Jim Griffiths CH PC (1890-1975)

Jim Griffiths CH PC (1890-1975)

 

James Griffiths 

James ("Jim") Griffiths is probably one of the most significant Welsh politicians that my generation has never heard of.

Appointed as the first ever Secretary of State by Prime Minister Harold Wilson in 1964, Jim Griffiths was a prominent trade unionist and workers' rights activist, and ensured Wales' voice was heard in Westminster.

He was Llanelli's Member of Parliament from 1936-70, an area that was close to his heart. He had, after all, grown up in Ammanford, leaving school at the age of 13 to work in the Gwaith Isa'r Betws (one of the town's collieries).

One of Wales’s greatest statesmen
— Huw Edwards, BBC broadcaster

Growing up in West Wales during this period, it was almost inevitable that the young Jim would go on to become involved in some of the strong trade unions in the region. 

In the two decades before he was elected as an MP, Jim was involved with a number of groups that advocated workers' rights.

He was secretary of the Ammanford Trades Council between 1916–1919; returning home from the Central Labour College, London, he was the Labour Party's Llanelli agent from 1922–1925; before he fulfilled a similar role for the Anthracite Miners' Association for just over a decade between 1925–1936.

One of the most significant roles Jim fulfilled, however, was as President of the South Wales Miners' Federation in the Anthracite district of West Wales between 1934–1936. 

After being selected and elected as the Labour candidate for Llanelli in 1936, he was elected to Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC) in 1939.

Wales_Office_-_Whitehall_-_London_-_240404.jpg

Tŷ Gwydyr

The modern-day London headquarters of the Office of the Secretary of State for Wales.

In the years that followed, Jim established himself at the forefront of Welsh and British politics. 

For example, as Minister for National Insurance in Clement Attlee's government, Jim introduced the Family Allowance in 1946 and went on to become Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1950.

He was always a significant figure within the Labour movement, too, becoming Party Chairman in 1948 and Deputy Leader eight years later.

However, what he is known for in Wales is the instrumental role he played in the establishment of the Wales Office, becoming the first Secretary of State for Wales for two years before standing down at the 1966 General Election. 

He held on to his Llanelli seat until 1970, despite his declining health.

Jim published his memoir, Pages From Memory, in 1969, a year before he was succeeded as an MP by Denzil Davies in Llanelli.

Jim died five years later in 1975, aged 84, and was buried at the Christian Temple chapel in Ammanford. 

Since his death, his contribution to the story of devolution, the development of workers' rights, and Labour politics has largely gone unrecognised. Being active in the same era as another great Welshman, Aneurin Bevan, would explain this.

Yet, more recently there has been some work published to celebrate the achievements of Jim, including Dr D Ben Rees' 2016 biography Jim: The Life and Work of James Griffiths.

There is still, nevertheless, more that can be done to recognise Jim.

The above demonstrates the sheer breadth of his accomplishments in life. This campaign wants to recognise Jim's work permanently in an area he represented for so long.

We hope Jim's story has inspired you to get behind this initiative.