Lord Emanuel Shinwell, a socialist and one-time street agitator whose career began in poverty and ended in the ermine robes of the peerage, died of bronchial pneumonia Thursday at his home here. He was 101 and the oldest member of the House of Lords.
A pipe smoker who loved a glass of scotch whisky, Lord Shinwell was a former government minister and elder statesman of the main opposition Labor Party. Although he was a committed socialist all his life, he once said: "I don't give a damn about Karl Marx."
He did not hold with the Labor Party's drift to the left, regarding this trend as utopian, and in his later years sat as an independent in the House of Lords. He was equally critical of Roy Jenkins, a former leader of the Labor Party, when the latter helped form the centrist Social Democrats in 1981.
"Anyone who joins Mr. Jenkins must be off his head," Lord Shinwell said.
Born in the East End of London, one of 13 children of an impoverished Jewish immigrant tailor from Poland, Lord Shinwell began his political career organizing Scottish clothing workers.
He was jailed for five months in 1919 for organizing a riot among workers in Glasgow. Elected to Parliament three years later, he became a minister in 1945 after Labor's postwar landslide victory over Conservative Winston Churchill.
In that Labor government, which was headed by prime minister Clement Attlee, Lord Shinwell held three successive cabinet posts: minister of fuel and power, war secretary and then minister of defense for a year until Churchill regained power in 1951. Among his accomplishments was the nationalization of the British coal industry.
Lord Shinwell also served in two later Labor cabinets. In 1970, after 40 years in the House of Commons, he was made a life peer, an honor he was proud to accept. He remained the defender of the working class and the scourge of the pompous and bigoted.
He was an outspoken opponent of British entry into the European Community and an unabashed supporter of Israel. During a debate on the Arab-Israeli conflict, he shouted at critics: "I take sides on behalf of the state of Israel -- and you can go to hell."
Former Labor prime minister James Callaghan said Lord Shinwell "had been a boxer in his early days and he never lost the taste for a fight. He did not believe in winning on points if he could secure a knockout."
Neil Kinnock, the Labor Party's current leader, said: "Manny Shinwell always fought to win for the people. He was tough and turbulent and he believed that strength and power should be used to help those who were not strong or powerful."
Married three times, Lord Shinwell was a widower three times. Survivors include four children.