Friday, 29 March 2019

Déjà vu in a Newport by-election?

Daran Hill over at the Wasting Mule makes an interesting  point that there could be a case of a Newport by election , resulting in the fall of a UK government .

As he says 
"The dominant party in Wales had been the Liberals for over half a century, but the Liberals were fatally flawed.
The wartime coalition had seen them ripped in two, with separate parties existing in most of the UK reflecting the factions of former Prime Minister Herbert Asquith and Welsh wizard David Lloyd George, who had succeeded him. The biggest question in 1922 politics was whether that coalition government should continue.
However, Newport was one of the areas where the local party had not split wide open so there was a peculiar oasis there which created the circumstances for an enormously fractious by-election.
It was not the Liberals that were factionalising, it was the Conservatives. In Newport they had selected as a candidate a civil engineer called Reginald Clarry who was pledged to remove the Conservatives from the national coalition running the UK and headed by Lloyd George.
This was also very much the feeling of local Conservatives, who had resented being represented by a Liberal and wanted an end to a wartime coalition that had, they believed, outlived its purpose by four years.
The combustibility of the situation increased when not only did the Conservatives and Liberals both contest the seat, but the Liberals chose as their candidate William Lynden Moore, who ran on the slogan of “reunited Liberalism”, implying opposition to the coalition too.
Therefore, neither Lloyd George nor his Conservative associate Austen Chamberlain could actively support candidates from either of their parties, since both opposed the official party stances relating to the continuation of the coalition government, and Chamberlain was pretty explicit that Conservative Central Office should not support Clarry’s candidature.
Added in to the mix was the growing potency of the Labour Party, who had picked up a number of south Wales seats in 1918 and were seen as a coming force.
Their candidate, John William Bowen, was a post office trade unionist and had previously contested the seat in the 1918 General Election. Many in traditional politics assumed and feared that he would be the eventual winner of the Newport by election, since he might be able to capitalise on the disarray in the two governing parties.
When the result of the by-election came on the early hours of October 19, 1922, it was seismic.
Clarry had won with 13,515 votes, some 40% of the total, with the Liberals taking second place on 11,425 and Labour trailing third on 8,841.
Later that same day Clarry reached Westminster and joined a meeting of the Conservatives taking place at the Carlton Club.
The actions of that day are still reflected in the name of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs in Parliament.
The meeting, spurred on by the result in Newport, resolved that the Conservative Party leave the coalition government.
Austen Chamberlain resigned immediately as leader, and Lloyd George was forced to resign as Prime Minister on that very day.
A new Conservative only administration was formed and the new Prime Minister Bonar Law called a General Election, receiving an impressive mandate to continue governing2".
Probably due to lack of space, Daran  does not mention that there was a particular  Welsh aspect to the byelection however.

This from Wikipedia 

"Locally Conservatives in Wales despised the coalition and regarded the electoral pact as valid for one election only. They were further enraged when Haslam did not give support for Conservative measures despite their support. The key breach came over the 1921 Licensing Bill which raised the question of whether Monmouthshirewas part of Wales or England. This had become a particularly significant local issue, with the Liberals tending to the former position and the Conservatives to the latter. The Bill included Monmouthshire with Wales and so threatened early closing, whilst Haslam's support for the temperance movement provoked further hostility. Consequently the local Conservatives moved to adopt an official candidate of their own for the next general election, choosing Reginald Clarry on 26 July 1922. He received backing from the anti-Coalition wing of the Conservative Party, including endorsements in the Morning Post. His candidature was not well received by the Conservative leadership at Westminster, with Austen Chamberlain, leader of the Conservative MPs, requesting that Conservative Central Office should not aid Clarry's campaign, but crucially Clarry was still the official party nominee for the seat and it would be dangerous for any leader of the party to provoke a row by repudiating the official nominee".
  The 1881 Sunday  Closing  Act the first UK law to be applied solely to Wales  did not apply to Monmouthshire, but was extended over that county in 1915 under wartime legislation which was reaffirmed in 1921.

So we  see , that in part the 1922 by-election as a landmark in Welsh politics, in that a solely Welsh law   was a major influence.

Could it be that the issue of where Wales stands in relation to the rest of the UK  could mark a change in Welsh politics , where the electorate of Newport West may indicate that they may be considering abandoning the two dominant UK parties.

No comments: