Edmund Dell


Edmund Dell

Edmund Emanuel Dell PC (August 15 1921 – October 28 1999) was a British politician and businessman.

Dell was born in London, the son of a Jewish manufacturer. In World War II, he served in the Rifle Corps and the Royal Artillery, leaving as a first lieutenant. He studied at Queen's College, Oxford where he was a Communist Party comrade of Denis Healey, graduating with first class honours in modern history in 1947.

Dell soon began work for Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) in Manchester as an overseas sales manager, specialising in Latin American trade and eventually rose to Vice President of the Plastics Division. Dell soon began to find himself in the difficult position of balancing a career in business with Labour politics. In 1953 Dell was elected to Manchester City Council and served for seven years. He stood unsuccessfully for Parliament in 1955 in Middleton and Prestwich. Dell 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, Dell eventually gave in to the temptation of Parliament and was elected to Parliament as the Labour Member of Parliament for Birkenhead in 1964. He served as parliamentary private secretary to Jack Diamond, then parliamentary secretary for technology under Tony Benn in 1966 and under secretary in economic affairs under Peter Shore in 1967. In 1968 he was promoted to minister of state for trade. Switched to employment in 1969, he was made a privy councillor in 1970.

Dell was one of the 69 Labour MPs to rebel against the Labour government to vote for Britain's entry into the European Community in 1971. He subsequently refused to take a frontbench role while in opposition and served as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. When Wilson returned to Downing Street, Dell became Paymaster General, then Secretary of State for Trade and President of the Board of Trade in James Callaghan's government 1976-78. He was tipped to become Chancellor of the Exchequer but resigned his seat, increasingly disillusioned by Labour's drift to the Left as he moved sharply to the Right. He had always been much more oriented toward free market capitalism than his comrades in the Labour Party and grew increasingly uncomfortable in a party that was growing increasingly dominated by advocates of a planned economy and corporatism.

Dell later joined the Social Democratic Party and, after the SDP's merger with the Liberal Party in 1988 was a member of the Liberal Democrats. Dell 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, "Voices and Choices".

After Parliament he 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 Commerce and 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 ultimately "will not fully have entered the modern world until it learns to love capitalism with all its warts."

Dell was married to Susan Gottschalk for 36 years.


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