John Silkin

John Ernest Silkin (18 March 1923 – 26 April 1987) was a British left-wing Labour politician and solicitor.

This article is about the politician. For the poet, see Jon Silkin.

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John Silkin
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
In office
24 November 1981  26 October 1984
Leader Michael Foot
Neil Kinnock
Preceded by Brynmor John
Succeeded by Denzil Davies
Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
In office
8 December 1980  30 October 1983
Leader Michael Foot
Preceded by Michael Foot
Succeeded by Peter Shore
Shadow Secretary of State for Industry
In office
14 July 1979  8 December 1980
Leader Jim Callaghan
Preceded by Eric Varley
Succeeded by Stanley Orme
Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
In office
10 September 1976  4 May 1979
Prime Minister Jim Callaghan
Preceded by Fred Peart
Succeeded by Peter Walker
Minister of State for Local Government and Planning
In office
7 March 1974  10 September 1976
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Jim Callaghan
Preceded by Graham Page(Local Government and Development)
Succeeded by Position abolished
Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Services
In office
24 March 1972  5 March 1974
Leader Harold Wilson
Preceded by Barbara Castle
Succeeded by Keith Joseph
Minister of Public Buildings and Works
In office
30 April 1969  19 June 1970
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Preceded by Bob Mellish
Succeeded by Julian Amery
Chief Whip of the House of Commons
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury
In office
4 July 1966  30 April 1969
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Preceded by Edward Short
Succeeded by Bob Mellish
Treasurer of the Household
In office
11 April 1966  4 July 1966
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Preceded by Sydney Irving
Succeeded by Charles Grey
Member of Parliament
for Lewisham Deptford
Deptford (1963–1974)
In office
4 July 1963  26 April 1987
Preceded by Leslie Plummer
Succeeded by Joan Ruddock
Personal details
Born (1923-03-18)18 March 1923
London, England
Died 26 April 1987(1987-04-26) (aged 64)
London, England
Political party Labour
Spouse(s)

(m. 1950)

Alma mater University of Wales
Trinity Hall, Cambridge

. . . John Silkin . . .

He was the third son of Lewis Silkin, 1st Baron Silkin, and a younger brother of Samuel Silkin, Baron Silkin of Dulwich. He was educated at Dulwich College, the University of Wales and Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Silkin served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve from 1942 to 1946. He was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant in 1943, serving in the East Indies Fleet, Eastern Fleet and Pacific Fleet aboard HMS King George V and HMS Formidable, and ashore at Anderson, Ceylon (FECB). He was later promoted lieutenant. He was demobilised in 1946 and returned to Cambridge.

Silkin was admitted as a solicitor in 1950 and worked for his father’s law practice in London.

He contested the seat of St Marylebone for the Labour Party at the 1950 general election, West Woolwich in 1951 and South Nottingham in 1959. He served as a councillor in the Metropolitan Borough of St Marylebone (1962–63) and was elected to the House of Commons for the first time in July 1963. He served as the Labour Member of Parliament for Deptford (1963–74) and for Lewisham, Deptford (1974–87).

He was appointed to the Privy Council in 1966. He served as a Government Chief Whip (1966–69) and as the deputy leader of the House of Commons (1968–69). He was appointed as the Minister of Public Buildings and Works (1969–70) and the Minister for Planning and Local Government in the Department for the Environment (1974–76). He served as the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1976–79).

In opposition, Silkin was an unsuccessful candidate in the 1980 Labour leadership election following the resignation of James Callaghan and in the deputy leadership election in 1981. He served as Opposition Spokesman on Industry (1979–80), Shadow Leader of the House of Commons (1980–83), Shadow Defence Secretary (1981–83) and the Dairy Industry Arbitrator (1986–87).

Silkin’s publication Changing Battlefields: The Challenge to the Labour Party appeared posthumously. His papers were given to the Churchill Archives Centre by his widow in February 1990. These cover his Parliamentary and Ministerial career, as well as his other public interests, such as the Channel Tunnel, the European Economic Community and the dairy industry. There is material of particular interest concerning his relationship with his Constituency Labour Party in Deptford and on the Labour Party Leadership and Deputy Leadership Elections in 1980 and 1981.

. . . John Silkin . . .

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. . . John Silkin . . .