Edward Shortt KC (March 10, 1862 - November 10, 1935) was a British politician, who served as a member of David Lloyd George's cabinet. The son of a Northumberland Church of England vicar, Shortt attended school in Durham followed by the University of Durham. He was called to the Bar (Middle Temple) in 1890 and practiced on the North Eastern Circuit; he served as a Crown Court Recorder (part-time Judge) for Sunderland from 1907, and was made a King's Counsel in 1910.
Shortt became active in politics for the Liberal Party. In 1908 Shortt was an unsuccessful candidate for Newcastle upon Tyne in a by-election, losing a seat previously held by the party when the Social Democratic Federation put up a candidate against him. However, in the January 1910 election he was elected. Within the Liberal Party, Shortt allied with David Lloyd George in the party split which occurred between him and Herbert Asquith. When Lloyd George came to power in 1916 Shortt was soon appointed to the Government.
Shortt was not a very active MP but his appointment to Chair a Select Committee to review the operation of the Military Service Acts in 1917 brought him to the attention of Lloyd George. In May 1918 Lloyd George appointed him as Chief Secretary for Ireland, at a pivotal point as the Great War was at a critical point and Irish Republicanism was increasing. The Government had decided to introduce conscription in Ireland to provide more soldiers for the Western front, linked to support for Irish home rule, but still found that opposition to the British increased. Shortt gave his support to an unusual plan to encourage Irish soldiers to join the French army, while persuading the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Ireland to support conscription. However, both parts of the plan collapsed due to infighting within the government and the military establishment. Conscription was never enforced in Ireland.
Once the war was over, Shortt was moved to be Secretary of State for the Home Department, during the middle of a police strike. He helped to solve the strike to everyone's satisfaction and earned the support of the police. He had to deal with rising crime caused by large numbers of unemployed soldiers, some with mental illness. He brought in a Bill to license firearms, of which there were many which had been smuggled back as war trophies. Shortt also reprieved Ronald True, who had been condemned to death for murder, after finding the issue of his sanity in doubt. Shortt was not well-respected in Parliament where he had a reputation for laziness and for appointing fellow Barristers from the North East to important posts.
When Lloyd George's Coalition government fell in October 1922, Shortt retired from politics and stood down from Parliament. In 1929, Shortt was appointed as President of the British Board of Film Censors succeeding Thomas Power O'Connor. This was an odd appointment as Shortt had no real interest and actively disliked sound films. The Board had been set up by the film industry and had no statutory role (local councils being technically responsible for judging who could see a film) but in practice its rulings were always obeyed.
Shortt followed previous policy of a highly restrictive licensing. In the Board's report for 1931 he outlined his concern about the increasing number of films dealing with sexual topics, and promised further restrictions. He banned 120 films in five years and in 1932 ordered cuts to 382, a record number; one of the films banned was Red-Headed Woman starring Jean Harlow. Shortt died in post in 1935.