He was born in Aberdeen; his father James Paton was a master baker and his mother Isabella Bruce was a seamstress. After leaving school at 13 he became a printer's devil in what is now the Aberdeen Press and Journal. He then became a barber, running his own establishment until the war years. His socialist views repelled his wealthy customers and the shop failed soon after the war. Moving to Glasgow, he worked as a journeyman barber before becoming a full-time political organiser for the Independent Labour Party. he married Jessie Thomson of Springburn, Glasgow and they had a son, John. He moved to London to become the editor of the New Leader.
He was General Secretary of the Independent Labour Party from 1927 to 1933. He was elected at the 1945 general election as MP for the two-seat Norwich constituency. When that constituency was divided at the 1950 general election, he was returned to the House of Commons for the new Norwich North seat, which he held until he retired at the 1964 general election.
- Craig, F. W. S. (1983) . British parliamentary election results 1918-1949 (3rd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. ISBN 0-900178-06-X.
- Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "N" (part 3)
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by John Paton
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
Geoffrey Shakespeare and
| Member of Parliament for Norwich
With: Lucy Noel-Buxton
|New constituency|| Member of Parliament for Norwich North
| General Secretary of the Independent Labour Party
Ernest E. Hunter
| Editor of the New Leader
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