Walter Runciman, 1st Viscount Runciman of Doxford
|The Right Honourable
The Viscount Runciman
|Lord Runciman of Doxford, 1913.|
|President of the Board of Education|
12 April 1908 – 23 October 1911
|Prime Minister||H. H. Asquith|
|Preceded by||Reginald McKenna|
|Succeeded by||Jack Pease|
|President of the Board of Agriculture|
23 October 1911 – 6 August 1914
|Prime Minister||H. H. Asquith|
|Preceded by||The Earl Carrington|
|Succeeded by||The Lord Lucas of Crudwell|
|President of the Board of Trade|
5 August 1914 – 5 December 1916
|Prime Minister||H. H. Asquith|
|Preceded by||John Burns|
|Succeeded by||Sir Albert Stanley|
5 November 1931 – 28 May 1937
|Prime Minister||Ramsay MacDonald
|Preceded by||Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister|
|Succeeded by||Hon. Oliver Stanley|
|Lord President of the Council|
31 October 1938 – 3 September 1939
|Prime Minister||Neville Chamberlain|
|Preceded by||The Viscount Hailsham|
|Succeeded by||The Earl Stanhope|
|Born||19 November 1870|
|Died||14 November 1949|
Walter Runciman, 1st Viscount Runciman of Doxford PC (19 November 1870 – 14 November 1949) was a prominent Liberal, later National Liberal politician in the United Kingdom from the 1900s until the 1930s.
Runciman was the son of the shipping magnate Walter Runciman, 1st Baron Runciman.
Political career, 1899-1929
Runciman was first elected as a Member of Parliament (MP) in a two-member by-election for Oldham in 1899, defeating the Conservative candidates, James Mawdsley and Winston Churchill. After winning, Runciman is reported to have commented to Churchill: "Don't worry, I don't think this is the last the country has heard of either of us." The following year in the 1900 general election Churchill stood against Runciman again and defeated him.
Runciman soon returned to Parliament for Dewsbury in 1902 and steadily rose through the ranks of the Liberal Party. He was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman in 1905, a post he held until 1907, and then served as Financial Secretary to the Treasury until 1908. In April of the latter year he was sworn of the Privy Council and appointed President of the Board of Education by the new Prime Minister, H. H. Asquith, which position he retained for three years, followed by another three years as President of the Board of Agriculture.
In 1914, on the outbreak of war, the President of the Board of Trade, John Burns, resigned and Runciman was appointed to succeed him. He held the position for the next two years but resigned in December 1916 when Asquith's government fell and was succeeded by a coalition headed by David Lloyd George. In the splits that were to rage in the Liberal Party for the next seven years Runciman remained prominent in opposition to Lloyd George, especially when the latter became party leader in 1926. Runciman lost the seat in 1918, but returned for Swansea West in 1924.
Political career, 1929-1940
In the 1929 general election the Liberals emerged with the balance of power between the Conservatives and Labour. Runciman took the seat of St Ives, which his wife Hilda had won in a by-election the previous year. The Liberals soon found themselves heavily divided over how to respond to the Great Depression, whether or not to continue supporting the Labour government of Ramsay MacDonald and even over the basic direction of the party.
In 1931 the cause of the strife was seemingly removed when the Labour Government fell and was succeeded by an all party 'National Government' but further divisions emerged when it was proposed that the National Government call a general election to seek a mandate to introduce protective tariffs, a policy that was anathema to many Liberals, Runciman included. The Liberals officially threatened to withdraw from the government, but a group under Sir John Simon emerged as the Liberal Nationals, mainly composed of those who had been opposed to Lloyd George's leadership, who were prepared to continue to support the National Government. A compromise was worked out whereby each party in the National Government campaigned on its own manifesto.
After the National Government won a massive majority in the 1931 general election the Cabinet was reconstructed. It was felt prudent to balance the key Cabinet committee that would take the decisions on tariffs and so Runciman was appointed President of the Board of Trade once more, in the belief that he would serve as a counterbalance to the protectionist Chancellor of the Exchequer Neville Chamberlain. However like the other Liberal Nationals, Runciman came to accept the principle of tariffs. When in late 1932 the official Liberals resigned their ministerial posts, Runciman very nearly resigned with them but decided not to. In 1933 the official Liberals withdrew completely their support for the National Government but Runciman remained holding office, even though he was President of the extra-Parliamentary National Liberal Federation until 1934. He concluded the Roca-Runciman Treaty with Argentina, initiated by this country to avoid the curtailment of Argentine beef imports.
Runciman remained as President of the Board of Trade until May 1937 when Stanley Baldwin retired and his successor, Neville Chamberlain, only offered Runciman the sinecure position of Lord Privy Seal, an offer Runciman declined. In June 1937 he was raised to the peerage as Viscount Runciman of Doxford, of Doxford in the County of Northumberland. Four years earlier his father had been created Baron Runciman and "of Doxford" was consequently used to differentiate from his father's title. This was a rare case of a father and son sitting in the House of Lords at the same time, with the son holding a superior title. A few months later his father died and he inherited both the barony and his father's shipping business.
In 1938 Runciman returned to public life when the new Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, sent him to Czechoslovakia to see if he could obtain a settlement between the Czechoslovak government and the Sudeten Germans in the Sudetenland. In the beginning of his mission he had reasonable hope to achieve a kind of automomy for the Sudetenland within Czechoslovakia, following the Swiss model. Due to a propaganda campaign, fueled from Hitler's Germany, the majority of the frustrated German population, however, wanted the Sudetenland to become part of Germany. Runciman's final report supported this solution and thus led to the Munich Agreement.
Lord Runciman reported to the following the British government:
|“||Czech officials and Czech police, speaking little or no German, were appointed in large numbers to purely German districts; Czech agricultural colonists were encouraged to settle on land confiscated under the Land Reform in the middle of German populations; for the children of these Czech invaders Czech schools were built on a large scale; there is a very general belief that Czech firms were favoured as against German firms in the allocation of State contracts and that the State provided work and relief for Czechs more readily than for Germans. I believe these complaints to be in the main justified. Even as late as the time of my Mission, I could find no readiness on the part of the Czechoslovak Government to remedy them on anything like an adequate scale ... the feeling among the Sudeten Germans until about three or four years ago was one of hopelessness. But the rise of Nazi Germany gave them new hope. I regard their turning for help towards their kinsmen and their eventual desire to join the Reich as a natural development in the circumstances.||”|
Lord Runciman of Doxford married Hilda, daughter of James Cochran Stevenson, in 1898. They had two sons and three daughters. Their daughter Margaret Fairweather (married Douglas Fairweather who established the Air Movements Flight in 1942, later joined by Margaret) was the first woman to fly a Spitfire and was one of the original eight female pilots selected by Pauline Gower to join the Air Transport Auxiliary. Margaret was killed in 1944 landing a Proctor. Their second son the Honourable Sir Steven Runciman was a historian. Lord Runciman of Doxford died in November 1949, aged 78, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Walter. Lady Runciman died in 1956, aged 87.
- Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "O" [self-published source][better source needed]
- House of Commons: Devizes to Dorset West
- The London Gazette: . 17 April 1908.
- House of Commons: Sudbury to Swindon South
- House of Commons: Saffron Walden to Salford West
- The London Gazette: . 11 June 1937.
- Paul Vyšný: The Runciman mission to Czechoslovakia, 1938: prelude to Munich. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 2003, ISBN 0-333-73136-0. Dowling claims that Runciman spent most of his time in Czechoslovakia being entertained by German aristocrats and listening to complaints from Germans that had suffered from the land reform of the 1920s.Dowling, Maria (2002). Czechoslovakia. London: Arnold. p. 51. ISBN 0-340-76369-8.. This, however, is not supported by Vyšný.
- Alfred de Zayas, "Anglo-American Responsibility for the Expulsion of the Germans, 1944–48", (Pittsburg lecture, published in Vardy/Tooley "Ethnic Cleansing in 20th Century Europe" pp. 239–254) p. 243
- Portrait of Lord Runciman of Doxford at UK Government Art Collection.
- Lundy, Darryl. "Photograph of Lord Runciman of Doxford at thepeerage.com". The Peerage.
- Lundy, Darryl. "Photograph of Lady Runciman of Doxford at thepeerage.com". The Peerage.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by the Viscount Runciman of Doxford