Sir Percy Harris, 1st Baronet

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Sir Percy Alfred Harris, 1st Baronet PC (6 March 1876 – 28 June 1952) was a British Liberal Party politician.

Born in Kensington, Harris was educated at Harrow and Trinity Hall, Cambridge and was called to the bar.[1] His Krakow-born father, Wolf Harris, (1833 – 1926) had established the successful business of Bing, Harris in New Zealand in 1858.

He was first elected to Parliament for the Harborough constituency at a by-election in 1916 but lost the seat at the 1918 general election. In 1919, he was engaged in correspondence with John Wycliffe Black, Chairman of the Harborough Divisional Liberal Association, about the amount of money Harris was expected to contribute if he wished to remain as Parliamentary candidate. In the end Harris was not able to meet the requirements of the Divisional Liberal Association and sought another constituency. Black was then adopted by Harborough Liberals as their candidate.[2]

In the 1922 general election Harris won the Bethnal Green South West constituency. During the 1924-29 parliament which was dominated by a Unionist majority, he worked closely with a group of radical Liberal MPs that included William Wedgwood Benn, Frank Briant, Joseph Kenworthy and Horace Crawfurd to provide opposition to the government.[3] He held his seat until defeat at the 1945 general election by the Labour candidate Percy Holman. After the loss of his parliamentary seat he remained politically active and served on the London County Council until the year of his death.[4] He played a key role in the formation of Liberal International in 1947 and was President of the British Council of LI.[5]

Harris served as Liberal Chief Whip 1933-45 and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Parliamentary Party.

On 14 January 1932 Harris was made the 1st Baronet of London. In 1940 he was appointed a Privy Counsellor.

In 1901 he married Marguerite Frieda Bloxam (1877 – 1962). In the 1930s Frieda Harris became an associate of the occultist Aleister Crowley and designed the Thoth Tarot with him.

In 1946 he published his autobiography, Forty Years In and Out of Parliament, Fleet Street Press.

On his death in Kensington aged 76 in 1952, the baronetcy was inherited by his son Sir Jack Harris (23 July 1906 – 26 August 2009).

His great-grandson is the former Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament Matthew Taylor; but Taylor, adopted at birth, only discovered the fact in early 2008.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Harris, Percy Alfred (HRS894PA)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  2. ^ Chris Cook, The Age of Alignment: Electoral politics in Britain, 1922-1929, Macmillan, 1975 pp40-41
  3. ^ Forty Years in and out of Parliament by Sir Percy Harris
  4. ^ 'Bethnal Green: Local Government', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 11: Stepney, Bethnal Green (1998), pp. 190-202. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=22758. Date accessed: 13 March 2008.
  5. ^ Liberals Unite; The Origins Of Liberal International
  6. ^ BBC NEWS | Magazine | The search for the 'political' gene

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John William Logan
Member of Parliament for Harborough
19161918
Succeeded by
Sir Keith Fraser
Preceded by
Sir Mathew Wilson
Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green South West
19221945
Succeeded by
Percy Holman
Party political offices
Preceded by
Walter Rea
Liberal Chief Whip
1935–1945
Succeeded by
Tom Horabin
Preceded by
Post vacant
Previous incumbent: Archibald Sinclair
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party
1940–1945
Succeeded by
Post vacant
Next incumbent: Megan Lloyd George
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
New title Baronet
(of London)
Succeeded by
Jack Harris