Roy Jenkins

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Roy Harris Jenkins, Baron Jenkins of Hillhead OM, PC (11 November 1920 – 5 January 2003) was a British politician.

The son of a Welsh coal miner who later became a union official and Labour MP, Roy Jenkins served with distinction in World War II. Elected to Parliament as a Labour member in 1948, he served in several major posts in Harold Wilson's First Government. As Home Secretary from 1965–1967, he sought to build what he described as "a civilised society", with measures such as the effective abolition in Britain of capital punishment and theatre censorship, the decriminalisation of homosexuality, relaxing of divorce law, suspension of birching and the legalisation of abortion. As Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1967–1970, he pursued a tight fiscal policy later praised by Margaret Thatcher[1] In 1970, he was elected Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, but resigned in 1972 because he supported entry to the Common Market while the party opposed it. When Wilson re-entered government in 1974 Jenkins returned to the Home Office, but, increasingly disenchanted by the swing to the left of the Labour Party,[citation needed] he chose to leave British politics in 1976 to become President of the European Commission.

Disillusioned by British politics, Jenkins was appointed President of the European Commission in 1977, serving until 1981: he was the first and to date only British holder of this office. In 1981, dismayed with the Labour Party's leftward drift, he was one of the Gang of Four Labour moderates who formed the Social Democratic Party (SDP). In 1982 he won a famous by-election in a Conservative seat and returned to parliament; but after the SDP was badly beaten in the 1983 election he resigned as SDP leader.

In 1987, Jenkins was elected to succeed Harold Macmillan as Chancellor of the University of Oxford following the latter's death; he held this position until his death. A few months later, he was defeated in Hillhead by left-winger George Galloway. He accepted a life peerage. In the late 1990s, he was an adviser to Tony Blair and chaired the Jenkins Commission on electoral reform. Roy Jenkins died in 2003, aged 82.

In addition to his political career, he was also a noted historian and writer.


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