The Right Honourable Roy Harris Jenkins, Baron Jenkins of Hillhead OM PC (November 11, 1920 – January 5, 2003) was a British politician. Prominent as a Labour Member of Parliament and government minister in the 1960s and 1970s, he went on to be one of the four principal founders of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the early 1980s. He was also a distinguished writer, especially of biographies. Born in Abersychan, Monmouthshire in south-eastern Wales, as an only child, Roy Jenkins was the son of a National Union of Mineworkers official.
Jenkins was educated at Abersychan County School, University College, Cardiff, and at Balliol College, Oxford, where he took First Class Honours in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). During World War II he served with the Royal Artillery and then at Bletchley Park. He married Jennifer Morris, Dame Jennifer Jenkins in 1945.
He entered the British House of Commons in 1948 as the representative of Southwark Central. Owing to constituency boundary changes, his was abolished in 1950, and he stood instead in Birmingham Stechford. He was elected in the 1950 UK general election and represented the constituency until 1977. He was Home Secretary from 1965 to 1967, where he was responsible for the relaxation of the laws relating to divorce, abolition of theatre censorship and gave government support to David Steel's Private Member's Bill for the legalisation of abortion and Leo Abse's bill for the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
From 1967 to 1970 he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, replacing James Callaghan following the devaluation of the pound in November 1967.
Jenkins was elected deputy leader of the Labour Party in July 1970, but resigned in 1972 over the party's European policy. When Labour returned to power he was made Home Secretary again, serving from 1974 to 1976.
Jenkins was a candidate for the leadership of the Labour Party in March 1976, but came third out of the six candidates. He accepted an appointment as President of the European Commission instead.
On November 22, 1979 Jenkins delivered the annual Dimbleby Lecture which he called "Home Thoughts from Abroad", detailing what he saw as the reasons for Britain's persistent underperformance as a failure of adaptability and the two party system. As one of the so-called "Gang of Four", he was a founder of the SDP in January 1981 with David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams. He led the new party from March 1982 until after the 1983 elections, and served as SDP Member of Parliament for Glasgow Hillhead from 1982 to 1987.
From 1987, Jenkins remained in politics as a member of the House of Lords as Lord Jenkins of Hillhead. Also in 1987, Jenkins became Chancellor of Oxford University. He was leader of the Liberal Democrats in the Lords until 1997.
Roy Jenkins is fondly remembered by Private Eye as having a passion for claret and a distinct inability to pronounce his Rs. This was clearly shown in their obituary cartoon with the caption: Roy Jenkins, 1920-2003. WIP.