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‘Honoured that you are writing my father’s biography’ the late Tony Benn, ‘...wonderfully written’ Hilary Benn

‘Sparkles with fascinating detail…a remarkable story of Liberal and Labour politics in the first half of the twentieth century.’ Michael Crick, Political Correspondent, Channel 4 News

‘Casts much light both on the evolution of British radicalism, and on the legacy which he bequeathed to his son, Tony. Professor Vernon Bogdanor, King's College, London

‘Brilliant biography…wonderful reading about the father and...discovering more about the son.’ Steve Richards of The Independent

‘Well-written and carefully researched, this fascinating biography brings to life a major figure in British political history…an excellent job of weaving together the strands of a complex life…as well as filling in the background of the Benn family’ Richard Doherty, military historian
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Friday, 31 May 2013

Battle of Bosworth 1927


Today is the anniversary of the Bosworth by-election of 1927. Bosworth has a reputation for bloody encounters, as Richard III found out to his cost in 1485.

The 1927 by-election was a contest in a three-way marginal seat held by the Conservatives, under a Conservative government, at a time when the Labour Party was making progress and the Liberals were undergoing a revival under the new leadership of Lloyd George.

The by-election was caused by the resignation of the sitting Conservative MP, who had emigrated to Australia.

The Conservative by-election candidate was General Edward Spears, a chameleon of a character with French, English, German, Irish and Jewish ancestry. He had changed his name from Spiers to Spears, his country of residence from France to England, his wife from Mary Borden (the author) to Nancy Maurice (daughter of  General Maurice, after whom the 1918 parliamentary debate was named), his career from soldier to politician and his political party from Liberal to Conservative.

The Labour candidate, John Minto hoped to gain enough support from the coalmining areas around Coalville to snatch victory.

The Liberal candidate was William Edge, former MP for Bolton in Lancashire and a close ally of Lloyd George.

In the event, William Edge did just have the edge over his Labour rival in second place – 271 votes behind him and Spears came in third, trailing Labour by over 4,000 votes.

The Liberals went on to make further by-election gains at Lancaster, St. Ives and Eddisbury over the next two years and made 19 gains at the following general election in 1929.

General Spears did not give up and was returned eventually to the House of Commons for Carlisle in 1931. Although a courageous and many-faceted character, he was not an electoral asset to any party.  He won only two contested elections of the seven which he fought, even though on every occasion he was fighting for the incumbent party.

The Labour Party eventually won Bosworth in 1945.

All in all the 1927 Battle of Bosworth was not quite as bloody as its namesake of 1485, but both were won by Lancastrians. At least the losers of the 1927 battle did not end up under a car park in Leicester!

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