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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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Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Wartime truce – a good time to launch a new party?



Today is the 70th anniversary of the Skipton by-election of 1944. The by-election was held under the terms of the wartime electoral truce. The three main parties had agreed not to stand against each other in by-elections. However, this did not prevent seats being lost, especially by the Conservative Party, mainly to independent candidates.

However, Skipton was the second of three wartime victories for Common Wealth, a left wing party founded in 1942. They had won Eddisbury in 1943 and went on to win Chelmsford in 1945. All three victories were at the expense of the Conservatives.

The successes of Common Wealth could be seen as an indication that the electorate had embraced more egalitarian policies during the war, as was eventually shown in the 1945 general election victory for the Labour Party.

The results also reflected the fact that the Conservatives had interpreted the wartime truce to include the abandonment of most policy-making and political activity such as conferences. The Labour Party stuck to the letter of the truce, but carried on most activities, including holding conferences. The Liberals took a stance in between the other two.

Only Chelmsford was held by Common Wealth at the 1945 general election and many of the party’s key figures eventually joined the Labour Party, including Hugh Lawson, the 1944 victor at Skipton.

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