A few weeks ago, as the President of Labour Heritage, I organised and chaired a meeting in the House of Commons to promote a recently published book – the memoirs of Morgan Phillips.
Who was Morgan Phillips? Well, he was the General Secretary of the Labour Party from 1944 to 1962; a crucial time in the Labour Party’s history – and Morgan Phillips was central to a wide range of important events. The first was the general election of 1945. As the newly appointed General Secretary of the Party, Morgan Phillips had responsibility for Labour’s election campaign and he deserves credit for the success of that campaign and the path breaking reforms which the 1945-51 Labour Government introduced.
During the 1950s, Morgan Phillips turned his attention to developments abroad, as well as in Britain. He served as the Chair of the Socialist International and helped to ensure that Socialist and Social Democratic Parties in Europe were able to offer their countries an alternative to Soviet Communism.
Morgan Phillips was born in the Cynon Valley but he grew up in Bargoed and he was always proud of his South Wales roots. His daughter was the late Gwyneth Dunwoody, the well-known Labour MP, and his son, also with the name Morgan Phillips, explained to the meeting in the House of Commons how his father had played an important role in the Labour Party’s history. This was especially true during the 1950s when Morgan Phillips helped to keep the right and left wings of the Party together.
This point was elaborated upon by Nick Thomas-Symonds, the MP for Torfaen and a distinguished historian who has written excellent biographies of Clem Attlee and Nye Bevan. Nick described a cartoon in a popular newspaper of the 1950s. This showed Morgan Phillips standing at a public house bar between two prominent adversaries in the Labour Party. Both of the leading politicians asked Morgan Phillips if he would like a pint. He replied that he would a half from each of them. This was typical of Morgan Phillips; he always did his best, usually successfully, to reduce the friction which existed in Labour at the time.
If you would like to buy a copy of Morgan Phillips’ memoirs, they have been published by Spokesman and are available through their website (www.spokesmanbooks.com) priced at £14.99.