One of the most crucial and interesting British parliamentary byelections to have occurred in our time, according to Professor Russell Deacon from Swansea University, was held 90 years ago this Thursday on the 18 October 1922 in Newport, South Wales.
The victory, by an unofficial Conservative candidate, against the wishes of the Liberal-Conservative coalition government leadership, over his Labour and Liberal opponents proved decisive in ending the Lloyd George led coalition government.
It also heralded the demise of the Liberal Party and the rise of the Conservatives as a party of government that dominated much of the twentieth century.
Using archival research material and re-examining the previous histories of the Newport byelection, in combination with new material, Professor Deacon from the Department of History and Classics believes that there is much to be learnt from this historic event, and that it still has relevance for the political parties of today.
The period between 1916 and 1945 was dominated by a series of coalition governments, the first of which was a Liberal-Conservative government, which ended suddenly in 1922.
Whilst the Lloyd George coalition worked effectively at the top it became very unpopular with both the public, and more importantly, the coalition partners’ own grassroots. In October 1922, the resistance to the coalition in the grassroots broke into open rebellion at Newport and ensured the coalition’s rapid end.
Professor Deacon said, “The events that occurred in the Newport byelection are still relevant today. After the Newport byelection neither Lloyd George or the leader of the Conservatives, Austin Chamberlain, would ever lead their party in government again.
“These events show us how coalition partners can fall out and how leaders can lose touch with their own party’s grassroots. It also has lessons on how ‘certain’ victory can fall from your party’s grasp. Many of the issues from then are still relevant now on this important anniversary.”
Professor Russell Deacon is a lecturer in the Department of History and Classics,Swansea University. He has written extensively on Welsh Liberal and Liberal Democrat history. Professor Deacon is also Chair of the British Liberal Political Studies Group of the Political Studies Association.
He has recently written articles on the Newport byelection and its historic lessons for the Western Mail and the Institute of Welsh Affairs.
- Thursday 18 October 2012 01.00 BST
- Thursday 18 October 2012 13.56 BST
- H. Baldwin