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Edward Shortt

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Alma mater
University of Durham

Isabella Scott

Preceded by
Sir George Cave

Edward Shortt

Durham University


British Politician

Liberal Party

Political party

November 10, 1935

Edward Shortt httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsff

10 March 1862 (

Succeeded by
William Bridgeman, 1st Viscount Bridgeman

Prime Minister
David Lloyd George

Edward Shortt PC KC (10 March 1862 – 10 November 1935) was a British lawyer and Liberal Party politician. He served as a member of David Lloyd George's cabinet, most significantly as Home Secretary from 1919 to 1922.


Background and education

The son of a Newcastle upon Tyne Church of England vicar, Shortt was educated at Durham School, followed by the University of Durham, where he read Classics.

He was called to the Bar at the Middle Temple in 1890 and practiced on the North Eastern Circuit. He served as Recorder (part-time judge) of Sunderland from 1907 to 1918, and was made a King's Counsel in 1910. He was never a particularly successful barrister, but was popular, clear and lucid.

Political career

Shortt became active in politics for the Liberal Party. In 1908, Shortt was an unsuccessful candidate for Newcastle upon Tyne in a by-election, losing a seat previously held by the party when the Social Democratic Federation put up a candidate against him. However, in the January 1910 election he was elected, and remained an MP until 1922, transferring in 1918 to the new Newcastle upon Tyne West constituency. Within the Liberal Party, Shortt allied with David Lloyd George in the party split which occurred between him and H. H. Asquith. When Lloyd George came to power in 1916, Shortt was soon appointed to the government.

Shortt was not a very active MP, but his appointment to chair a Select Committee to review the operation of the Military Service Acts in 1917 brought him to the attention of Lloyd George. In May 1918, Lloyd George appointed him as Chief Secretary for Ireland, at a pivotal point in the First World War and when Irish Republicanism was on the increase. The government had decided to introduce conscription in Ireland to provide more soldiers for the Western Front, linked to support for Irish home rule, but still found that opposition to the British increased. Shortt gave his support to an unusual plan to encourage Irish soldiers to join the French army, while persuading the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Ireland to support conscription. However, both parts of the plan collapsed due to infighting within the government and the military establishment. Conscription was never implemented in Ireland.

Once the war was over, Shortt was promoted to Home Secretary in January 1919, during the middle of a police strike. To the stakeholder's satisfaction, he helped to solve the strike and earned the support of the police. He had to deal with rising crime caused by large numbers of unemployed soldiers, some who struggled with mental illness. He introduced a bill to license firearms, of which there were many which had been smuggled back as war trophies. Shortt also reprieved Ronald True, who had been condemned to death for murder, after finding the issue of his sanity in doubt. Shortt was not well respected in Parliament due to the appointing of fellow barristers from the North East to important posts although he was admired in quarters for his liberal thinking and it was well known that Edward Shortt was capable of a great deal of compassion as illustrated in the many death penalties he commuted and repealed.

When Lloyd George's coalition government fell in October 1922, Shortt retired from politics and stood down from Parliament.

Career after Parliament

In November 1929, Shortt was appointed as second President of the British Board of Film Censors succeeding T.P. O'Connor. This was an odd appointment as Shortt had no real interest and actively disliked sound films. The Board had been set up by the film industry and had no statutory role (local councils being technically responsible for judging who could see a film) but in practice its rulings were always obeyed.

Shortt followed previous policy of a highly restrictive licensing. In the Board's report for 1931, he outlined his concern about the increasing number of films dealing with sexual topics, and promised further restrictions. He banned 120 films in five years and in 1932 ordered cuts to 382, a record number; one of the films banned was Red-Headed Woman, starring Jean Harlow.

In the last year of his life he founded the security firm Nightwatch Services, later Securicor.


Shortt married Isabella Stewart Scott, who had been born in Chile to British parents. They had one son, who was killed in action in 1917, and three daughters, including Doreen Ingrams. He died on 10 November 1935, at the age of 73.


Edward Shortt Wikipedia

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