Ian Mikardo

Ian Mikardo

Ian Mikardo (9 July 1908 – 6 May 1993), commonly known as Mik, was a British Labour and Co-operative politician.[1] An ardent socialist and a Zionist, he remained a backbencher throughout his four decades in the House of Commons. He was a member of Labour's National Executive Committee from 1950 until 1978, and Chairman of the Labour Party 1970 to 1971.


Early life and career

Mikardo's parents were Jewish refugees from the Russian Empire - his mother from Warsaw, his father from Podolia in Ukraine. They came to London separately around 1900, and married some years later. They worked as tailors and in 1907, they moved to Portsmouth where they were employed repairing uniforms for the Royal Navy. Mikardo was born in Portsmouth the following year. He attended the Beneficial Society's School and the Omega Street School. In 1919, he came top in Portsmouth's pass-list for the eleven plus exam, and went to Portsmouth Southern Secondary School for Boys. From the age of eleven he also attended Aria College, a rabbinical seminary.

Concerned by injustice and inequality from boyhood, Mikardo was influenced by the works of R. H. Tawney and George Bernard Shaw in his teens. He attended political lectures at various clubs and societies in London in the 1920s, principally amongst the Jewish community. He joined both the Labour Party and Poale Zion (the Zionist Workers' Movement) in the late 1920s. He was already a Zionist, and had given his first public speech at a meeting of the Portsmouth Zionist Society in 1922, at the age of thirteen.

After leaving school, Mikardo settled in Stepney, where he had a variety of jobs. He married in 1931, and had two daughters by 1935. He studied scientific management, but was sceptical about "Taylorism" and developed his own theories. He became a freelance management consultant and during the Second World War, he worked on increasing efficiency in aircraft and armaments manufacturing, principally at Woodley Aerodrome in Reading. He was treasurer of the World Airways Joint Committee.


After settling in Reading and at the end of the war he was selected by the local Constituency Labour Party for the 1945 general election, beating James Callaghan and Austen Albu. At the 1945 general election, Mikardo was elected Member of Parliament for the Reading constituency overturning a large Conservative majority. Labour's effective get out the vote campaign system utilised in this election was universally adopted and came to be known as the Reading system. He held Reading, which became a highly marginal seat, until the 1959 general election when he was famously ousted by fellow ASSET (later ASTMS and MSF) trade unionist, Peter Emery.

He was a member of the left wing of the Labour Party throughout his political career, writing for Tribune. In 1947, he co-authored, with Michael Foot and Richard Crossman, the "Keep Left" pamphlet, and was a Bevanite in the 1950s. He was also active on international affairs.

After losing his Reading seat, Mikardo was elected at the 1964 general election as MP for Poplar, representing the area of London where his parents had first settled, and for Bethnal Green & Bow from 1974 to 1983 and Bow & Poplar from 1983 until his retirement from Parliament in 1987. Within Parliament, he was known as the Commons' bookmaker, willing to take bets on all manner of political events.


External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Alfred Bakewell Howitt
Member of Parliament for Reading
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Reading South
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Reading
Succeeded by
Peter Emery
Preceded by
Charles Key
Member of Parliament for Poplar
1964Feb 1974
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow
Feb 19741983
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Bow and Poplar
Succeeded by
Mildred Gordon
Political offices
Preceded by
Douglas Houghton
Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party
Succeeded by
Cledwyn Hughes

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