... strong in the arm, weak in the head.
OK: that’s got the ground rules settled.
Nich Starling, now — bless his little cotton socks! — Councillor Nich, has started his election coverage with a neat survey of Lib Dem hopes across East Anglia
Malcolm read with interest, and with some approval. While Malcolm would expect Norman Lamb to keep a grip on North Norfolk (though there are boundary changes), there doesn’t instantly seem to be much more for the Lib Dem taking. Nich Starling cocks an eye at Colchester and, as an outside chance, the new Broadland seat. Dum spiro, spero perhaps.
Blasts from the past
That wasn’t what caught Malcolm’s interest. It was the seemingly obvious introduction:
The Eastern region, along with the South East is the very bedrock of Conservative Strength in the UK.
Well, yes indeed. In the Major years, there was [cue: chilling chord] the East Anglian mafia:
- Major himself at Huntingdon,
- Gillian Shepherd in South-West Norfolk,
- John Gummer in Suffolk Coastal,
- Tim Yeo in South Suffolk (before his relationship with Julia Stent got in the way of “family values” and “back to basics”),
- John MacGregor in Norfolk South (for a Tory, quite a decent guy: quiet, unassuming, bright. Malcolm still feels guilty at being so rude to his wife, Jean, across the Council Chamber);
- Richard Ryder (Major’s Chief Whip in some very interesting times) in Mid Norfolk.
All held Ministerial posts, all seemed to be “close”.
- And, for added value, we should chuck in the literary genius and sage of the Old Vicarage, Granchester, “Lord” Jeffrey Archer.
It was not always thus.
That prompted Malcolm to think back. In a previous post, Malcolm considered at some length the radical tradition of Norfolk. At one time, before farming became “agri-business”, the National Union of Agricultural Workers was still strong (it needed to be: working conditions, tied cottages, and pay were all deplorable). The North Norfolk seat was held for Labour by Eddie Gooch and Bert Hazell, successive Presidents of the NUAW.
Look at that seat again, and this shows up: between 1885 and 1970, only one Tory was elected as its Member: Tommy Cook in 1931 (OK: Douglas King got in as a “Coalition Independent” in the 1918 “Khaki election” and then defected to the Tories, but …)
So Malcolm was prompted to look again at distant 1918.
Back to 1918
The Liberal Party was split. Those who stayed honest (“Liberal”) were culled by 236 seats, which left just 36 Liberal MPs across the whole UK.
That mass-extinction (or rather the years 1910-14 which fore-doomed it) was the subject of a fine book: George Dangerfield’s The Strange Death of Liberal England. Published around 1935, it was on the reading list in the ’60s when Malcolm was a student. Both older daughters had it prescribed on their university courses in the ’80s. Even the Pert Young Piece had to root through Malcolm’s shelves for it in the Noughties.
In 1918, of the four Norfolk seats:
- William Cozens-Hardy was returned as a straight Liberal in South;
- Richard Winfrey kept South-West as a Coalition Liberal (it had been his seat since 1906).
Similarly there were two seats for the Borough of Norwich:
- One went to Hilton Young (see below) as a straight Liberal (he defected Torywards in 1926).
- The other was Labour: G.H.Roberts returned with Coalition Liberal support — Malcolm, without double-checking, suspects that was against a non-ticket Labour man (who presumably had the support of the other Liberal faction). Roberts would later sit in the ’22 parliament as a Lloyd George Liberal.
In other words, of the six seats, four had a Liberal interest.
There’s one of those “degrees of separation” footnotes to be added here.
In 1922 Hilton Young married the sculptor Katherine Scott. She was the widow of the polar hero, Robert Falcon Scott. Young thereby became Peter Scott’s step-father. Hilton and Katherine Scott had a further child, who became the author, Wayland Young.
As Baron Kennet, Wayland Young was a minister in the Wilson government. On his initiative, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution was established in 1970. Out of office Young/Kennet chaired the Council for the Protection of Rural England. Politically he oscillated between Labour and the SDP, then back to “New Labour” in the early ’90s, before Blair’s propensity to military ventures caused him again to bale out.
Others might feel Wayland Young deserves a statue for his influential writings on arms control, or equally on being a catalyst of the “sexual revolution” of the ’60s.
If anyone else recalls Pink Floyd’s See Emily Play (it’s on the album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn), that’s addressed to Emily Young, one of Wayland and Elizabeth Young’s brood of daughters.
And, as Malcolm concluded his comment on the Norfolk Blogger site:
No: don’t move. I’ll just pick up my anorak on the way out.