John Beckett (politician)

John Beckett (politician)

name = John Warburton Beckett

width =
height =
caption =
birth_date = 1894
birth_place =
residence =
death_date = 1964
death_place =
office = Member of Parliament
term_start = 1924
term_end = 1929
predecessor = John Purcell Dickie
successor = James Benjamin Melville
constituency = Gateshead
office2 = Member of Parliament
term_start2 = 1929
term_end2 = 1931
predecessor2 = Hugh Dalton
successor2 = Viscount Borodale
constituency2 = Peckham
party = Independent Labour Party, British Union of Fascists, National Socialist League, British Peoples Party
religion =
occupation = soldier, politician
majority =
relations =
spouse =
civil partner =
children = Francis Beckett
website =
footnotes =

John Warburton Beckett (1894-1964) was a leading figure in British politics between the world wars, both in the Labour Party and Fascist movements.

After serving in the army during the First World War Beckett set up the National Union of Ex-Servicemen in 1918 to look after the needs of the war veterans (although it was eventually absorbed into the later Royal British Legion having failed to gain Labour Party recognition). At this time he also joined the Independent Labour Party, sitting on Hackney council from 1919-1922. He was elected as Labour MP for Gateshead in 1924, moving to Peckham in 1929, after which he served as an ILP whip. In these early years Beckett was considered a close ally of Clement Attlee, alongside whom he had worked as a Labour Party agent before his election to Parliament. He achieved notoriety in 1930 when he lifted the Ceremonial mace during a Commons debate over the suspension of Fenner Brockway and it had to be wrestled away from him at the door. Beckett opposed Ramsay MacDonald's formation of the UK National Government and returned to the ILP fold in 1931, failing to hold his seat, with the vote split between three 'Labour' candidates. Retiring from active politics he visited Italy where he was impressed by the corporate state that had been set up.

Beckett joined the British Union of Fascists in 1934 and before long had risen through the party to become Director of Publications (serving as an editor of bother BUF publications, "Action" and "Blackshirt", for a time). He gained some notoriety for his activism, notably when he was arrested outside Buckingham Palace during the Edward VIII abdication crisis and also for being the only BUF activist to win a court case against their opponents, securing £1000 in damages in a slander suit against an anti-fascist organisation (although it disbanded before payment was collected). After initial successes the BUF began to flounder and in 1937 Oswald Mosley sacked Beckett from his salaried position. He soon returned to politics by forming the National Socialist League along with William Joyce, although his membership did not last long as he left the League in 1938, disillusioned by Hitler. Beckett spent most of the Second World War in internment but came back afterwards to lead the British Peoples Party. This also proved to be a failure and Beckett drifted away from politics, living in retirement until his death in December of 1964 at the age of 70.

The writer and journalist Francis Beckett, who has worked for the "New Statesman" and "The Guardian" and also written biographies of Clement Attlee, Laurence Olivier and Nye Bevan [] , is his son.


* Francis Beckett, "The Rebel Who Lost His Cause - The Tragedy of John Beckett MP" London, 1999
* Robert Benewick, "Political Violence and Public Order", London, 1969

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