- Reg Freeson
Reginald Yarnitz Freeson known as Reg Freeson, PC, (
24 February 1926– 9 October 2006), was a British politician. He was a Labour Member of Parliamentfor 23 years, from 1964 to 1987, with 14 years on the front bench. He became a junior minister in the Ministry of Powerin 1967, and then led his party on housing policy for 10 years, from 1969 to 1979, serving as Minister of Statefor Housing from 1969 to 1970 and then again from 1974 to 1979, and being his party's housing spokesman in the intervening period. He continued as health and social security spokesman until 1981. His relatively moderate left-wingviews made him vulnerable to the hard leftin the early 1980s, and he was deselected in 1985, leaving Parliament at the 1987 UK general election.
Early and private life
Freeson was born in
St Pancrasand raised in the Jewish orphanagein West Norwoodfrom the age of 5. His grandparents were Jews who came to the UK to escape the pogroms in Polandand Russiain the 1890s, but he was abandoned by his parents.
After a successful school career, he volunteered to joined the
RAF Volunteer Reserveaged 16, but was posted to the Rifle Brigade for training in 1944 and then passed on to the Royal Engineersin Egypt. He spent some time working for the Inter Services Publications Unit.
He worked as a journalist in the
Middle Eastfor one year after being demobbed in 1947, and his experiences made him a convinced Zionist. He continued his print career in Fleet Street, where he worked on publications including "John Bull", "Everybody's Weekly", " London Illustrated", " News Review", "Today", "Education", " The Daily Mirror" and the " News Chronicle". He was later an assistant press officerat the Ministry of Worksand the British Railways Board.
He was married twice. He first married in 1971, but was divorced in 1983. He remarried in 1983, and is survived by his second wife, and a son and daughter from his first marriage.
Freeson joined the Labour party after returning to England in 1948. He became active in local politics, and was elected to
WillesdenBorough Council in 1952 and became an alderman in 1955. He was the council's leader from 1958 until it was abolished in 1965. He chaired the shadow council of the London Borough of Brentfrom 1964 to 1965, and was an aldermanof Brent until 1968.
He was elected as MP for Willesden East with a majority of less than 2,000 votes in the
1964 UK general election, taking the seat from Conservative Trevor Skeet, and Harold Wilson's Labour government took power with a slim majority of only five seats, which was quickly reduced to three. Within weeks, he was appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretaryto Tom Fraser, the Minister of Transport, from 1964 to 1967, and then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of Stateat the Ministry of Powerfrom 1967 to 1969. He served as Minister of Housing and Local Governmentfrom 1969 to the 1970 UK general election.
He remained housing spokesman in opposition, and his mastery of the subject made him a fearsome opponent to the incumbent Conservative ministers. With
Eric Heffer, he led a Commons protest over the guillotine of the controversial bill which was to become the Industrial Relations Act 1971.
Freeson's seat was renamed Brent East in 1974, and he returned as
Minister for Housing and Constructionin the new Department of the Environmentafter the February 1974 general election, in a period of high interest rates and rapidly rising house prices. He later added responsibility for new towns, planning, land and local governmentto his portfolio. He retained his ministerial office when James Callaghantook over from Harold Wilson in 1976, becoming a privy counsellorthat year, and retained his office until Labour's defeat at the 1979 general election. He remained on the Labour front bench in opposition, as spokesman on health and social security, but was demoted by Michael Footin 1981. He later served on the Environment Select Committee.
He was a member of the
Fabian Society, supported the Irish nationalist cause, fought racism, opposed the Korean Warand the Vietnam War, was a founder member of CNDin 1957, and was one of five Labour MPs on the first Aldermaston March in 1958. He wrote for "Tribune", and edited the anti-fascistmagazine "Searchlight" from 1964 to 1967. He attacked the British Nationality Act 1981, and criticised Conservative policy on Northern Ireland. He was a committed left-winger, but his relatively moderate ("sensible left") views made him vulnerable to the hard leftin the early 1980s. He was able to retain his seat at the 1983 general election, but was deselected in 1985 after a bitter struggle, described as "political 'murder'" in his "Guardian" obituary, and replaced as Labour candidate in Brent East by Ken Livingstoneat the 1987 general election.
After leaving Parliament, Freeson became a consultant on housing and planning issues. He was editor of "
Jewish Vanguard" from 1987 to 2006, and served as chairman of Poale Zion.
Freeson again became a councillor in Brent in 2002, but lost his Queen's Park seat to the Liberal Democrats in the 2006 local elections. He died in
* [http://www.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story/0,,1892254,00.html Obituary] , "
The Guardian", 11 October 2006
* [http://news.independent.co.uk/people/obituaries/article1838328.ece Obituary] , "
The Independent", 12 October 2006
* [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;jsessionid=YVD1OU0LSBVDTQFIQMFCFF4AVCBQYIV0?view=DETAILS&grid=&xml=/news/2006/10/12/db1201.xml Obituary] , "
The Daily Telegraph", 12 October 2006
* [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,60-2399428,00.html Obituary] , "
The Times", 12 October 2006
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