Frank Owen (politician)

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Frank Owen

Humphrey Frank Owen (27 September 1905 – 23 January 1979) was a British journalist and radical Liberal Member of Parliament. He was Liberal MP for Hereford between 1929 and 1931. He was editor of the Evening Standard and the Daily Mail. He was awarded the OBE in 1946.

Background[edit]

He was the son of an innkeeper Thomas Humphrey Owen and Cicely Hannah Green, of Hereford. He was educated at Monmouth School and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. He graduated from Cambridge with honours in economics and history. He married, in 1939, Grace Stewart McGillivray of Boston, USA. She died in 1968.[1]

Journalistic career[edit]

He worked as a journalist on the South Wales Argus, 1928–29 and the Daily Express, 1931–37. He was editor of the Evening Standard from 1938-41. He was a fierce anti-Nazi, and during the years of appeasement, he made a feature of rewriting Mein Kampf week after week to sound the alarm.[2] In 1940, along with Michael Foot, he was one of the authors of Guilty Men, a denunciation of appeasement and an attack on Neville Chamberlain and Lord Halifax.[3]

During World War II he served with the Royal Tank Regiment 1942-43 and was commissioned in September 1943.[4] He served with South East Asia Command 1944-46;[5] editing SEAC, the services newspaper of South East Asia Command, at the request of Louis Mountbatten.[2] For his services in South East Asia, Lt-Col Owen was awarded the OBE.[6] He was editor of the Daily Mail from 1947-50.[7]

His other books include: The Three Dictators: Mussolini, Stalin, Hitler (1941), The Fall of Singapore, The Campaign in Burma (1946) and, with Eddie Chapman, The Eddie Chapman Story (1953).

Political career[edit]

In 1929 he volunteered to assist Liberal Party headquarters in London with election propaganda.[8] At the eleventh hour he was selected as Liberal candidate for his home constituency of Hereford at the 1929 General Election. It was a supposedly safe Unionist seat that the Liberals had not won since 1892.[9]

General Election 30 May 1929: Hereford[10]

Electorate 36,984

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Humphrey Frank Owen 14,208 48.7
Unionist Frederic Carnegie Romilly 13,087 44.8
Labour Henry Cooper 1,901 6.5
Majority 1,121 3.9
Turnout 78.9
Liberal gain from Unionist Swing

He was elected at the age of 23 years, 245 days. Upon taking his seat in the House of Commons he became the Baby of the House (the youngest member of the House of Commons). In 1931, when Liberal Party leader David Lloyd George decided to leave the National Government, Owen was the only Liberal MP who was not related to Lloyd George to remain loyal to his leader. Owen fought the 1931 General Election therefore as an official Liberal candidate opposed to the National government. He was comfortably defeated;

General Election 27 October 1931: Hereford[11]

Electorate: 38,033

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative James Purdon Lewes Thomas 19,418 60.9 +12.2
Liberal Humphrey Frank Owen 12,465 39.1 -5.7
Majority 6,953 21.8
Turnout 83.8 +4.9
Conservative gain from Liberal Swing +9.0

He stepped away from politics to concentrate on his journalistic career. He wrote a sympathetic biography of his former leader Lloyd George, Tempestuous Journey: Lloyd George His Life and Times (Hutchinson of London; 1954). After a break of 24 years he again fought the Hereford seat in 1955. The Liberal party was very weak at the time, but he managed to achieve one of their better results, significantly pushing Labour into third place;

General Election 1955: Hereford

Electorate: 44,242

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative James Purdon Lewes Thomas 18,058 51.8 -9.5
Liberal Humphrey Frank Owen 8,658 24.8 n/a
Labour E.L.P. Seers 8,154 23.4 -15.3
Majority 9,400 27.0
Turnout 34,870 78.8 +1.2
Conservative hold Swing n/a

His Conservative opponent was then elevated to the House of Lords causing a vacancy. Owen was chosen again as Liberal candidate for the Hereford by-election, 1956. The Liberal campaign was able to present him as the main challenger, having won second place in 1955. This helped him increase his vote and come to within 2,000 votes of the Tory candidate;

Hereford by-election, 1956
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative James David Gibson-Watt 12,129 44.3 -7.5
Liberal Humphrey Frank Owen 9,979 36.4 +11.6
Labour Bryan Capewell Stanley 5,277 19.3 -4.1
Majority 2,150 17.9
Turnout 27,385
Conservative hold Swing

After this attempt, he declined to stand for parliament again. He was replaced as Hereford Liberal candidate by Robin Day.

He was once asked whether it were true that he had been a Member of Parliament. "Yes," he said, "I was elected by the highly intelligent, far-sighted people of the constituency of Hereford in 1929 - and thrown out by the same besotted mob two years later."[12] This is often misquoted.

In 1993 a biography 'Firebrand, the Frank Owen Story' by Gron Williams was published by Square One Publications.

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ ‘OWEN, Frank (H. F. Owen)’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 1920–2007; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007 accessed 24 Feb 2014
  2. ^ a b IMDb: Frank Owen, biography Linked 2014-02-27
  3. ^ ‘OWEN, Frank (H. F. Owen)’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 1920–2007; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007 accessed 24 Feb 2014
  4. ^ London Gazette Issue 36234 published on 2 November 1943. Page 1
  5. ^ The Times House of Commons, 1955
  6. ^ London Gazette Issue 37576 published on 21 May 1946. Page 2 amended by Gazette Issue 40426 published on 8 March 1955. Page 2
  7. ^ ‘OWEN, Frank (H. F. Owen)’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 1920–2007; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007 accessed 24 Feb 2014
  8. ^ The Times House of Commons 1929
  9. ^ British parliamentary election results 1885-1918, Craig, F.W.S.
  10. ^ British parliamentary election results 1918-1949, Craig, F.W.S.
  11. ^ British parliamentary election results 1918-1949, Craig, F.W.S.
  12. ^ Quoted in 1997 in his maiden speech by Paul Keetch (the next liberal MP for Hereford)
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Samuel Roberts
Member of Parliament for Hereford
19291931
Succeeded by
James Thomas
Media offices
Preceded by
Percy Cudlipp
Editor of the Evening Standard
1938–1941
Succeeded by
Michael Foot
Preceded by
Sidney Horniblow
Editor of the Daily Mail
1947–1950
Succeeded by
Guy Schofield