In an election in which the Tories believed that they had a natural right to win and who felt deeply wounded and upset if anyone wanted to question them, it is no wonder they resorted to dirty tricks. The election fought against and the backdrop of; economic decline, a large government deficit, proposal to increase tax on the property of the super rich and in which the role of women was an ever present topic -was always going to stir emotions. In Southport the Liberals had a colourful and wealthy candidate who took the fight to the Tories. He was Maurice de Forest.
Over the next few weeks the Birkdale blog will review some of the key issues upon which the election was fought; land tax, higher rate income tax, votes for women, temperance, the funding and expansion of old age pensions, defence expenditure especially Dreadnought for the navy and tariff reform. But the issue which ignited the campaign in Southport was the personalities of the key protagonists.
Pat Sumner and her team are organising an dinner to commemorate the events of 1909/10 and their introductory flier gives a bit more background:
'Rt Hon Winston Churchill MP who was a great friend of Baron de Forest came and spoke on his behalf on the 4th December 1909 at becoming the Liberal candidate in Southport in the General Election of 1910. Meetings were held in the Empire Music Hall and the Opera House. Both buildings were packed to their utmost capacity by an enthusiastic audience. Another meeting was held in Waterloo in the evening, which was just as successful – the Town Hall was crowded by over 1,000 people and many were unable to gain admission. Thus well over 7,000 persons listened to the President of the Board of Trade (those were the days). Great pains were taken to see that no Suffragettes were admitted (shame on the men). Only ticket holders were present but at the meeting in the Empire Music Hall a strident woman’s voice from the dome of the roof called out “What about Votes for Women”? The unfortunate woman was chased on to the roof of the building by the stewards where she was overpowered (I bet she put up a struggle).
Baron De Forest was formally adopted as the Liberal Parliamentary Candidate on the 28th December 1909 to fight the General Election that took place the following month.
The General Election of January 1910 was the most bitter and strenuously fought electoral struggle in the history of the Division. The Conservative Party initiated a campaign of personal attacks upon Baron de Forest, which described the Annual Report of the Southport Liberal Association, ‘can scarcely be paralleled in the annals of parliamentary contests’. But to hear the rest of this intriguing story join our Speaker for the night Mike Braham who will tell the story in his own unique and often hilarious fashion and for those of you who have not heard Mike speak then you are in for a great treat, a great night and one you will never forget.
Please support Southport Liberal Democrats and hear the exciting conclusion to an election that was so famous it reached the newspapers at that particular time. We are celebrating a nostalgic look-back at an era long gone but not forgotten in Southport with a special dinner to mark the 100th anniversary of that election in 1910, and over 140 years of Liberalism. We are recreating the Dinner which was held on the 15th January 1910, but not the same Menu as you would need to get through at least 10 courses in those days and the same amount of wine and champagne. This is a special one-off event so please come and support us. We can promise you a great evening and a history that deserves to be told.'
(PS If some one has a photo of de Forest I'd be pleased to receive it. He went on to be the MP for West Ham and was heavily involved in aviation)