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Selwyn Lloyd

Selwyn Lloyd Politician

The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Politician
Countries United Kingdom
Occupations Politician
Type Politics
Gender male
Birth 28 July 1904, Liverpool
Death 18 May 1978, Oxfordshire (aged 73 years)
The details

John Selwyn Brooke Lloyd, Baron Selwyn-Lloyd CH CBE TD PC QC DL (28 July 1904 – 18 May 1978), known for most of his career as Selwyn Lloyd, was a British Conservative Party politician who served as Foreign Secretary from 1955 to 1960, then as Chancellor of the Exchequer until 1962. He was elected Speaker of the House of Commons in 1971, serving until his retirement in 1976.


Lloyd was born in West Kirby, now in Merseyside, but then in the county of Cheshire, the son of John Wesley Lloyd, a dental surgeon, and his wife, Mary Rachel Warhurst. He was educated at Fettes College and Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he was President of the Cambridge Union and the Cambridge University Liberal Club.

Early career

He was a Liberal Parliamentary candidate at Macclesfield in the 1929 general election, coming third. After this he concentrated on a legal career having been admitted to Gray's Inn in 1926. He was called to the bar in 1930. He served as a councillor on Hoylake Urban District Council 1932–40.

World War II service

During the Second World War he reached the rank of brigadier and was Deputy Chief of Staff of the British Second Army. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1943 and promoted to Commander (CBE) in 1945.

Election to Parliament

He was elected to the House of Commons to represent Wirral in the 1945 general election. Originally a Liberal, he became a member of the "Young Turks" faction of the Conservative Party. He took silk in 1947 and served as the Recorder of Wigan between 1948 and 1951.

Ministerial offices

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs

When the Conservatives returned to power under Churchill in 1951, Lloyd served under Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden as Minister of State for Foreign Affairs from 1951 to 1954. The following exchange is said to have taken place at his appointment: 'But, sir, there must be some mistake. I do not speak any foreign language. Except in war, I have never visited any foreign country. I do not like foreigners. I have never spoken in any foreign-affairs debate in the House. I have never listened to one.'

'Young man, these all seem to me to be positive advantages,' growled Churchill in return.

Minister of Supply and Minister of Defence

He then served as Minister of Supply (1954–1955). He was subsequently Minister of Defence (1955).

Foreign Secretary

He became Foreign Secretary in 1955. His tenure saw the Suez Crisis, which led to the fall of the Eden government. While Foreign Secretary he was noted for not being on particularly good terms with his American counterpart, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles.

He was reappointed Foreign Secretary by the new Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in January 1957. This was met, in the words of a contemporary observer, with a “long, cold arch of raised eyebrows”, whilst Aneurin Bevan likened him to a monkey to Macmillan’s organgrinder. He continued to serve as Foreign Secretary until 1960.

Chancellor of the Exchequer

In 1960 Lloyd became Chancellor of the Exchequer. He became a focus of public unpopularity for the "Pay Pause" of 1961. The Conservatives lost the Orpington by-election on 14 March 1962. Lloyd's second and final budget, on 9 April 1962, introduced an unpopular tax on children's sweets. Macmillan, disingenuously, as he had already decided to sack him, wrote to him on 11 April congratulating him and asking him to begin preparing an expansionary budget for 1963 to help the Conservatives win re-election. At the Leicester North East by-election, on 12 July 1962, the Conservative share of the vote dropped from 48.1% in 1959 to 24.2%.

Macmillan would have liked to appoint Lloyd Home Secretary, as he was moving Rab Butler from this post, but Lloyd had made clear when Macmillan became Prime Minister in January 1957 that as an opponent of capital punishment it would not be proper for him to accept that position (because a person sentenced to hang was entitled to appeal to the Monarch for mercy, which in practice meant that the Home Secretary, to whom the task was delegated, had the final say on whether any execution should proceed). Macmillan later compared Lloyd to Augustine Birrell for his links to the nonconformist vote of North West England.

Lloyd was sacked from the government and returned to the backbenches during the "Night of the Long Knives" reshuffle in July 1962. He was replaced by Reginald Maudling, then seen as a potential future leader of the Conservative Party, and whose remit was to reflate the economy going into the next General Election due by the end of 1964. Lloyd was cheered to the echo when he reentered the Commons after his sacking, whereas Macmillan entered in silence from his own party and jeers from the Opposition, and was subjected to public criticism (then almost unprecedented) from his predecessor Lord Avon. Lloyd privately thought Macmillan too obsessed with unemployment, risking higher inflation. On 20 July 1962 Lloyd was appointed a Companion of Honour, having refused the offer of a peerage from Macmillan.

Following his recent divorce, Lloyd had been living at Chequers, normally the Prime Minister's country residence. Lloyd left behind his black Labrador, "Sambo", for whom there was no room in his London flat. At a meeting of the new Cabinet at Chequers later that summer, the dog was observed to be sniffing amongst the ministers looking for his master. Macmillan ignored the animal, which was likened by one observer to Banquo's ghost.

Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons

Lloyd became a popular figure with Conservative Party members after travelling the country in the bitter winter of 1962-3 (the worst since 1946-7) to write his report on party organisation. After Macmillan's impending resignation was announced, Lloyd was a pivotal figure in whipping up support for Alec Douglas-Home as a potential successor at the Blackpool Conference. He was also an influential figure with the Chief Whip Martin Redmayne. He visited Macmillan in hospital on Wednesday 16 October, and advised against appointing Rab Butler, who, he said, was disliked in the constituency associations.

Lloyd was called back to the government in 1963 by Alec Douglas-Home, who made him Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons until the Conservative defeat in the general election of 1964.

Speaker of the House of Commons

In 1971, after the Conservatives had returned to power, Lloyd became Speaker. While he was Speaker, he was appointed to be a Deputy Lieutenant of Merseyside in 1974. In a break with convention, both the Labour and Liberal Parties contested his seat in both the February 1974 and October 1974 general elections, but he retained it and continued to hold the speakership until 1976, when he was appointed to be the Steward of the Manor of Northstead and was raised to the peerage.

Peerage and later life

On 8 March 1976 he was created a life peer as Baron Selwyn-Lloyd, of Wirral in the County of Merseyside. In retirement, he wrote two books, although he did not complete his planned memoirs. In 1978, he was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and he died at home in Preston Crowmarsh, Oxfordshire on 18 May 1978.

Styles of address

  • 1904–1943: Mr Selwyn Lloyd
  • 1943–1945: Mr Selwyn Lloyd OBE
  • 1945: Mr Selwyn Lloyd CBE
  • 1945–1947: Mr Selwyn Lloyd CBE MP
  • 1947–1951: Mr Selwyn Lloyd CBE KC MP
  • 1951–1952: The Rt Hon. Selwyn Lloyd CBE KC MP
  • 1952–1962: The Rt Hon. Selwyn Lloyd CBE QC MP
  • 1962–1974: The Rt Hon. Selwyn Lloyd CH CBE QC MP
  • 1974–1976: The Rt Hon. Selwyn Lloyd CH CBE QC DL MP
  • 1976–1978: The Rt Hon. The Lord Selwyn-Lloyd CH CBE PC QC DL

Personal life

He was married in the Wirral in March 1951 to Elizabeth Marshall, known as Bae, his secretary and the daughter of Roland Marshall of West Kirby. A solicitor by profession, she was born in 1928, making her 23 years his junior. They had a daughter, Joanna, and divorced in 1957. Rab Butler quipped that Selwyn’s wife had left him “because he got into bed with his sweater on”.

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