Learnt trade of a silversmith but gave this up when elected to Parliament in 1922. Part of the Stratford Co-operative Society and the Independent Labour Party (ILP). At the Swansea Co-operative Congress early in 1917 Barnes seconded a resolution calling for the establishment of a Co-operative Party which he won with unanimous support. He was elected to the Co-operative Party's national committee in 1920, and was its chairman from 1924 to 1945. Most famous for the Transport Bill after he was appointed minister for transport in 1945.