‘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

Thursday, 9 January 2014

The Strange Return of Cecil L'Estrange Malone

Today is the anniversary of the 1928 Northampton by-election, which saw the return to Parliament of Cecil L'Estrange Malone.

Malone went from being elected in 1918 as a Coalition Liberal MP and a supporter of the fiercely anti-Communist Reconstruction Society, to being the UK’s first Communist MP. 

Although he later denied ever having been a Liberal, his 1918 election address described him as the ‘Liberal, Radical and Coalition Candidate’. 

By July 1919 he declared that ‘my inherent personal bias leads me more and more to the Left’. His changing political allegiance gave rise to what must have been one of the strangest exchanges of correspondence between a constituency chairman and an MP. The chairman wrote to Malone to say that he ‘found it very difficult to form any opinion as to what your political views really were and as to what party you, in fact, belong.’ 

Malone officially joined the Communist Party in July 1920. After a speech at the Albert Hall on 7 November 1920, Malone was charged with sedition. He had argued that during a revolution, it would be legitimate to execute leading members of the bourgeoisie. He was convicted and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and he had his OBE withdrawn.    

Malone did not contest the 1922 election, but was elected as again as a Labour MP for Northampton at a by-election on this day in 1928, holding the seat until 1931.

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