A Dictionary of Political Biography

By Dennis Kavanagh | Go to book overview

W

Wagner, Robert(b. Germany, 8 June 1877; d. 4 May 1953) US; US Senator

Wagneremigrated with his family to New York in 1885. He was educated in New York and qualified as a lawyer. He made his reputation in fighting many high-profile labour cases. He was elected as a Democrat in the state Senate and became the party's floor leader. At the time he had to work with the notorious Tammany Hall political machine. As a pro-labour politician, he sponsored bills covering wages and working hours for women and children and workmen's compensation. He became a judge in 1918. In 1926 he was elected to the Senate for New York and he was re-elected three times until his retirement from ill-health in 1949. In the Senate he continued with his interest in labour and employment issues and was a strong supporter of Franklin *Roosevelt and the New Deal. He introduced the National Recovery Act ( NRA), to provide for minimum wage and maximum hours and tackle unemployment by public works construction programmes. His Wagner Act ( 1935), passed after the Supreme Court struck down the NRA, protected workers' rights to organize and bargain collectively through their own representatives and forbade employers from discriminating against unions. He also helped to establish the National Labor Relations Board, to rule on disputes arising from the act and to settle inter-union disputes. Some of these gains for labour were later reversed by the *Taft-Hartley Act passed in 1947 by a Republican Congress. In his first term in the Senate, he sponsored a bill for a census of the unemployed, a scheme of public works, and the creation of an employment agency to assist in the transfer of labour from areas of high to low unemployment.

Wakeham, John (b. 22 June 1932) British; chief whip 1983-7, leader of the House of Commons 1987-9 and House of Lords 1992-4, Baron (life peer) 1992

John Wakeham was an important member of Mrs * Thatcher's and John *Major's governments in the 1980s and 1990s. He was a successful accountant and already financially secure when he won the Malden consitutency in February 1974, a seat he held until 1983 when it was redrawn as Colchester South and Malden. He remained as MP for the seat until 1992.

Wakeham proved to be a skilful chief whip ( 1983-7), warning Margaret Thatcher that a number of her proposals, including the Shops Bill (allowing shops to trade on Sundays) and the sale of Austin Rover cars to General Motors in 1986, could not be carried in parliament. He nearly lost his life in October 1984 when the IRA bombed the Brighton Grand Hotel at the time of the annual party conference. His wife Roberta was among those who died. After a lengthy period of convalescence he returned to politics but was in pain and walked with some difficulty for the remainder of his life.

In the 1987 parliament Wakeham entered the Cabinet as Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons. He managed to pilot through a number of controversial measures, including education reforms, the poll tax, and water privatization. He became Secretary of State for Energy in July 1989 and for the first time ran his own department. In this post he handled the privatization of electricity supply and distribution.

When Mrs Thatcher failed to win the party leadership on the first ballot in 1990 it was Wakeham's initiative for her to consult individually with Cabinet ministers.

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A Dictionary of Political Biography
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vi
  • Preface vii
  • List of Contributors viii
  • Contributors and Countries xi
  • Abbreviations xii
  • A 1
  • B 27
  • C 79
  • D 129
  • E 157
  • F 164
  • G 177
  • H 201
  • I 237
  • J 238
  • K 252
  • L 278
  • M 304
  • N 356
  • O 369
  • P 373
  • Q 400
  • R 402
  • S 426
  • T 464
  • U 483
  • V 485
  • W 494
  • X 512
  • Y 513
  • Z 518
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