Lord Glenamara of Glenridding, 1912-2012

June 7, 2012

A former education and science minister who was a "driving force" behind the creation of polytechnics and served as chancellor of what is now Northumbria University has died.

Ted Short - who became a life peer in 1977 - was born in the village of Warcop in Cumbria on 17 December 1912. He would later describe his childhood as the son of a draper in I Knew My Place (1983).

After qualifying as a teacher, he taught on Teesside, fought in the Durham Light Infantry during the Second World War and was appointed head of Princess Louise Secondary School in 1947. But politics soon beckoned, first on Newcastle City Council and, from 1951 to 1976, as MP for Newcastle Central.

Soon promoted to northern chief whip and then deputy chief whip in the Labour Party, in 1964 he became chief whip to Harold Wilson's incoming administration, where a slim majority of four, later reduced to one, required him to chivvy even sick MPs to turn up and vote. When the majority was increased to 97 after the 1966 election, he faced the opposite problem of keeping rebel MPs in line.

Not long afterwards, he was appointed to ministerial office as Postmaster General (1966-68) and then secretary of state for education and science (1968-70), where he helped bring to fruition plans for The Open University.

Back in opposition, he continued as shadow education secretary until 1972 before ending his Commons career as the Labour Party's deputy leader (1972-76) and Leader of the House (1974-76). Such a background gave extra weight to his contribution to the 1997 debate on tuition fees, when he declared himself "ashamed at what the Labour government is proposing to do".

"He was a driving force behind the creation of the polytechnics in the 1960s," said Philip Booth, university secretary at Northumbria University, "and in retirement became chancellor of what was in effect his local [Newcastle] polytechnic".

He added that Lord Glenamara played an important role in the polytechnic's successful move to gain independence from the city council in 1989 and in the transition to university status in 1992.

"He presided over many academic congregation ceremonies every year, handing out the parchment to each graduating student and well able to hold an audience even into his nineties," he said.

"Though very down to earth and just as happy to dine in the students' refectory as in private with the vice-chancellor, his educational experience and political acumen made him a very valuable mentor."

Lord Glenamara died in his 100th year on 4 May and is survived by a son and a daughter.


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