The Birkdale blog has covered the contribution made to Southport Liberalism before by David Bentliff. Today we bring you the front page of the Southport Guardian that reported his death. He died on this day 21st April 1953.
It was his unfortune luck to come on the scene at a time when the party was still in electoral decline. He fought the 1951 General Election along with only 109 other Liberals. Most of them lost their deposit. Bentliff did not he polling 8,000 votes. His by election vote in 1952 was the lowest by a Liberal candidate since 1886. Nevertheless he kept organising and campaigning, Even as he was being rushed to hospital for an operation on a perforated duodenal ulcer he was signing the nomination papers for a council by election in Scarisbrick Ward. He died three days later in Southport infirmary. The by election was delayed because of his death but when it was held we won by 79 votes.
'The truth is that Liberalism is the only hope of a world in which dictators still rule; in which preparation for war is the only insurance against chaos; in which men can be victimised because of their colour or creed; in which there is one law for weak and another for the strong. It is because we know this that we Liberals are still banded together to continue the struggle.'
David Bentliff 1952
Bob Martin (Liberal candidate in 1945- and yes he was that Bob Martin with the patent medicine for dogs) paid tribute to him saying: 'He felt passionate about injustice wherever it lay and was endlessly mindful of others. He spared nothing of himself in fighting to defend those less able than themselves' His memorial service was taken by Revd George Young-himself a former Liberal candidate -who described him as a twentieth century David out to slay every Goliath who stood in his way.'
Both Michael Braham and Michael Meadowcroft identify him as the Liberal with the biggest single contribution to the survival of Liberalism in the town during this period.
Two other points arise from this story. Firstly the importance of the local newspapers for keeping a record of the town's history. I am delighted to report that my campaign to have the Southport newspaper brought back to The Atkinson Library in the town from Crosby has been successful .
The important papers from a local history point of view are the Visiters, Guardians 1882-59 and the Journals from 1933 until they merge with the Visiters around 1966. It is hard to imagine today that we had the Visiter appearing on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the Guardian on Wednesdays and Saturdays and the Journal on Fridays. The Journal and Guardian merged in 1959 and was a thereafter a Wednesday paper. The Visiter was I think the only tri weekly in the country.
The second item I noticed on the front of the Southport Guardian was the visit of the Women's Liberals to the Town Hall. In the photo on the extreme right is Madge Goldberg who I knew in the late seventies. She and her husband (Mayor of Southport and Parliamentary Candidate in 1959 where is achieved a rare 2nd place in a three cornered fight-you can read Michael Meadowcroft's account of the campaign here p16-17) were great peace campaigners amongst other things.I went with Madge to CND meetings at Liberal Assemblies
David Bentiff’s greatest achievements was the re-forming of the YL branch which did so much excellent work in the 50s .It ultimately brought the likes of Michael Meadowcroft, Bob Hughes, and Anthony Hill into the party.
Bentliff had signed his consent to nomination as he was rushed into hospital. He died before the close of nominations which is why the election was delayed for a fortnight. We went on to win the delayed election in Scarisbrick Ward ( which contained large chunks of Liberal High Park) and fittingly Bentcliff’s agent, Alan Riding was our successful candidate. I am at pains to stress that it wasn’t a By election and the sad fact remains that we have not gained a seat at a Council by-election in Southport – but not Sefton – since Sims Mitchell won Talbot Ward in December 1938. That is a truly awful record!
The women featured on the front of the Southport Guardian were actually delivering the nomination papers of Mrs M Jackson who stood in Marine Ward.
I mentioned Madge and her and Sam’s pacifist views. Their son Graham was a rather wayward character according to those who knew him. Major McNichol who was a Tory councillor in Park Ward kindly suggested to Madge and Sam that they might might care to have Graham enrolled in his school so he could instill some discipline into him – McNichol was Headmaster of University School on Cambridge Road - but Sam and Madge would have none of it . It would have meant Graham doing Drill in the Cadet force and that was a complete anathema to them !