Honor Balfour

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Honor Catherine Mary Balfour (1912–2001), was a British Liberal Party politician and journalist.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Honor Balfour was born in Liverpool in 1912, and attended Blackburn House High School for Girls. Her father, a merchant seaman, was killed during the Great War, and Balfour was brought up by her widowed mother.[2]

She studied for a year at Liverpool University, studying sociology, while earning money teaching music. She then won a scholarship to Oxford University, as a member of the Society of Oxford Home Students, a precursor of the first women's colleges, and St Anne's College, Oxford.[3] Her mother came to live in Oxford with her.

Career[edit]

After graduation, she began a career as a journalist, initially with the Oxford Mail, and then later in London.

She was parliamentary lobby correspondent for Time magazine from 1948 to 1969. She was one of the founding contributors to Picture Post from 1938 to 1957. She was also a BBC Radio broadcaster.[4]

While living in London, she kept a cottage in the village of Swinbrook, then from 1972 in Windrush, where she retired in 1981.

Political activity[edit]

Honor Balfour was President of the Oxford University Liberal Club in 1931, the first woman to hold such a role,[5] and in 1937 stood as a candidate for Oxford City Council. While living in Oxford, she assisted in setting up a home for Basque children, refugees from the Spanish Civil War. She was a member of the national Liberal Party Council.[6] She then became a member of the Liberal Party National Executive.[7]

In November 1941 she was a founding member of 'Liberal Action' along with Sir Richard Acland, Donald Johnson, Ivor Davies, Lancelot Spicer and Everett Jones. She became the group's founding Secretary.[8] The group sought to activate and energise the party at a time when much of the party was becoming dormant due to the wartime electoral truce. The group subsequently changed its name to Radical Action and became associated with Liberal candidates who wanted to break the wartime electoral truce by standing as Independent Liberals at by-elections. There was some concern in the Liberal Party that the leadership would want to continue in an all-party Coalition Government after the war was over. She spoke in support of the Independent Liberal candidate Donald Johnson at the Chippenham by-election, 1943.[9] In 1943, Honor Balfour temporarily resigned her membership of the Liberal Party to stand as an Independent Liberal in the Darwen by-election, 1943. This was to avoid a breach of the agreement between the major parties that they would not contest by-elections against each other during the Second World War. The outcome of the election, which was a two-horse race, was that she almost defeated the Conservative candidate, Stanley Prescott, failing by only 70 votes;

Darwen by-election, 1943[10]

Electorate

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative William Robert Stanley Prescott 8,869 50.2 +9.1
Independent Liberal Honor Balfour 8,799 49.8 N/A
Majority 70 0.4 −2.7
Turnout 17,668 45.0 −43.9
Conservative hold Swing

Balfour published an article Why I Challenge the Electoral Truce in the magazine Liberal Forward which encouraged a large number of Liberal members to give their active support to Margery Corbett Ashby the Independent Liberal candidate at the Bury St Edmunds by-election, 1944.[11] She went on to fight the Darwen constituency again at the 1945 general election, this time as a Liberal Party candidate, but came third, gaining just under a quarter of the votes.[12]

1945 General Election: Darwen[13]

Electorate

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative William Robert Stanley Prescott 13,623 41.4
Labour Ronald Haines 11,282 34.3
Liberal Honor Balfour 7,979 24.3
Majority 2,341 7.1
Turnout 82.7
Conservative hold Swing

After this her activity for the Liberal party fell away and she did not contest any further parliamentary elections. In 1957 she criticised the Liberal Party choice of candidate for the Carmarthen by-election, 1957. The local association had adopted a candidate who supported Prime Minister Anthony Eden's actions over Suez. The new Liberal Party leader Jo Grimond was opposed to Eden's actions as were the majority of the Liberal party. Balfour believed that the party should disown the Carmarthen candidate. When Liberal party HQ decided to back the Carmarthen candidate, Balfour resigned from the party in protest.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Honor Balfour". Oxford DNB. 
  2. ^ Symonds, Anne (8 March 2001). "Honor Balfour – Obituaries, News – The Independent". London. 
  3. ^ "Honor Balfour's Oxford". 
  4. ^ Rau, Diana. "Catalogue of the papers of Honor Balfour, 1916–2001". Bodleian Library. 
  5. ^ "Short History of the Oxford University Liberal Club". 
  6. ^ Our Parliamentary Correspondent. "Government Win at Chippenham." Times [London, England] 26 August 1943: 2. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 10 March 2014.
  7. ^ "News in Brief." Times [London, England] 8 December 1943: 8. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 10 March 2014.
  8. ^ Egan, Mark (Summer 2009). "Radical action and the Liberal Party during the Second World War". Journal of Liberal History (63). 
  9. ^ Our Parliamentary Correspondent. "Government Win at Chippenham." Times [London, England] 26 August 1943: 2. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 10 March 2014.
  10. ^ F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1918–1949; Political Reference Publications, Glasgow 1949
  11. ^ Liberal Crusader by Gerard De Groot
  12. ^ Rau, Diana. "Catalogue of the papers of Honor Balfour, 1916–2001". Bodleian Library. 
  13. ^ F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1918–1949; Political Reference Publications, Glasgow 1949
  14. ^ "Liberal 'Freedom of Speech' On Suez." Times [London, England] 27 February 1957: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 10 March 2014.