Reginald Prentice

Reginald Prentice

Reginald Ernest Prentice, Baron Prentice, PC (16 July 1923 – 18 January 2001) was a politician in the United Kingdom, representing the Labour Party and later the Conservative Party. He remains the highest-ranking Labour figure ever to defect to the Conservative party.

Born in Croydon, Reg Prentice was educated at Whitgift School in South Croydon, South London, then at the London School of Economics. Having served in Austria and Italy in the Second World War, he joined the staff of the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) in 1950.

Early politics

Prentice was a councillor for Whitehorse Manor in the then-County Borough of Croydon from 1949, having stood unsuccessfully in Thornton Heath ward in 1947. He served on the Housing, Libraries, Planning & Development, Water and Reconstruction Committees.He first stood — unsuccessfully — for Parliament in Croydon North in 1950 and 1951, then Streatham in 1955. As Labour Member of Parliament from 1957 for East Ham North, later Newham North East, he was a minister of state in Harold Wilson's first government at Education and Science (1964-1966), then served as Minister of Public Buildings and Works (1966-1967), and finally was put in charge of the still-new Ministry of Overseas Development (1967-1969). When Labour regained power, he served as Secretary of State for Education and Science between 1974 and 1975, subsequently becoming Minister for Overseas Development with a seat in the cabinet until 1976.


In 1977, Reg Prentice left the Labour Party in protest over its drift to the left and joined the Conservative Party. He had been deselected by his Constituency Labour Party lead by Owen Ashworth amongst others, heralding times of great struggles between the 'left' and 'right' of the Party. He even appealed for the National Executive Committee to overturn their endorsement of his deselection from the rostrum of the Labour Party Conference.

Prentice was subsequently elected as a Conservative Member of Parliament for Daventry and served as a Minister of State at the Department of Health and Social Security in Margaret Thatcher's government between 1979 and 1981. He was knighted in 1987, the year he stepped down as an MP. In 1992, he was raised to the Peerage as Baron Prentice, of Daventry in the County of Northamptonshire.

In his last few years before his death, in Wiltshire, at 77, Prentice was President of the Devizes Conservative Association.

Lord Prentice's daughter, Christine, followed her father by serving as a London Borough of Croydon councillor (for Coulsdon East ward, 25 June 1992 - 10 May 1998).


* ['prentice') Catalogue of the Prentice papers] at the [ Archives Division] of the London School of Economics.

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