Son of a coalminer and Labour MP, Jenkins entered parliament as Labour MP for Southwark Central in 1948. In the 1960s and 70s Jenkins was a prominent member of the Labour governments of Harold Wilson, achieving possibly his finest hour as Home Secretary 1965-67 when he guided and supported a raft of legislation including abolition of the death penalty, removal of theatre censorship, decriminalisation of homosexuality and the legalisation of abortion. A committed pro-European, Jenkins supported Edward Heath over Britain’s entry into the Common Market and resigned as Labour’s deputy leader over Wilson’s call for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EEC. After serving as president of the European Commission Jenkins returned home to give the first Dimbleby Lecture and act as a catalyst to the formation of the SDP, becoming the party’s first leader. He returned to parliament in 1982 as SDP MP for Glasgow Hillhead. His defeat in 1987 was followed by a move to the House of Lords, as Baron Jenkins of Hillhead, where he led the Liberal Democrat peers 1988-97 and a return to writing – producing award winning biographies of Gladstone and Churchill.