Joseph Edwards
Former MP
Sir Joseph Edwards
Born 22nd October 1933
Full name Joseph Edwards M.A
Political Party Labour
Religion Church of England
Spouse None
Office(s) Held MP for Deptford (1970-1975)
Shadow Leader of the House of Commons (1973-1974)
Leader of the House of Commons (1974)

Joseph Edwards (22 October 1933 - 9 September 1985) is a British socialist politician. He served Labour Member of Parliament for Deptford from 1970 to 1975 and served briefly as Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons from March to September 1974.

On 27th September 1974, Edwards was arrested by MI5 on charges of espionage amidst an investigation that he had been in the employ of Czech Intelligence. He was dismissed from the Cabinet by Prime Minister Peter Richmond and whilst he was later cleared of the espionage charges, he was also further re-arrested on bribery charges.

Edwards was charged and convicted of the offences, leading to him being removed from the House of Commons and being stripped of his knighthood.

Early life[]

Edwards was born in Deptford, London, the son of a plumber and a second-generation Irish immigrant. He attended Stillness Primary School (remaining in London and at the school during the Second World War) and then St. Olave's Grammar School in Southwark, after passing the Eleven Plus examination. Adopting an interest in education and politics from a young age, Edwards was accepted into Oxford to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics at New College. During this time he was rejected for National Service, owing to his notable and persistent physical weakness and lack of fitness. Achieving a master's degree, he returned to Deptford, and took up a post teaching economics at the local grammar school.

Edwards had joined the Labour Party at the age of 16, and became very much active within the party and the movement first at Oxford, where he was an officer for the National Union of Students and a common debater at the Oxford Union, and then as a teacher, where he joined the National Union of Teachers and quickly gained note in the local party. After unsuccessfully contesting a safe ward in Lewisham in a 1958 local by-election he was selected for a safe ward near his home in north Deptford, becoming a councillor in 1960 and winning the ward of Marlowe following the merger of Deptford and Lewisham councillors in 1964, narrowly winning re-election in 1968.

While teaching, Edwards would go on to write two textbooks; "Studies of Applied Modern Economics for Students" was published in 1962, while "An Examination of Keynesian Economics" was published in 1965. A third book, "A History of the Labour Movement in Britain", was released in early 1969 to moderate critical success.


Shortly after the release of his third book, Cabinet minister John Silkin announced he was to retire as an MP at the next election, prompting a fierce selection battle for the candidacy in his safe seat, Lewisham Deptford. Edwards, by this time deputy leader of the Labour Party on Lewisham Council, narrowly won victory over several opponents and was elected in the 1970 general election with a comfortable majority.

An outspoken opponent of the European Economic Community and firmly on the left of the party as well as a persuasive orator, Edwards was appointed as a junior whip in 1972, and then as Shadow Leader of the House of Commons in a surprising reshuffle in 1973, a position he held through the remainder of the Parliament.

Edwards served in Cabinet during Peter Richmond's minority government from March to September 1974 as Leader of the House of Commons. Edwards' arrest on espionage and then bribery charges in September 1974 are widely credited as having brought down Richmond's government and causing the snap election of December 1974.


Edwards received a knighthood from the New Year's Honours List, 1969, for his services to education; by this point he had been a teacher for over a decade and the writer of two aforementioned textbooks, as well as a contributor to several others. He is notably the only sitting Labour Member of Parliament with such a title.

He was later stripped of the knighthood by order of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II following his conviction of bribery charges.

Preceded by:
John Silkin
Member of Parliament for Deptford
1970 - 1975
Succeeded by:
Neil Farrow
Preceded by:
Jonathan Green
Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
1973 - 1974
Succeeded by:
Robert Howatt |- style="text-align: center;"
Preceded by:
David Best
Leader of the House of Commons
Succeeded by:
Oscar Traynor