Leatherland joined the Labour Party in 1918. As a member of the Labour Party Press Department in the 1920s, a journalist on the leading Labour daily newspaper, and a Labour councillor and Chairman of the Eastern Region of the Party, he played a major role in promoting the Party's fortunes from the 1920s to the 1960s.
In the 1940s he was asked by several constituencies to stand for Parliament as a Labour MP. He would have made a good MP. But he reluctantly turned down this offer because of his commitments to the Daily Herald.
In 1964, shortly after his retirement from the Daily Herald, he was rewarded by the new Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, with a life peerage.
Lord Leatherland became a popular and long-serving member of the House of Lords. He made his maiden speech on cancer research and became a regular speaker in Lords debates. During this speech he recalled that when he was 25 years old he decided to give up smoking cigarettes for 25 years. So he threw his cigarette pack in the gutter. Twenty five years later he kept his "promise" and started smoking again ! This time he chose a pipe.
He was one of the few members of the Lords to make 20-30 minute speeches without the aid of any notes, using a visual memory system which he taight himself.
He was a witty and eloquent speaker and made important conributions to many debates, especially those in which he had personal interest and experience, for example on local government issues and defence. He led successful campiagns on comsumer issues, and gained much publicity in April 1978, including an interview on BBC Radio 4's World at One programme, when he raised the question of increased pensions for the over-80s ...... on his own 80th birthday !
In his book ''Tales from the House of Lords', Stuart Braham wrote : "One of great characters about the place is 86 year old life peer Lord Leatherland ..... he travels up on the train each day from his home in Buckhurst Hill, Essex to the House of Lords. He is always in the thick of things during question time and much of the rest of the proceedings. For the most part he is good-humoured, but he does became rather irked whenever - as unfortunately happens from time to time - his name appears in print as Lord Leatherhead".
Lord Leatherland in his usual seat in the Lords (top right)
In 1982 in the Lords, he contrasted the £100 fine given to a male streaker at a football match with the pleasant publicity given to Erica Roe, a topless female streaker at a rugby game, and demanded sex equality for male streakers. In the same year, he complained at the new design of London taxis which were less roomy that the old ones, explaining that "courting couples find the presents seats in taxicabs very comfortable".
Lord Leatherland was still attending the House of Lords at the age of 92.