not legislative, but it was stating the Government’s opinion on the issue and slowly making the public aware of the need for improvement in the law. Roy Jenkins gave his first speech on racialism on May 23, 1966. In a speech widely seen as his best, Jenkins argued that integration relied on equal opportunity, cultural diversity and mutual tolerance. He was critical of attempts to disparage the purity of the little Englander mentality, arguing: “If it were to happen to the rest of us, to the Welsh (like myself), to the Scots, to the Irish, to the Jews, to the mid-European, and to still more recent arrivals, it would be little short of a national disaster”. This was a rare example of Jenkins actually acknowledging his Welsh roots for political purposes.

Jenkins argued that it was right that the Home Office oversaw both immigration control and the “exciting and constructive part of the work…integration policy”. He argued that while immigration control was “distasteful…, it remains a duty”. In a passage in which he defined the Wilson Government’s opinion on integration, he suggested integration should be seen “not as a flattening process of assimilation but as equal opportunity, accompanied by cultural diversity, in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance”. The Home Secretary affirmed his belief that race relations reform was a fundamental ambition of the party. He, in effect, was channelling Harold Wilson’s mantra from 1962, that the Labour Party was “a moral crusade or it is nothing”.

The speech also flagged up Jenkins’ belief that the Race Relations Act 1965 would have to be tightened up due to a proliferation of racialist literature. The Home Secretary argued that by extending the race Relations Act (1965), he could extend the newly constituted Race Relations Boards purview over employment and housing, therefore it would be possible to do more to assist integration. Jenkins observed however, that it could not be done by compulsion and the “voluntary co-operation of employers and trade unionists” was necessary. The speech’s impact was damaged by the fact that it occurred simultaneously with the 1966 seaman’s strike and its fall out, which was the main news story of the week.

Jenkins’ speeches on race relations were made with electioneering in mind. His first speech was made after the March 1966 election, and the speeches that followed were given in such a way as to not create an electoral backlash from Labour voters who were against immigration. Jenkins had carefully “placed” a number of speeches on race relations across his career at the Home Office. In the words of Nicholas Deakin, the co-author of the Race Relations Survey that was published in 1969, he made speeches like “stepping stones across a potentially treacherous marsh”. Over the course of his term of office, Jenkins seemed open on amending the 1965 Act, suggesting to the London Labour Party in May 1967 that falling behind US progress on the issue would be an “intolerable situation”.

The two key areas focused on in the report were employment and housing

A report by the think-tank Political and Economic Policy was a vital addition to the debate over extending the reach of the Race Relations Act (1965). It was an important tool in allowing Jenkins to create the political space to argue for the Act’s extension. The two key areas focused on in the report were employment and housing, with smaller sections of the report dealing with services and immigrant life in Britain. The report had been commissioned by the two organisations created by the 1965 Act. The National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants was a co-ordinating body of local voluntary race relations committees whose role was to assist with integration. It was chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury and was composed of an array of representatives of civil society. The Race Relations Board was chaired by the former Liberal MP Sir Mark Bonham Carter, grandson of a former Prime Minister, HH Asquith, and uncle of actress Helena Bonham Carter. Its role was to arbitrate disputes and forward dispute that required to go to court to the Attorney General.

The report caused a great deal of Parliamentary interest, and issues it raised were regularly brought up in Home Office and House of Commons business ministers’ question sessions. It was also raised in debates about the continued rights of families of existing settlers. Its publication led to a Parliamentary Motion signed by 142 Labour and Liberal members calling for an extension of the 1965 Act. Jenkins stated that it was key to the Labour Government’s decision to propose new legislation.

After the devaluation crisis of autumn 1967, Harold Wilson decided to perform a cabinet reshuffle.

In a straight swap he appointed Jim Callaghan, a former Parliamentary adviser to the Police Federation, to the Home Office, replacing him at the Treasury with the popular and dynamic former Home Secretary. Jenkins had been in post for less than two years and had not had the chance to legislate on race relations. His campaign had not been in vain. With the Home Office having to deal with the arrival of British passport-holding Kenyan Asians, Callaghan realised something had to be done to assuage public opinion in Britain.

Jim Callaghan introduced the Race Relations Bill on April 23, 1968, just three days after Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech. Powell’s speech was critical of Labour’s planned introduction of the Bill and its stance on integration more generally. Callaghan argued that the Bill had been suggested by Jenkins, stating that: “This Bill was foreshadowed last summer by my predecessor, who indicated then that the Government intended to legislate further on race relations, and his intention was confirmed in the programme set out in the Queen’s Speech”. The Bill was based along the parameters outlined by Jenkins in his previous speeches. It was wider in scope, but was still weak in enforcement. Jenkins, by now Chancellor of the Exchequer, delivered a speech in Swansea on 4 May 1968, in which he criticised Powell’s speech as well as his motives for making it. While accepting that integration could not happen without immigration being limited, he argued immigration had to be dealt with responsibly. In his last real intervention on the issue until his return to the Home Office, Jenkins argued that “we are the Government and on great issues we are a party of principle or we are nothing”.

Jenkins returned to the Home Office a more reduced figure. Years of party infighting in opposition had sapped much of his radical energy. This did not mean his return was unsuccessful, far from it.

Jenkins believed the state should not obstruct individual freedom

Jenkins hired the human rights lawyer Anthony Lester as a special adviser and his former adviser was given a peerage and became a Home Office minister. The period was a fine swansong to an already impressive ministerial career. Lester drafted first a Sex Discrimination Bill, this was a tactical move, meaning that once superior legislation had been created in discrimination legislation on gender, race relations legislation could be introduced that matched its provisions.

The legislation merged previous race relations bodies into one, the Commission for Racial Equality, which remained in existence until the passing of the Equality Act (2010).

Fundamentally, Jenkins’ two incumbencies at the Home Office did a great deal to improve the relationship between British law and its impact on citizens’ everyday lives. Jenkins believed the state should not obstruct individual freedom.

He legislated to create a more civilised society, including in its impact on newly arrived Commonwealth immigrants. In his pursuit of this aim, he as much as any of his contemporaries, became a true moral crusader for a better society.


I am a PhD student in the School of History, Welsh History and Archaeology at Bangor University on a research project entitled “The Elephant in the Room: the Labour Party, Commonwealth immigration to Britain and the politics of race, 1958-1979”. Alongside my PhD I teach on modern history modules. I am a native of Halifax, West Yorkshire, but have lived in and around Bangor since beginning my undergraduate degree in 2008. I have funded my PhD through working in the university catering department and applying for academic travel and charitable trust support.

If I could go back to one period in history it would be the “Scramble for Africa” in the 19th century, perhaps on an expedition with David Livingstone or Burton and Speke, back when hunting for the source of the Nile was an adventure.

I think the best thing Wales has given the world is a series of great men who have had a great impact on the world (perhaps you would not immediately think of as Welshman!).

Another favourite alongside Roy Jenkins would be TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) . Had his approach to the future of Arab people (and the borders he suggested) been taken up rather than the lines in the sand drawn up in secret and implemented by duplicitous diplomats, the Middle East perhaps would be the safe and peace-ridden cultural marvel it should be!

Welsh History Month is in association with The National Trust, Cadw, the National Museum of Wales and the National Library of Wales

Roy Jenkins

Roy Harris Jenkins, Baron Jenkins of Hillhead, OM , PC (11 November 1920 – 5 January 2003) was a British Labour Party, SDP and Liberal Democrat politician, and biographer of British political leaders.

Jenkins was elected to Parliament as a Labour MP in 1948. He served as Home Secretary from 1965 to 1967 and Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1967 and 1970. He was elected Deputy Leader of the Labour Party on 8 July 1970, [1] but resigned in 1972 because he supported entry to the European Communities, while the party opposed it.

In 1977, he was appointed President of the European Commission, serving until 1981. He was the first British holder of this office, and is likely to be the only such (considering the United Kingdom's decision in June 2016 to leave the European Union). [2]

He was also a known historian, biographer and writer. His A Life at the Centre (1991) is thought to be as one of the best autobiographies of the later 20th century, which "will be read with pleasure long after most examples of the genre have been forgotten". [3]

Roy Jenkins

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