Sunday, 14 November 2010

Several hundred turn up to celebrate Liberal by election victory

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

After the courts overturned the General Election result several hundred people congregated outside the Liberal Club in Chapel St to celebrate the subsequent by election victory.

The report in the Southport Guardian dated July 12th 1911 reads :

The scene was indeed animated. The result came through at 11.15pm that the former candidate for Southport had been successful and a great cheer went up when Mr E Rhodes announced the fact to the crowd. 

Iain Sharpe over on the Eaten by Missionaries Blog caught my attention last week when he reported that the last Liberal unseated by an electoral court was Charles Masterman. As Iain points out there are significant differences between this case and that of Mr Philip Woolas (who judging by his recent website launch has learned little). Can you for a moment imagine the judge in the Woolas case causing reports to be written that asserted
'Remarkably, the counsel for the petitioners (i.e. the Conservative candidate) was at pains to stress that 'no imputation was made on the honour, integrity, or conduct of Mr. Masterman in relation to such matters', a proposition endorsed by the judges.' 

For some Masterman has always been a hero. His parliamentary career was a success and he was held in near universal high regard- another marked difference with the Woolas case. 

Those who are regular readers of this blog will know that Baron de Forest contested the 1910 General Election in Southport where he endured one of the nastiest Tory campaigns ever seen in the town. The Woolas case with the brazen attempt to whip up racial tension has echo of the Tory campaign here a century ago. There were sections of the Tory campaign that pursued a straight forwardly anti Semitic line against the Liberal Candidate. There is some poetry in the outcome of the 1911 by election in the North West Ham division, that de Forest should rise above the racist abuse and triumph.

The Southport Guardian goes on the report some of the Tory excuses. I am particularly grateful to the Birkdale blog's History correspondent, Michael Braham, for drawing to my attention to this gem, I quote:
Tory chagrin
Mr Wild (the conservative candidate)made no secret of his chagrin at the result....and bitterly complained that he had been badly let down in the way of outside help.'I know for a fact' he said  'that between 300 and 400 motor cars were unavailable to me because of the Eton and Harrow cricket match...'

The Southport Guardian does not seem at all persuaded by Mr Wild's excuses but rather reports in full the contribution that Mr & Mrs Masterman made to the campaign. They appeared always to be at de Forest's side, the crowds frequently calling out 'Good old Charley' accompanied by cheering and toy trumpets(!)

In an interview after his victory Baron de Forest said that head had not fought as a 'weak kneed Liberal but as a Radical of the advanced sort and that the result was: 'the final nail in the coffin of the House of Lords'. Well we're still banging away at that nail. But it is true that his victory did help push through the Parliament Bill which was before the parliament. Finally the Guardian reports that 'having signed the roll Baron de Forest took his seat below the gangway in the centre of the benches occupied by the 'young Scots group', the advanced Radicals.'

Charles Masterman returned to Parliament and went on to serve as Chief Secretary to the Treasury until the out break of War when he became head of war propaganda. He lost his seat in 1918 but returned to Parliament in 1923. He died four years later. What became of his wife who accompanied him during the 1911 by election? Michael Braham tells me she attended the 1977 celebrations in Birmingham marking the centenary of the founding of the Nation Liberal Federation. This was a grand affair as I recall and Michael also attended. He had seen an advanced list of guest and had taken the opportunity between courses of presenting Mrs Masterman, who was a guest of honour and sat next to Jeremy Thorpe, with a dinner menu from 1906 when Charles Masterman had spoken at a Southport Liberal Association function. I was in Birmingham in 1977 but have no memory of Mrs Masterman.

The last time the courts disqualified an MP may well have been 1911, but Masterman's case was not the only one that year. In the Irish seat of Louth the candidate ran foul of Gladstone's corrupt and illegal practices Act as the report to parliament shows but maybe Mr Woolas can find some solace in fate of that candidate.

But for now let us hope that the Oldham Chronicle is soon reporting that hundreds of Liberal are celebrating an election victory after the result of the General Election was overturned

Many thanks to Michael Braham for providing me with the Southport Guardian report of de Forest's victory and for his recollection of the dinner in Birmingham in 1977 and to Iain Sharpe and Jonathan Calder for the posts last week 

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice This item has appeared two week running in the Lib Dem Voice Golden Dozen

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