Charles Stanton

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Charles Butt Stanton (7 April 1873 – 6 December 1946) was a British politician, who served as an MP from 1915-22. He entered Parliament by winning one of the two seats for Merthyr Tydfil at a by-election on November 1915 caused by the death of Labour Party founder, Keir Hardie. After the two-member Merthyr Tydfil seat was divided into two single member seats, Stanton focused on the Aberdare division, which he won at the 1918 general election, but lost at the 1922 general election.

Political career[edit]

The Merthyr By-election of November 1915 [1]

Stanton began his political career as a miners' agent at Aberdare where he was a prominent member of the Independent Labour Party. In 1904 he was elected to the Aberdare Urban District Council as a member for the Aberaman Ward. A militant, he was critical of the more moderate approach adopted by the local Labour MP, Keir Hardie.

When the United Kingdom entered the First World War, Stanton became a strong supporter of the national war effort, and publicly opposed Keir Hardie's stance opposed to the war.

Hardie's death, on 2 September 1915, a year after the outbreak of the war, caused a vacancy in one of the two Merthyr Tydfil parliamentary seats. The by-election to fill the vacancy was called for 25 November 1915.

The official Labour choice to succeed Keir Hardie was James Winstone (1863–1921). Winstone was a leader of the miners' union - a miner's agent since 1906, he had served as Vice-President of the South Wales Miners Federation since 1912, and had recently been elected President of the South Wales Federation. He had also been a County Councillor in neighbouring Monmouthshire since 1906, and was a former chairman of the Urban District Councils of both Risca and Abersychan.

In the four by-elections held in Wales since the outbreak of war, the candidate of the former member's party had been returned unopposed, in accordance with an electoral truce agreed between the parties. It was assumed therefore that the Labour Party candidate to succeed Keir Hardie would also be returned unopposed. Arthur Henderson, the Secretary of the Labour Party, wrote to the Western Mail on 17 November stating that Winstone's candidature was supported and approved by the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, the South Wales Miners' Federation, the National Executive of the Labour Party and the Merthyr constituency conference "representative practically of every organisation in the constituency", and "Accordingly, other parties have intimated their intention of observing the obligations of the party truce."

Stanton announced that he would stand against Winstone on a patriotic, win-the-war platform. Stanton's campaign focused its attack on the Independent Labour Party. Stanton presented himself as a 'National' candidate - "... standing on a National platform, and respecting, as I am, the political truce, I am considering not only the opinion of Labour men but of all sections of the community. And hence I do not hesitate to say that my candidature is national in the truest sense of the term. Surely, it is obvious that the success of Mr. Winstone, which is unthinkable, would be a message of discouragement to our soldiers in the field ..."

In fact, unlike Hardie, Winstone was not a pacifist : he was a supporter of the war effort. One of his sons was already serving in France and another had just volunteered. Winstone himself addressed recruiting meetings. However, Winstone did not support conscription.

Officially the national Liberal and Conservative parties were not involved in the by-election. But their members actively supported the Stanton campaign on the ground. On 23 November, the Western Mail carried a letter to Stanton's election agent from T. Artemus Jones, who had been adopted as the prospective Liberal candidate before the outbreak of war, stating that there "was no foundation [for] the rumour ... that the 'official' candidate [i.e. Winstone] must receive the support of all the great parties ... Such a contest as is being waged in Merthyr is outside the terms of the party truce because it is essentially a domestic difference among the members of one party and neither of the other parties in the State has any sort of right to interfere either with the one section or the other." Jones added that members of the Liberal and Conservative parties were free to support Stanton : "There is only one issue, one duty before the people. So long as the war lasts and the party truce continues, there are neither Tories nor Radicals nor Socialists in the party sense. That issue is the war and that duty is the vigorous prosecution of the war. ... neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives are concerned in their political organisations with the dispute between Mr. Stanton and the Independent Labour Party. In their capacity as citizens, however, they have the right to form their own judgement at this supreme hour in the fortunes of the country with regard to the support they must give the government."

Stanton was also endorsed by the Socialist National Defence Committee. [2]

Stanton's election address described him as a "National" candidate.[3]

Stanton won the vacant seat with a majority of over 4,000 votes in a low poll. (Stanton: 10,286 votes; Winstone: 6,080 votes).

A few weeks after Stanton's election, on 6 January 1916, the government introduced its first conscription bill. Stanton's by-election victory in Keir Hardie's old seat has been seen as facilitating the introduction of conscription.[4]

Stanton supported the Lloyd George Coalition Government throughout the war.

The 'Khaki' General Election of December 1918

Under the Representation of the People Act 1918, the existing parliamentary borough of Merthyr Tydfil (with its two parliamentary seats) was divided into two single-member constituencies. One of these was Merthyr Tydfil, Aberdare Division, which consisted of the two urban districts of Aberdare and Mountain Ash.

Stanton fought the "Coupon" general election of December 1918 for the Aberdare Division, as a National Democratic and Labour Party candidate, with the support of the Coalition National Government "coupon". He comfortably defeated the Labour candidate, Thomas Evan Nicholas (Niclas y Glais). (Stanton: 22,824 votes; Nicholas: 6,229 votes)

Stanton and Nicholas had taken opposite positions during the War - Nicholas, like Hardie, was a pacifist, and had opposed both the War and conscription. They were also opposed in their policies for the peace, Stanton supporting the policy of imposing heavy reparations obigations on the defeated nations : his manifesto demanded that "the filthy, murderous Huns" be made to pay for the war. Stanton also called for the explusion of "all aliens".

(In the Merthyr Division, at the 1918 general election, Sir Edgar Rees Jones, standing as a Coalition Liberal, defeated James Winstone, standing again as a Labour candidate, by 1,445 votes. Sir Edgar Rees Jones had first been elected to Parliament at the January 1910 general election as one of the two MPs for Merthyr Tydfil).

The General Election of November 1922

Stanton again fought the Aberdare division at the general election of November 1922, this time as a Lloyd George National Liberal candidate. He was defeated by the Labour candidate, George Hall. (Hall: 20,704 votes; Stanton: 15,487 votes). Hall went on to hold the Aberdare seat for the Labour Party for the next twenty years, and the Labour Party continued to hold the Aberdare seat until the constituency was abolished in 1983.

In 1928 Stanton joined the Liberal Party.

Stanton's failure at the 1922 general election was shared by the nine other MPs seeking to hold seats they had won in the "khaki" election of 1918 under the National Democratic and Labour Party banner.

(In 1922, R. C. Wallhead won the single-seat Merthyr division for Labour. Like Keir Hardie and Thomas Evan Nicholas (Niclas y Glais), Wallhead had been a committed opponent of World War I. Wallhead held the Merthyr Division until his death in 1934, when S. O. Davies won the seat for Labour. Davies held the seat for Labour until the general election of 1970, when he was deselected by the Labour Party, but won the seat as an Independent Socialist. Upon Davies' death in 1972, Ted Rowlands regained the seat for Labour.)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Charles Butt Stanton 1873-1946, by Ivor T Rees The National Library of Wales Journal, Vol XXXV No 3 (2010), retrieved 2 May 2017
  2. ^ A nationalist grouping which split from the British Socialist Party in April 1915. A precursor of the British Workers National League (1916) (later shortened to the British Workers League). Some of its members subsequently became part of the pro-coalition National Democratic and Labour Party, which fought the 1918 general election against the Labour with the support of the Lloyd George "coupon".
  3. ^ University of Bristol Library Special Collections, Bye-Elections Volume 1911, 1913-1919, Ref DM668/2/1, p20 : Merthyr Tydfil, 25 November 1915; online at [1], retrieved 2 May 2017. Since Stanton's own election campaign directly attacked the Independent Labour Party, referring to him as an "Independent Labour Party" candidate causes some unnecessary confusion.
  4. ^ See for example: The Conscription Controversy in Great Britain, 1900–18, By R.J.Q. Adams, Philip P. Poirier (1987), at p. 132; Margot Asquith's Great War Diary 1914-1916: The View from Downing Street, edited by Michael Brock, Eleanor Brock (Oxford, OUP, 2016), Introduction to Part VII

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Keir Hardie
Edgar Rees Jones
Member of Parliament for Merthyr Tydfil
19151918
With: Edgar Rees Jones
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Aberdare
19181922
Succeeded by
George Hall