The Unofficial Prime Minister of Wales: Huw T. Edwards (1892–1970)

  • Paul Ward


Richard Weight has described Huw T. Edwards as ‘a man whose gradual loss of patience with Britain’s political elite mirrored that of millions of ordinary people.’1 It certainly seems that Edwards’ political life fits into a narrative of the increasing unravelling of the United Kingdom, as he moved from the position of Labour stalwart to Welsh nationalist when he joined Plaid Cymru in 1959. This narrative suggests a steady dismantling of support for the Union. Edwards agitated for greater autonomy for Wales from Labour and Conservative governments. Without doubt he was frustrated by the unwillingness of governments in London to give undivided consideration to the problems of Wales. However, it is simplistic to see Edwards’ stance steadily and irrevocably moving away from identification with the United Kingdom. This chapter discusses the complex and dynamic nature of Edwards’ Welshness and his negotiation of that identity within the realms of the United Kingdom. Edwards’ last political act was not his break with the Labour Party that had become increasingly centralist, but the rejoining of the party when it seemed to him that it was at last recognizing his aspirations for Wales within the Union.


Prime Minister Labour Movement Labour Government Labour Party Conservative Government 
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  1. 1.
    Richard Weight, Patriots: National Identity in Britain, 1940–2000 (Basingstoke: Pan, 2003), p. 127.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Huw T. Edwards, Hewn from the Rock (Cardiff: Western Mail and TWW, 1967). It had previously been published in two volumes in Welsh, as Tros y Tresi (1956) and Troi’r Drol (1963).Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Edwards, Hewn from the Rock, pp. 42–3, 44–45. See Kenneth O. Morgan, Rebirth of a Nation: A History of Modern Wales (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), pp. 145–9 for the deterioration of industrial relations.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    Paul Ward, Red Flag and Union Jack: Englishness, Patriotism and the British Left, 1881–1924 (Woodbridge: Royal Historical Society/Boydell, 1998), p. 127.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    Gervase Phillips, ‘Dai Bach Y Soldiwr: Welsh Soldiers in the British Army, 1914–1918,’ Llafur, 6 (1993), pp. 94–105.Google Scholar
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    See D.W. Howell and C. Baber, ‘Wales’, in F.M.L. Thompson (ed.), The Cambridge Social History of Britain 1750–1950 Volume I Regions and Communities (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 307–9.Google Scholar
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    Kenneth O. Morgan, Modern Wales: Politics, Places and People (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1995), p. 18.Google Scholar
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  9. 20.
    See, for example, Steven Fielding, Peter Thompson and Nick Tiratsoo, ‘England Arise!’ The Labour Party and Popular Politics in 1940s Britain (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995)Google Scholar
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  11. 22.
    Huw T. Edwards, What I Want for Wales (Carmarthen: Druid Press, 1949), p. 4. This pamphlet was a reprint of an article published in January 1944. It embarrassed Edwards because he had criticized ‘the cant and hypocrisy’ of Welsh religion. As chairman of the Council of Wales such comments were politically uncomfortable.Google Scholar
  12. 32.
    Mervyn Jones, A Radical Life: The Biography of Megan Lloyd George (London: Hutchinson, 1991), p. 235; Edwards, Hewn from the Rock, p. 125.Google Scholar
  13. 44.
    Peter Stead, ‘The Labour Party and the Claims of Wales,’ in John Osmond (ed.), The National Question Again: Welsh Political Identity in the 1980s (Llandusyl: Gomer, 1985), p. 106.Google Scholar
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    Alan Butt Philip, The Welsh Question: Nationalism in Welsh Politics1945–1970 (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1975), p. 282.Google Scholar
  15. 56.
    Welsh Board of Directors TWW Ltd, Wales: Today and Tomorrow: A Symposium of Views (n.p.: TWW, 1960), p. 1.Google Scholar
  16. 57.
    See D. Gareth Evans, A History of Wales 1906–2000 (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2000), pp. 264–78 for cultural activities and Welsh in the postwar period. Evans points out that by the 1980s monoglot English speakers in Wales were poorly served by the TV channels, with only 24 hours a week of English language programmes being produced for the four-fifths of the population who are English-speaking (p. 277).Google Scholar
  17. 64.
    James Griffiths, Pages from Memory (London: J.M. Dent, 1969).Google Scholar
  18. 84.
    George Thomas, Viscount Tonypandy, My Wales (London: Century, 1986), p. 104.Google Scholar

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© Paul Ward 2005

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  • Paul Ward

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