Cabinet of the United Kingdom
The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is the collective decision-making body of Her Majesty's Government of the United Kingdom, composed of the Prime Minister and 21 cabinet ministers, the most senior of the government ministers. Ministers of the Crown, Cabinet ministers, are selected from the elected members of House of Commons, from the House of Lords, by the Prime Minister. Cabinet ministers are heads of government departments with the office of "Secretary of State for "; however some cabinet ministers can be ministers without portfolio, either directly as such or by holding sinecure posts such as Lord Privy Seal, or otherwise empty titles such as First Secretary of State. Certain other cabinet ministers are in a somewhat hybrid position, where they have a portfolio, but do not head a government department. Whilst the most powerful and/or prestigious members of the Cabinet head critical ministries such as the Foreign Office, ministers without portfolio can be important components, for example Michael Heseltine as Deputy Prime Minister in the Second Major ministry.
By far the most powerful Cabinet Minister, the Prime Minister, heads no department, though the Prime Minister's Office co-ordinates their oversight of the whole government. The collective co-ordinating function of the Cabinet is reinforced by the statutory position that all the Secretaries of State jointly hold the same office, can exercise the same powers; this does not, apply to the non-secretaries of state in the Cabinet such as the Leader of the House of Commons. Technically, the Cabinet is composed of many more people than legal offices, since the Secretary of Stateship is in commission, as is the position of Lord High Treasurer, with the Prime Minister and Chancellor being the First and Second Lords of the Treasury respectively; the Cabinet is the ultimate decision-making body of the executive within the Westminster system of government in traditional constitutional theory. This interpretation was put across in the work of nineteenth century constitutionalists such as Walter Bagehot, who described the Cabinet as the "efficient secret" of the British political system in his book The English Constitution.
The political and decision-making authority of the cabinet has been reduced over the last several decades, with some claiming its role has been usurped by a "prime ministerial" government. In the modern political era, the Prime Minister releases information concerning Cabinet rank; the Cabinet is the executive committee of Her Majesty's Privy Council, a body which has legislative and executive functions, whose large membership includes members of the Opposition. Its decisions are implemented either under the existing powers of individual government departments, or by Orders in Council; until at least the 16th century, individual Officers of State had separate property and responsibilities granted with their separate offices by Royal Command, the Crown and the Privy Council constituted the only co-ordinating authorities. In England, phrases such as "cabinet counsel", meaning advice given in private, in a cabinet in the sense of a small room, to the monarch, occur from the late 16th century, given the non-standardised spelling of the day, it is hard to distinguish whether "council" or "counsel" is meant.
The OED credits Francis Bacon in his Essays with the first use of "Cabinet council", where it is described as a foreign habit, of which he disapproves: "For which inconveniences, the doctrine of Italy, practice of France, in some kings’ times, hath introduced cabinet counsels. Charles I began a formal "Cabinet Council" from his accession in 1625, as his Privy Council, or "private council", the first recorded use of "cabinet" by itself for such a body comes from 1644, is again hostile and associates the term with dubious foreign practices. There were ministries in England led by the chief minister, a personage leading the English government for the Monarch. Despite primary accountability to the Monarch, these ministries, having a group of ministers running the country, served as a predecessor of the modern perspective of cabinet. After the ministry of James Stanhope, 1st Earl Stanhope and Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland collapsed Sir Robert Walpole rose to power as First Lord of the Treasury.
Since the reign of King George I the Cabinet has been the principal executive group of British government. Both he and George II made use of the system, as both were not native English speakers, unfamiliar with British politics, thus relied on selected groups of advisers; the term "minister" came into being since the royal officers "ministered" to the sovereign. The name and institution have been adopted by most English-speaking countries, the Council of Ministers or similar bodies of other countries are informally referred to as cabinets; the modern Cabinet system was set up by Prime Minister David Lloyd George during his premiership, 1916–1922, with a Cabinet Office and Secretariat, committee structures, unpublished minutes, a clearer relationship with departmental Cabinet ministers. The formal procedures and proceedings of the Cabinet remain unpublished; this development grew out of the exigencies of the First World War, where faster and better co-ordinated decisions across Government were seen as a crucial part of the war effort
London is the capital and largest city of both England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans; the City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of the London Assembly. London is considered to be one of the world's most important global cities and has been termed the world's most powerful, most desirable, most influential, most visited, most expensive, sustainable, most investment friendly, most popular for work, the most vegetarian friendly city in the world. London exerts a considerable impact upon the arts, education, fashion, healthcare, professional services and development, tourism and transportation.
London ranks 26 out of 300 major cities for economic performance. It is one of the largest financial centres and has either the fifth or sixth largest metropolitan area GDP, it is the most-visited city as measured by international arrivals and has the busiest city airport system as measured by passenger traffic. It is the leading investment destination, hosting more international retailers and ultra high-net-worth individuals than any other city. London's universities form the largest concentration of higher education institutes in Europe. In 2012, London became the first city to have hosted three modern Summer Olympic Games. London has a diverse range of people and cultures, more than 300 languages are spoken in the region, its estimated mid-2016 municipal population was 8,787,892, the most populous of any city in the European Union and accounting for 13.4% of the UK population. London's urban area is the second most populous in the EU, after Paris, with 9,787,426 inhabitants at the 2011 census.
The population within the London commuter belt is the most populous in the EU with 14,040,163 inhabitants in 2016. London was the world's most populous city from c. 1831 to 1925. London contains four World Heritage Sites: the Tower of London. Other landmarks include Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, St Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square and The Shard. London has numerous museums, galleries and sporting events; these include the British Museum, National Gallery, Natural History Museum, Tate Modern, British Library and West End theatres. The London Underground is the oldest underground railway network in the world. "London" is an ancient name, attested in the first century AD in the Latinised form Londinium. Over the years, the name has attracted many mythicising explanations; the earliest attested appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, written around 1136. This had it that the name originated from a supposed King Lud, who had taken over the city and named it Kaerlud.
Modern scientific analyses of the name must account for the origins of the different forms found in early sources Latin, Old English, Welsh, with reference to the known developments over time of sounds in those different languages. It is agreed; this was adapted into Latin as Londinium and borrowed into Old English, the ancestor-language of English. The toponymy of the Common Brythonic form is much debated. A prominent explanation was Richard Coates's 1998 argument that the name derived from pre-Celtic Old European *lowonida, meaning "river too wide to ford". Coates suggested that this was a name given to the part of the River Thames which flows through London. However, most work has accepted a Celtic origin for the name, recent studies have favoured an explanation along the lines of a Celtic derivative of a proto-Indo-European root *lendh-, combined with the Celtic suffix *-injo- or *-onjo-. Peter Schrijver has suggested, on these grounds, that the name meant'place that floods'; until 1889, the name "London" applied to the City of London, but since it has referred to the County of London and Greater London.
"London" is sometimes written informally as "LDN". In 1993, the remains of a Bronze Age bridge were found on the south foreshore, upstream of Vauxhall Bridge; this bridge either reached a now lost island in it. Two of those timbers were radiocarbon dated to between 1750 BC and 1285 BC. In 2010 the foundations of a large timber structure, dated to between 4800 BC and 4500 BC, were found on the Thames's south foreshore, downstream of Vauxhall Bridge; the function of the mesolithic structure is not known. Both structures are on the south bank. Although there is evidence of scattered Brythonic settlements in the area, the first major settlement was founded by the Romans about four years after the invasion
Michael Stewart, Baron Stewart of Fulham
Robert Michael Maitland Stewart, Baron Stewart of Fulham, was a British Labour politician and Fabian Socialist who served twice as Foreign Secretary in the first cabinet of Harold Wilson. The son of Robert Wallace Stewart and lecturer, Eva Stewart née Blaxley, Stewart was born in Bromley and educated at Brownhill Road Elementary School, Christ's Hospital and St. John's College, where he graduated with a first class BA in Philosophy and Economics in 1929. While at university, Stewart was President of the Oxford Union, of St John's Labour Club, he began his career as an official in the Royal Household during 1931. He worked for a short period with the Secretariat of the League of Nations, before becoming a schoolmaster, first at the Merchant Taylors' School in London at Coopers' Company's School, Mile End, at Frome, Somerset. During World War II, Stewart served in the Middle East, joining the Intelligence Corps in 1942, before transferring to the Army Educational Corps in 1943, he was promoted to captain in 1944.
On 26 July 1941 he married Mary Birkinshaw Baroness Stewart of Alvechurch. They were one of the few couples. Stewart had contested the Lewisham West constituency in 1931 and 1935, Fulham East in 1936. Soon after his initial election, he was made a junior whip a junior minister, as Under-Secretary of State for War and as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply. Following Labour's defeat in the 1951 election, Stewart was a rising figure on the shadow front bench, serving as Shadow Minister of Education and as Shadow Minister of Housing and Local Government. Stewart was Fabian Summer School Director in 1952 and Lecturer in 1954, he was Fabian New Year School lecturer in 1954–55 and Publicist in 1956. Stewart is listed as a member of the Fabian Society International Bureau Committee during 1957–58 and was mentioned in Fabian News Nov–Dec 1964 as a former member of the Fabian Executive Committee; when Harold Wilson became Prime Minister in 1964, Stewart was appointed Secretary of State for Education and Science.
He was promoted to Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in January 1965. He was described by the press as unknown to the public but was well known within Fabian Socialist circles, he became Secretary of State for Economic Affairs in 1966. From 1966 to 1968, he was First Secretary of State, he returned to the Foreign Office from 1968 to 1970. As foreign secretary, he was instrumental in supplying arms to support the Nigerian government's crushing of the secessionist movement in Biafra saying "It would have been quite easy for me to say: This is going to be difficult – let's cut off all connexion with the Nigerian Government. If I'd done that I should have known that I was encouraging in Africa the principle of tribal secession – with all the misery that could bring to Africa in the future." A committed pro-European, Stewart was Leader of the Labour Delegation to the Council of Europe in June 1970, joint president of the Labour Committee for Europe with George Brown and Roy Jenkins. He served as a member of the European Parliament from 1975 to 1976.
Stewart was made a member of the Privy Council in 1964. He was appointed a Companion of Honour in the 1969 New Year Honours, he retired from the House of Commons in 1979. Stewart was elevated to the House of Lords, being created a life peer with the title Baron Stewart of Fulham, of Fulham in Greater London on 5 July 1979, he died in 1990, aged 83. 1906–1945: Mr Michael Stewart 1945–1964: Mr Michael Stewart 1964–1969: The Rt Hon. Michael Stewart 1969–1975: The Rt Hon. Michael Stewart 1975–1976: The Rt Hon. Michael Stewart 1976–1979: The Rt Hon. Michael Stewart 1979: The Rt Hon. Michael Stewart 1979–1990: The Rt Hon; the Lord Stewart of Fulham The Forty Hour Week and Education for Democracy The British Approach to Politics Policy and weapons in the nuclear age Modern Forms of Government An incomes policy for Labour Fabian Freeway Rose L. Martin Labour and the economy: a socialist strategy Life and Labour – his autobiography European Security: the case against unilateral nuclear disarmament Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Michael Stewart
Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff known as Jim Callaghan, was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1976 to 1980. So far the only holder of all four of the Great Offices of State, Callaghan served as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary prior to his appointment as Prime Minister; as Prime Minister, he had some successes, but is remembered for the "Winter of Discontent" of 1978–79. During a cold winter, his battle with trade unions led to immense strikes that inconvenienced the public, leading to his defeat in the polls by Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher. Callaghan was the last Prime Minister born before the First World War. Upon entering the House of Commons in 1945, he was on the left wing of the party. Callaghan moved towards the right, but maintained his reputation as "The Keeper of the Cloth Cap"—that is, he was seen as dedicated to maintaining close ties between the Labour Party and the trade unions.
Callaghan's period as Chancellor of the Exchequer coincided with a turbulent period for the British economy, during which he had to wrestle with a balance of payments deficit and speculative attacks on the pound sterling. On 18 November 1967, the government devalued the pound sterling. Callaghan became Home Secretary, he sent the British Army to support the police in Northern Ireland, after a request from the Northern Ireland Government. After Labour was defeated at the 1970 general election, Callaghan played a key role in the Shadow Cabinet, he became Foreign Secretary in 1974, taking responsibility for renegotiating the terms of the UK's membership of the European Communities, supporting a "Yes" vote in the 1975 referendum to remain in the EC. When Prime Minister Harold Wilson resigned in 1976, Callaghan defeated five other candidates to be elected as his replacement. Labour had lost its narrow majority in the House of Commons by the time he became Prime Minister, further by-election defeats and defections forced Callaghan to deal with minor parties such as the Liberal Party in the "Lib–Lab pact" from 1977 to 1978.
Industrial disputes and widespread strikes in the 1978 "Winter of Discontent" made Callaghan's government unpopular, the defeat of the referendum on devolution for Scotland led to the successful passage of a motion of no confidence on 28 March 1979. This was followed by a defeat at the ensuing general election. Callaghan remained Labour Party leader until November 1980, in order to reform the process by which the party elected its leader, before returning to the backbenches where he remained until he was made a life peer as Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, he went on to live longer than any other British prime minister in history -- 364 days. Leonard James Callaghan was born at 38 Funtington Road, Portsmouth, England, on 27 March 1912, he took his middle name from his father, the son of an Irish Catholic father who had fled to England during the Great Irish Famine, a Jewish mother. Callaghan's father ran away from home in the 1890s to join the Royal Navy, he rose to the rank of Chief Petty Officer.
His mother was Charlotte Callaghan an English Baptist. As the Catholic Church at the time refused to marry Catholics to members of other denominations, James Callaghan senior abandoned Catholicism and married Charlotte in a Baptist chapel, their first child was Dorothy Gertrude Callaghan. James Callaghan senior served in the First World War on board the battleship HMS Agincourt. After he was demobbed in 1919, he joined the Coastguard and the family moved to the town of Brixham in Devon, however he died only two years of a heart attack in 1921 at the age of 44, leaving the family without an income, forced to rely on charity to survive, their financial situation was improved in 1924 when the first Labour government was elected, introduced changes allowing Mrs Callaghan to be granted a widows pension of ten shillings a week, on the basis that her husband's death was due to his war service. In his early years, Callaghan was known by his first name Leonard, when he entered politics in 1945 he decided to be known by his middle name James, from on he was referred to as James or Jim.
He attended Portsmouth Northern Secondary School. He gained the Senior Oxford Certificate in 1929, but could not afford entrance to university and instead sat the Civil Service entrance exam. At the age of 17, Callaghan left to work as a clerk for the Inland Revenue at Maidstone in Kent. While working as a tax inspector, Callaghan joined the Maidstone branch of the Labour Party and the Association of the Officers of Taxes a trade union for those in his profession, and within a year of joining he became the office secretary of the union. In 1932 he passed a Civil Service exam which enabled him to become a senior tax inspector, that same year he became the Kent branch secretary of the AOT; the following year he was elected to the AOT's national executive council. In 1934, he was transferred to Inland Revenue offices in London. Following a merger of unions in 1936, Callaghan was appointed a full-time union official and to the post of Assistant Secretary of the Inland Revenue Staff Federation, resigned from his Civil Service duties.
During his time working as a tax inspector in the early-1930s, Callaghan met his future wife Audrey Moulton, an
Alan Williams (Swansea West MP)
Alan John Williams was a British Labour Party politician, the Member of Parliament for Swansea West from 1964 to 2010. He was the longest serving MP for a Welsh constituency since David Lloyd George and built a reputation for his detailed scrutiny of the ways in which public money was spent. Williams was born in Caerphilly, the son of Emlyn, a former miner who became a local government officer, Violet, he was educated at Cardiff High School for Boys Cardiff College of Technology and Commerce when he gained a BSc in economics in 1954. At University College, Oxford, he studied PPE, he became an economics lecturer at the Welsh College of Advanced Technology a broadcaster and journalist. He unsuccessfully contested Poole in 1959, coming second to the Conservative incumbent Richard Pilkington. Shortly afterwards he was selected as the candidate for Swansea West, won by the Conservatives by a narrow majority of 403 votes; the constituency, containing the city centre, the university and the prosperous western suburbs, had been a marginal one for Labour, in contrast to the more working-class Swansea East.
Percy Morris, elected in the Labour landslide of 1945 had seen his majority cut to just over a thousand votes in 1955 before he was ousted by the Conservative Hugh Rees four years later. Williams recaptured the seat in 1964, held it for nearly 46 years. However, it was never safe, Rees made two unsuccessful attempts to recapture the seat in 1966 and in 1970. Wiliams had a tight contest at the 1979 election, in the wake of the "winter of discontent" and divisions in the Welsh Labour Party over devolution, he held on by only 401 votes – only two less than the Tory majority he had overturned in 1964. His majorities thereafter were more secure but the fact that the Liberal Democrats came close to winning the seat after his retirement in 2010 suggests that he had a substantial personal vote. Williams served under Harold Wilson as Under-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs from 1967 until 1969 and as a Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Technology until 1970 when Labour lost power; when Labour were returned to power at the February 1974 general election, Williams was made Minister of State at the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection, serving until Wilson left office in 1976.
The new Prime Minister, James Callaghan appointed him as Minister of State at the Department of Industry in which post he served until Labour lost power to the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher in the 1979 general election. Williams was made a Privy Counsellor in 1977, he was a backbencher from 1989 to 2010, chairman of the Liaison Committee from 2001 to 2010. He was a Eurosceptic and was opposed to the devolution settlement that established the National Assembly for Wales. Following the retirement of Tam Dalyell at the 2005 general election, Williams became the MP with the longest continuous service in the House, earning him the title of Father of the House, he was the last MP to question Prime Minister Tony Blair at Prime Minister's Questions on 27 June 2007. He congratulated Blair for giving the Labour Party 10 years of government, called him one of the outstanding Prime Ministers of his time, thanked him for making the Labour Party once again the "natural party of government". Williams was the last parliamentary survivor of those who were elected in Wilson's 1964 election win.
As Father of the House, Williams presided over the Commons Speaker election on 22 June 2009. He stood down from the Commons at the 2010 general election, he married Patricia Rees in June 1957 in Bedwellty. They had a daughter, Sian, he died at the age of 84 on 21 December 2014. He was in a nursing home in London after having a stroke six months prior to his death. 1930–1964: Mr Alan John Williams 1964–1977: Mr Alan John Williams MP 1977–2010: The Right Honourable Alan John Williams MP 2010–2014: The Right Honourable Alan John Williams Guardian Unlimited Politics – Ask Aristotle: Alan Williams MP TheyWorkForYou.com – Alan Williams MP Ministerial posts BBC Politics Becomes Father of the House in 2005 Remembrance service in October 2001
Richard Austen Butler, Baron Butler of Saffron Walden known as R. A. Butler and familiarly known from his initials as Rab, was a prominent British Conservative politician; the Times obituary called him "the creator of the modern educational system, the key-figure in the revival of post-war Conservatism, arguably the most successful chancellor since the war and unquestionably a Home Secretary of reforming zeal." He was one of his party's leaders in promoting the post-war consensus through which the major parties agreed on the main points of domestic policy until the 1970s, sometimes known as "Butskellism" from an elision of his name with that of his Labour counterpart Hugh Gaitskell. Born into a family of academics and Indian administrators, Butler enjoyed a brilliant academic career before entering Parliament in 1929; as a junior minister, he helped to pass the Government of India Act, 1935. He supported the appeasement of Nazi Germany in 1938–39. Entering the Cabinet in 1941, he served as Education Minister.
When the Conservatives returned to power in 1951 he served as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary. Butler had an exceptionally long ministerial career and was one of only two British politicians to have served in three of the four Great Offices of State but never to have been Prime Minister, for which he was passed over in 1957 and 1963. At the time, the Conservative Leadership was decided by a process of private consultation rather than by a formal vote. After retiring from politics in 1965, Butler was appointed Master of Cambridge. Butler was born in Attock Serai, India, to Sir Montagu Sherard Dawes Butler of the Indian Civil Service and his wife, Anne Gertrude. Butler's mother was the daughter of George Smith, Principal of the Doveton Boys College in Calcutta. Butler's paternal family had a long and distinguished association with the University of Cambridge, dating back to his great-grandfather George Butler. Notable were Butler's grand-uncle Henry Montagu Butler and Sir Geoffrey G. Butler, a Cambridge historian and Conservative MP for the university, Butler's uncle and a particular early influence on him.
Butler's father was a Fellow, in life the Master, of Pembroke College. In July 1909, at the age of six, his right arm was broken in three places in a riding accident; the injury was aggravated by a burn from a hot water bottle and an attempt to straighten the arm by hanging weights from it, leaving his hand not functional. His limp handshake and lack of military experience were political handicaps in life. Butler attended Brockhurst preparatory school but refused to attend Harrow, where many of his family had been educated, he failed to win a scholarship to Eton, so he attended Marlborough College. He left Marlborough at the end of 1920, a week after his 18th birthday, spent five months in France with a Protestant pastor in Abbeville, he returned to England to sit the exams for Pembroke College, where in June 1921 he won an exhibition worth £20 per annum returned to France to be tutor to the son of Robert de Rothschild. His plan at this stage was to enter the Diplomatic Service; as a child of Empire, from his mid-teens onwards, Butler was expected to look after his younger siblings, arranging for them to stay with relatives during school holidays and sending them Christmas presents that he pretended had been sent by their parents.
His sister was the writer Iris Mary Butler, who became Iris Portal upon her marriage and her elder daughter is Jane Williams, Baroness Williams of Elvel, the mother of Justin Welby, the current Archbishop of Canterbury. Butler's younger brother Jock, a Home Office civil servant and Pilot Officer, was killed in a plane crash at the end of 1942. Butler studied at Pembroke College, starting in October 1921 reading Medieval and Modern Languages, he soon became active in student politics, being elected to the Committee of the Cambridge Union Society by the end of his first year. At the end of his second year, he was elected Secretary for Michaelmas 1923 at his second attempt, by the narrow margin of 10 votes out of 500. At that time, Secretary was the only office contested, putting him on track to be Vice-President for Lent 1924 and President for Easter 1924. At the end of his second year, he achieved a First in French Part I and was awarded an £80 scholarship to supplement his £300 parental allowance.
Butler suffered a nervous breakdown that summer and had to postpone his plans to study History to a fourth year, taking a less strenuous course in German in the meantime. He spent part of the summer of 1923 abroad learning German, became unusually fluent in the language, impressing his hosts with his near-native syntax, he came to feel that the Germans had been harshly treated in the recent Treaty of Versailles. In Michaelmas 1923, as Secretary, he persuaded the Cambridge Union to affiliate to the National Union of Students, of which he became a Vice-President. Psychiatric illness was still little understood. In November 1923 his college put him in the care of a doctor and in December 1923 his uncle Cyril sent him to a specialist in Bristol, after which he made a recovery from his breakdown. On 11 March 1924, after taking office as President, he entertained the Leader of the Opposition, Stanley Baldwin
Edmund Emanuel Dell was a British politician and businessman. Dell was born in the son of a Jewish manufacturer. In the Second World War he served in the Royal Artillery, he was educated at Dame Alice Owen's School and Queen's College, Oxford where he was a member of the Communist Party, as his future ministerial colleague Denis Healey had been before the war. He graduated with first class honours in Modern History in 1947. Dell began work for Imperial Chemical Industries in Manchester as an overseas sales manager, specialising in Latin American trade and rose to Vice President of the Plastics Division. However, he began to find himself in the difficult position of balancing a career in business with Labour politics, he was elected to Manchester City Council in 1953, served for seven years. Dell stood unsuccessfully for Parliament in 1955 in Prestwich, he was dissuaded from standing for Parliament in 1959 by ICI, on the grounds that it would make promotion to the highest ranks of the company difficult.
However, he gave in to the temptation of national politics, was elected to Parliament as the Labour Member of Parliament for Birkenhead in 1964. He served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Jack Diamond as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Technology under Tony Benn in 1966 and the Department of Economic Affairs under Peter Shore in 1967; the following year, he was promoted to Minister of State for Trade. Switched to the Department of Employment in 1969, he was made a Privy Councillor in 1970. Dell was one of the 69 rebel Labour MPs who sided with the Conservative government and voted for Britain's entry into the European Communities in 1971, he subsequently refused to take a frontbench role while in opposition and served as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. When Harold Wilson returned to 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister in 1974, Dell became Paymaster General Secretary of State for Trade and President of the Board of Trade between 1976 and 1978 in James Callaghan's government.
He was tipped to become Chancellor of the Exchequer but resigned his seat disillusioned by Labour's drift to the Left as he moved to the Right. He had always been much more oriented toward free-market capitalism than his comrades in the Labour Party, grew uncomfortable in a party, growing dominated by advocates of a planned economy and corporatism. Dell joined the new Social Democratic Party and, after its merger with the Liberal Party in 1988, he was a member of the Liberal Democrats, he served as a trustee of both the SDP and the Liberal Democrats and served as one of SDP's three representatives during emergency negotiations with the Liberals in January 1988 when it appeared the two parties' merger might fall through after the failed launch by David Steel and Bob Maclennan of the joint manifesto and Choices. After Parliament, Dell had a career in business as chairman of Guinness Peat, founding chairman of Channel 4 and as a director of Shell Trading. In 1991-2 he was president of the London Chamber of Industry.
In 1996, he wrote The Chancellors: A History Of Chancellors Of The Exchequer 1945-90. His book, A Strange Eventful History, Democratic Socialism in Britain was published posthumously in 2000, it was a summation of his critique of the Labour Party's long history being attached to what he saw as "much Keynesianism and too much of the detritus of socialism." Although he had voted for Labour in 1992 and 1997, he still thought that New Labour "will not have entered the modern world until it learns to love capitalism with all its warts." He was angry with both parties in 1950-51 for refusing to join the European Community at an early stage when it could have a powerful voice. He said it represented, "the British abdication of leadership in Europe." Dell was married to Susan Gottschalk for 36 years. Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Edmund Dell