Henderson, Arthur

Labour MP, born in Glasgow on 20 September 1863. As a young man he attended the Elswick Road WM Mission church, Newcastle and was influenced by an open-air address by Gypsy Smith. A keen sportsman, he was a Temperanceteetotaler and non-smoker, and in later years became a regular reader of Hugh Price Hughes' Methodist Times. He was an enthusiastic supporter of Samuel E. Keeble's Methodist Union for Social Service and was President of the Brotherhood Movement in 1914-15.

Leaving school at 12, he worked in an iron foundery. In 1883 he joined the Friendly Society of Iron-Founders and became secretary of his local branch. In 1892 he also served his union as a district delegate. Beginning his political life as a Lib-Lab, in 1903, sponsored by the Labour Representation League, he was elected as a Labour MP for Barnard Castle in 1903, and, despite repeated defeats in the polls, represented Widnes 1919-1922, Newcastle East 1923, Burnley 1924-1929 and Clay Cross 1933-1935. From 1908 to 1911 was Keir Hardie's successor as leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party. In the post-war years he played a major role in building up the party organization. He served briefly as Home Secretary in 1924 and as Foreign Secretary in the Government of 1929 he attended the Disarmament Conference in Geneva in 1932 and was a strong supporter of the League of Nations. In 1934 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He died in London on 20 October 1935, following an operation.

Two of his sons became Labour politicians. His second son William Watson Henderson (1891-1981), born 8 August 1891, represented Enfield 1923-1924 and 1929-1931. He was Secretary of State for India, 1929-1931. In 1945 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Henderson of Westgate and was Lord-in-waiting (whip) 1945-1957 and the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 1948-1951. He was never married, so the title ceased on his death on 4 April 1984.

Arthur Henderson (1893-1968), born on 27 August 1893, was educated at Central School, Darlington,Queens College, Taunton, and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and was appointed a KC in 1939. He stood unsuccessfully for Portsmouth North, 1922, but represented Cardiff South 1923-1924 and 1929-1931, Kingswinford 1935-1950 and Tipton & Rowley Regis 1950-1966. Raised to the peerage as Baron Rowley, he died on 28 August 1966. He was Under-Secretary for War, 1942-1943; Financial Secretary to the War Office, 1943-1945; Under Secretary of State for India and Burma, 1945-1947 and Secretary of State for Air, 1947-1951.

  • E.A. Jenkins, From Foundry to Foreign Office (1933)
  • Mary A. Hamilton, Arthur Henderson (1938)
  • Methodist Recorder, 24 March 1966
  • M. Stenton & S. Lees (eds.), Who's Who of British Politicians, vol.3 (1979)
  • Oscar Baylen and Norbert J. Gossman (eds.), Biographical Dictionary of Modern British Radicals, vol. 3: 1970-1914, A-K (Hemel Hempstead, 1988) pp.402-9
  • Fred M. Leventhal, Arthur Henderson (Manchester, 1989)
  • C.J. Wrigley, Arthur Henderson (1990)
  • Alan Wilkinson, Christian Socialism: Scott Holland to Tony Blair (1998) pp. 210-11
  • Martin Ceadel, 'Arthur Henderson: an evolving Liberal internationalist among Labour Little-Englanders', in Classes, Cultures, and Politics (Oxford, 2011)
  • Geoffrey Fisher, 'Arthur Henderson: a Christian statesman', in Bulletin of the North East Methodist History Society, no.100, Autumn 2013, pp.18-20
  • Christopher J. Wrigley, Arthur Henderson, three times leader of the Labour Party, in Charles R. Clarke and Toby S. James (eds.), British Labour Leaders (2015) pp.125-43
  • Oxford DNB