Leeds MPs

SLESSER, Sir Henry Herman (1883–1979) Labour. Judge.

The family name was Schloesser but was changed by deed poll on the outbreak of World War I. He was called to the bar in 1906, but he made a decisive decision at that time and joined the Fabian Society. His legal skills saw him appointed as standing counsel to the Labour Party in 1912 and he went on to develop a successful practice despite some solicitors avoiding him because of his political sympathies. He was rejected for military service because of a heart condition but advised the War Emergency Workers’ National Committee and defended munitions workers prosecuted under the Munitions of War Acts. An Anglo-Catholic, he stood for Leeds Central in 1922 coming second and claimed that ‘secularist and Hebrew’ elements in the constituency and the fact he was supported by monks from the Community of the Resurrection contributed to his defeat. He was then defeated again for Leeds Central in both the by-election in 1923 and the general election later that year. Despite not being an MP, in January 1924 he was appointed Solicitor-General in Ramsay Macdonald’s government and then knighted. In October he successfully contested Leeds South East and held on to it in 1929. He was deeply critical of the decision to call a general strike in 1926 but vehemently attacked the view that it was illegal. In 1929, he was then appointed a judge in the Appeals Court and resigned his Parliamentary seat. He was considered to be a conscientious and competent appeal court judge. For further reading see Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online edition (Oxford, 2014).