Posts tagged ‘Lloyd George’

Dec 30, 2022

The Mother of Parliaments, Corruption and a Shitting Unicorn

Corruption in politics has never gone out of favour. Jiggery-pokery and power have always been attractive to lousy seedy characters. For a long time political power and the seedy were the male prerogative but sex equality has brought political bribery and corruption to the pockets of dames, too. I think you know what I’m referring to.

Ladies and gentlemen the story you are about to read is true only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Great Britain, the mother of parliaments; the exact quote is “England is the mother of parliaments.” John Bright said that on 18 January 1865. He was a Liberal MP. He believed parliament needed reforming. It certainly did and it certainly does.

Back in old John’s day buying your way into parliament was normal. Bribing politicians to get access to influence government ministers was also normal. Some things don’t change in the mother of parliaments, though at times there might be more discretion used than straight cash bungs into the hand – of the you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours variety – and so-called ‘golden showers’ that fall on a constituency as thanks for being obliging to a minister of state. Just where will HS2 that meandering white elephant of a railway line eventually end up? All depends, pal. What’s it worth to you? Scotland? Don’t make me laugh.

The year of the horse, 2014, more like the year of the unicorn. Promises, promises. That unicorn was shitting promises out of its arse. Reject independence and vote to retain the union and Scotland, that once invisible northern bit of the union, would be given its voice. Within the union. Those golden showers would drench Scots with love and respect. Lucky Scotland. So said the vow. Wow! A vow! But by the end of the year that unicorn had bolted. The stable door was shut. Bolted, too. Leaving behind a giant pile of shit. 2014 instead of golden showers Scotland got incessant blizzards – paper propaganda – nothing but promises and more promises – and a few threats. There were a lot of those – that the elderly would lose their pensions, the unemployed their benefits and the young would be denied hospital treatment. Union or else! Carrot and stick. Except the unicorn had buggered off with the carrots. Buses arrived filled with campaigners from England, some had cash pressed into their greedy unionist hands, to peddle their unicorn promises. Or threats. Lies. Nothing new. Back in the 1880s, in England, the Tory and Liberal parties paid folk 5 shillings a day to parade with banners and placards, each one carrying political promises. Political promises. Short shelf life. If they outlive an election (or referendum) they’re doing well.   

Back then most voters were better off or wealthy men. Same groups of guys running for power in the mother of parliaments, where that power was used to pass legislation that maintained men like them in power. A cruel joke on the term – mother of parliaments. Father would be more honest. But honesty and politics are like water and oil. Mismatched.

Westminster, the mother of parliaments, was so corrupt it occasionally passed laws to prevent its own acting criminally. But it’s a game that’s played. Doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Doesn’t stop the corruption. Never has. She’s one bad dame, that mother of parliaments. While most folks were denied a vote, universities had their own MPs – Cambridge and Oxford each sent two to the Commons until 1950. Aberdeen and Glasgow universities got to send one between them, till 1918. All universities were represented to some degree. At Oxford, regarded by those who went there as the ‘very flower of the intellectual class of England’, 4,500 people had voter rights and over a third of them took bribes to vote for particular candidates. Sometimes the bribes didn’t materialise. A bit like PPE. Usual story of paying one set of guys to rip down opposition posters, flags and banners and other fellas to hang about to protect the candidate’s ones. Shelling out to swing elections was how the mother of parliaments operated. A favoured Tory ploy was to persuade pub landlords to have free booze on tap as an incentive to vote for them. A filthy game.

In Macclesfield, England, corruption was well-organised with votes going for as little as 3s 6d but could be as high as15 shillings (around £2,000 in today’s money). The practice obviously open to bargaining. Five out of every six votes were bought. Only 300 out of 2,000 voters at Sandwich in Kent, latish 19th century, didn’t accept bribes from either Tory or Liberal candidates, with 800 pocketing bribes from both lots!

Buying votes was supposed to be a serious criminal offence but few cared, least of all parliamentary candidates because there was so much to gain personally by becoming an MP. And palm-greasing was just the means to an end. In the cathedral city of York voting rackets were rife with as much as £650 paid for a single vote (that is over £64,000 today in bribe shekels). In 1880 the Liberals and Tories spent about £15,000 on dirty tricks. Personation – where some dude claims to be someone else to cast votes was another dodge that no-one was ever prosecuted for.

The law invariably favoured the great and the not-so-good. And God, was brought into the grubby world of politics with the Bishop of Wakefield urging the Church of England to pray for the Unionists (Tories). The 20th century had begun as the 19th ended with the stink of political dirty dealing pervading every corner of British politics. An election in Worcester was declared null and void because of the level of corruption. There some of the skulduggery took place in a motor car. As one bloke entered through one door another left by the other. Every man passing through the car left with a handful of cash. Mr Moneybags behind that chicanery was George Henry Williamson, the Conservative parliamentary candidate and about-to-be elected MP for the town. George’s dishonesty was so blatant even the law and parliament couldn’t shut their eyes to it indefinitely so old George was booted out of Westminster – after two years. That was all. No fines. No hard labour. Being an MP, he landed sunny side up.

Don’t let it be said only the Tories were corrupt but the most corrupt government in the mother of parliaments is reputed to be a Tory one, under PM, Robert Walpole in 1855. How Walpole’s lot would have compared with today’s political crooks it’s hard to say. It would certainly be a close-run race. Attempts at cleaning up Britain’s duplicitous politics have gone down like a bucket of sick with politicians in the main. The author and MP Hilaire Belloc, in 1907, urged the then government to ‘set an example against corruption that was prevalent in public and private life.’  Political corruption he described as –

“ …a disease of motive having for its symptoms material consideration, preference of private to the public good, and an element of secrecy.”

Shady. Yes, we know, Hilaire. Who can reform British corruption? The very place that’s mired in it. And there’s the rub.  

“Everybody knows that earldoms, viscountcies, baronies, baronetcies, and knighthoods are now habitually sold for hard cash to gin-distillers, brewers, newspaper proprietors, bankers, brokers, successful swindlers, multiple shopkeepers, “philanthropic” sweaters, and similar low-grade creatures. The object of these sales is that prime Ministers, Cabinet Ministers, Under-Secretaries, and other political tapers and tadpoles of both factions may draw heavy salaries out of the pockets of us common Englishmen.” (Justice, 1917)

For Englishmen read a’body in the UK. The previous year Pontefract’s MP, Frederick Booth, said this in the Commons –

 ‘…there never has been so much secret bribery in the history of England than during the last twelve months.’

Thanks Fred but maybe aye and maybe naw. Bribery and corruption has proved a way of life for many MPs in the Commons but the Lords was seen as the more corrupt of two houses in the mother of parliaments. None of those sitting in the Lords is elected – the very basic principle of democracy. Placemen and placewomen with not a single vote between them yet a substantial role in governing the UK. What could possibly go wrong with that sort of low-down setup? Back in 1917 it was assumed this underhand form of government would soon stop when the bleeding obvious was stated –

 “No nation ever long submitted to the publicly exposed corruption of all its representatives.”

“Our plutocracy is rotten to the core. Time democracy had its chance.”

Such misplaced optimism. At least during the 19th century, it was openly recognised the House of Lords was rotten to its core. Its bishops seen as the most corrupt of all. Members of the Upper Chamber didn’t even have to go to the expense of bribing anyone. Though they probably did if they weren’t hereditary peers. There was an unhealthy traffic in titles – honours and peerages. In 1922, the dam broke when the Liberal prime minister Lloyd George was caught out openly selling seats in the House of Lords (and titles to the rich) for about £10,000 a pop. It was an outrage! Some said. Others were more concerned that too many Scots were included in the Cabinet and too few men from Oxford and Cambridge and ‘the great public schools.’ An ensuing ruckus resulted in the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act, 1925 that made selling peerages and honours illegal. Which is funny because it wasn’t illegal before then. But did that fix dodgy representation in the Lords? Did it pick.

Did it clean up politics generally? Did it pick. Four days before the general election of 1924 the Daily Mail (what else!) published a fake letter, the infamous Zinoviev letter, calculated to link the Labour Party with communists in the Soviet Union. A gullible public swallowed the hoax. The Tories stormed into government.

Bribery, corruption and politics are inseparable. And sex. Can’t forget sex scandals – de rigueur in politics. One in 1963 involved a Tory minister, John Profumo, a teenage model, a Soviet naval attaché and a notorious racist, misogynist judge. And lots of lying. From just about everyone. But the judge, Lord Denning, concluded there had been no breaches of security despite the involvement of many establishment figures and foreign Johnnies. A scapegoat was put up in the figure of osteopath, Stephen Ward, who went on to commit suicide, although the whisper was he was killed by agents of MI6 for becoming an embarrassment to parliament and the royal family. Profumo would later be described as a ‘national hero’ by Margaret Thatcher.

Commenting on the Profumo affair, journalist Malcolm Muggeridge wrote,

“The Upper Classes have always been given to lying, fornication, corrupt practices and, doubtless as a result of the public school system, sodomy.” (Sunday Mirror, June 1969)

Old Fred Booth would have been gobsmacked by the 1970s. If you’re a Tory look away now but I suspect you’ve long since stopped reading this. John Poulson was an architectural designer and businessman who bribed his way to winning building contracts. Several Tories were up to their dirty necks in the affair. He and one or two other participants were jailed but none of the top Tories, including then Home Secretary Reginald Maudling was sent to chokey. MPs escaped through a ‘legal loophole’. Several scandals later Labour PM, Harold Wilson, came up with his Lavender List; a generous distribution of knighthoods and assorted honours to wealthy business associates he thought would benefit his party. These included Lord Kagan who went down for fraud while another committed suicide while under investigation for the same crime.  

Members of the mother of parliaments are just very good at avoiding jail. Take the former Liberal Party leader, Jeremy Thorpe in yet another ‘70s political scandal. This one involved sex. And politics. With Liberals and Labour furiously scratching each other’s backs. This was Rinkagate – a murder plot that had national security implications. But MPs being MPs (surely the most protected species on the planet) it was the dog that got it. Rinka the hound took the bullet. Thorpe was brought down not because of being charged with conspiracy and incitement to murder his ex-boyfriend but for his sexual predilections.

 “There is also clear evidence that leading politicians over the past 15 years, together with civil servants, the police and the security services, have been party to a cover-up surrounding the affair. Most of the politicians involved are Labour.” (National Archives)

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jun/10/jeremy-thorpe-scandal-labour-cover-up-peter-hain

The 1980s were no less disreputable at Westminster with corruption and outrages coming thick and fast. One tawdry incident involved a leading Tory, Cecil Parkinson. He initially denied an affair and paternity of a child with his lover. Public revulsion at his disgraceful behaviour did his political career no harm at all and up into the Lords he went to carry on with his life. He fought maintenance of the badly disabled child through the courts, grudgingly submitting to paying for her until she reached eighteen. This rascal refused ever to see her and never sent his child a birthday card. Think we have his measure. Of his shameful behaviour his fellow Tory colleague, Edwina Currie, herself involved in an extra-marital affair with the prime minister, John Major, said this

“I feel very very sorry for Cecil and his family. Most of my thoughts on Sarah Keays are unprintable. Perhaps the most polite thing to say is she’s a right cow.” (Currie was later reported in the Daily Mirror, 1 October 2002)

https://www.thefreelibrary.com/’A+RIGHT+COW+’+EXCLUSIVE%3A+What+Edwina+called+Sara+Keays+for+kissing…-a092259742

And then there was Jeffrey Archer, Tory MP and later Peer in the Lords. He was unusual in being jailed – for perjury in a court case over a prostitution scandal. He’s still a Lord.

There’s no space for all the corruption of the eighties – just a mention of the homes for votes scandal in which the Tory-led Westminster City council in London physically moved out the homeless and sold off council homes to create an area more likely to vote Conservative.  At the centre of this abhorrent episode was Dame Shirley Porter. She was found guilty of wilful misconduct and ordered to repay £36.1million. She didn’t. She paid a fraction of that. The dame was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by John Major following a Tory victory in Westminster in 1990.

If there’s no time for all the bent political goings-on of the 1980s there definitely isn’t for the 1990s. Back alley wheeling and dealing was like a malignant disease in the mother of parliaments such as arms-to-Iraq, MPs accepting gifts for business and political favours and Monklandsgate.  1994 – North Lanarkshire, Scotland – the Labour Party. Well, it was the 1990s. Lanarkshire. Had to be Labour. Oh, and accusations of sectarianism that led to council splurging dough on catholic areas and being grippy in protestant ones. And nepotism. The Monklands West MP was Labour’s Tom Clarke, a former provost and former Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland. The Monklands East MP was also Labour – the party’s leader, John Smith. Allegations of sectarianism were never proven against any of the folk accused. Nepotism within the council was. Tom Clarke was knighted in 2021 for public and political service.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/labour-optomistic-despite-final-split-over-monklandsgate-lastminute-byelection-poll-points-to-narrow-defeat-for-snp-candidate-1425784.html

A century on cash for votes converted to cash for questions in the 1990s. In 1994 two Tory MPs were exposed in a newspaper ‘sting’ operation and later the same year further allegations of bungs to MPs to ask questions in the Commons on behalf of a private individual. It caused a big stink

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cash-for-questions_affair#:~:text=It%20began%20in%20October%201994,owner%20of%20Harrods%20department%20store%2C

 In 2006/07 two shillings pressed into the hand was never going to hack it when it came to cash for honours under Labour’s Blair government. Several men nominated by Blair for life peerages were found to have loaned large amounts of money to the Labour Party. Life is full of coincidences. The Tony’s Cronies affair may have hastened Blair stepping down as PM but in the end the Crown Prosecution Service decided against bringing charges against anyone. If you are unfamiliar with this tawdry episode, I urge you to go and read about it; a right hornet’s nest.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cash-for-Honours_scandal

What changed in a hundred plus years was the direction of cash flow. Politicians paying people to vote for them so they could obtain the power being in parliament provides them with to MPs agreeing to trouser cash for favours. In 2015 two prominent MPs, Labour’s Jack Straw and the Tory Malcolm Rifkind were caught on camera in a TV sting agreeing to accept money to arrange access to influential people  …

‘The report alleged that Straw boasted to undercover journalists that he had operated “under the radar” to use his influence and change EU rules on behalf of a firm that paid him £60,000 a year. A recording obtained with a hidden camera shows Straw saying: “So normally, if I’m doing a speech or something, it’s £5,000 a day, that’s what I charge.”

Rifkind reportedly claimed to be able to gain “useful access” to every British ambassador in the world. He was recorded describing himself as self-employed despite being paid £67,000 as MP for Kensington: “I am self-employed – so nobody pays me a salary. I have to earn my income.”

That’s a sentiment that hasn’t died with MPs and some dissolute ex-prime ministers. The outcry following the sting broadcast forced the parliamentary commissioner for standards to investigate the two men but, surprise, surprise, found neither was in breach of the code of conduct or the rules of the House. Which suggests that the mother of parliaments’ standards have the bar set bloody low.

Scandals, corruption, lies, nepotism – a day in the life of far too many politicians. I haven’t mentioned any of the major disgraceful episodes of recent years, we’d be here all day. As that dude Aristophanes once said –

‘Under every stone lurks a politician.’

The guy understood a thing or two. And it’s a funny thing that MPs are referred to as honourable members that can’t be called out for lying when that’s exactly what gets many politicians out of bed in the morning. I’m sure a few are decent enough folks but let’s not kid ourselves, as former US president Harry Truman observed

‘you can’t get rich in politics unless you’re a crook.’

Yes, there’s a lot of it about. The story you have just read is true. The names were changed to protect the innocent – hang on – there aren’t any innocents, so the names are all there.

Jan 5, 2022

The Great Hair Cut Riots

While hard-nosed peace negotiations were taking place at Versailles in France at the end of the Great War. While 74 ships of the German fleet were scuttled at Scapa Flow in Scotland. While Greeks and Turks fought over territory, encouraged by Britain. While rioting by Canadian troops stationed in England and Wales resulted in brutal murder. While all this was happening in 1919, a year the world was plunged into crises – uprisings, mutinies, riots and revolution – the Spartacists in Germany, reds versus whites in Russia, rebellion against British imperialism just about everywhere – always viciously repressed – in Egypt, Malta, Belize, Trinidad, Jamaica, India – and closer to home tanks and military turning their firepower on civilians in Ireland and in Glasgow. 1919 while the world tottered on its axis Aberdeen was rocked by rioting over haircuts. It happened like this.

Frederick Street School with its rooftop playground

In 1919 young girls usually wore their hair long and loose, no less so in pockets of the city where desperate poverty meant large families lived cheek-by-jowl in tenement rooms with limited access to soap and water – cold water from a communal tap on a stair landing or outside. Never hot water on tap. These were the homes for heroes promised by Lloyd George during WWI. In 1919 seriously deprived families, their men-folk just returning (if they were lucky) from serving in one of the most horrific wars ever, were no doubt struggling to contend with adjusting to life, attempting to find work, trying to keep the wolf from the door and possibly one of the last things on their minds were nits (head lice.)

Nits are little insects that crawl from one head of hair to another. There they set up home and lay their eggs until another head of hair comes close, in which case they may decide to jump ship and infest a different head. Nits are blood-suckers. And they itch like mad. Getting from head A to head B is easier on long hair that effortlessly comes into contact with other long hair. In 1919 the Health Committee of Aberdeen Burgh Education Authority decided to tackle an outbreak of nits among school pupils with action taken in the case of schoolgirls whose parents persistently failed to take responsibility for the problem themselves. Dr George Rose, the schools medical officer took it upon himself to deal with verminous heads and if parents would not cut their child’s hair, he would arrange for it to be done.  

In fact incidence of head lice was not an enormous problem in Aberdeen and Dr Rose found only one girl with ‘filthy hair’ at the Middle School when he inspected children there in June 1919 and when an appeal to her parents was ignored the doctor took matters into his own hands. His insensitive handling of the case was misjudged. All hell broke loose.

Several pupils from the Middle School went on strike, their number boosted by youths already skiving (truanting) who when they heard of the hair-cutting incident readily joined the collective action. STRIKE was chalked over the school’s playgrounds to underline their protest. Word got out and pupils from schools across the east end joined the protesters or rioters as they were identified, mainly but not exclusively, teenage boys. They went from school to school drumming up support. More playgrounds were chalked to indicate strike in those schools and school buildings were pelted with stones. Windows were smashed; scarcely a pane of glass remained intact at the Middle School. Marywell Street and Ferryhill suffered similar attacks. Some rioters turned their attention on Union Terrace, gathering outside the education authority offices they booed their disapproval of the committee that sanctioned cutting girls’ hair. Loud protests carried on into the nights of the third week of July 1919 and there was consternation among the citizens of the town about where it would all end. The local authority fought back.

At the root of this Middle School fracas there seems to be the contempt for and insubordination to authority which are characteristics of the times among certain classes of the community.

I think the city fathers feared rebellion against authority affecting both Britain and the rest of the world that year had permeated through to the lower classes in Aberdeen. The haircut riots had become class riots. Working class parents complained of being given no or too little warning to have their girls’ hair cut and heads treated for lice while middle class critics sneered that –

The working-classes are all for State control of everything…glass was smashed because they dislike the medicine they themselves demand.

These were harsh times. A correspondent to Aberdeen Weekly Journal had little patience for treating children with kid gloves and on the subject of punishing school pupils for misbehaviour had this to say,

A few children may have died as the result of corporal punishment, but they were exceptional cases, and furnish not reason for its abolition. 

The school medical authorities justified their behaviour by pointing to powers under the Scottish Act of 1908 that enabled them to act if after 24 hours written notice to a parent to

…cleanse the child within 24 hours…[if] this notice is not complied with, the medical officer…may remove the children…and cause their persons and clothing to be cleansed.

The school strikes spread. Pupils from Skene Square school abandoned lessons and headed to the beach noisily shouting and cheering. At Frederick Street school the appearance of a nurse at a window led to a rumour that the vilified medical officer, Dr Rose, was about to wield his scissors there. In no time local mothers and children assembled by the school gates. The police were called and tried to assure them Dr Rose was not inside but the crowd were in no mood to be pacified. Missiles were thrown. A janitor was struck. At the end of the school day, at four o’clock, pupils were dismissed with no sign of Dr Rose. The crowd waited; certain the now notorious doctor would emerge. He did not.

Head lice

Some striking youths hanging about the nearby Links decided to seek out Dr Rose at his house in the city’s west end, at Rubislaw Terrace. They lined up outside it, shouting and waving union Jacks before pelting it with stones, breaking one window. When the police turned up a group of rioters disappeared round to the rear of the property where the police didn’t think to follow.  Stones rained down on a garage thought to belong to Dr Rose. It was his unfortunate neighbour who lost 19 panes of glass from his garage. From the west end they turned their attention again to Skene Square School which received volley after volley of rocks.   

One of the lads was dressed in soldier’s trousers and puttees and seemed to be in command. He was carrying a banner and shouting his orders to his ‘troops.’ He was considered a great hero that night, and imagined himself as such. His mother stated that he came home that night without his collar and tie; and thinking he had done a great thing.

Eventually the hair cut riots petered out. Then came the aftermath with punishments taking the form of the scud (the tawse or belt) or an appearance at the Children’s Court which resulted in 12 months probation for all the youths who appeared before it, for glass breaking.

Dr Rose was criticised for acting without tact over the few cases he had to deal with; one or two girls in a thousand had their hair cut by the school authorities. Just nine percent of the city’s girls had what was classified as dirty hair compared with forty percent found ten years earlier. So the problem was waning.

A proposed increase in Dr Rose’s salary was turned down by the Staffing, Salaries and Bursaries Committee and remained at £650. The doctor was backed by the BMA who said his salary should be £800, describing him as one of the best school medical officers not only in Scotland but ‘in the kingdom’ and called the local authority members who failed to support Dr Rose, ‘unfair and cowardly.’

It might be supposed Dr Rose would have decided to move on but in 1920 he was still in his position reporting on the usual childhood ailments: whooping cough, measles, scarlet fever and diphtheria – all on the increase. He also noted a resurgence in city children’s ‘fetish’ for sugar – which had been interrupted during the war years when supplies couldn’t get through. Schoolchildren’s teeth were in bad shape. Some schoolchildren were still verminous – from about 93 city families.

1919 the year of revolt and riot. Few protesters came out on top. Authority everywhere had come though four years of terrible bloody conflict and were in no mood to compromise although in a way Aberdeen’s school authorities did by rapping Dr Rose across the knuckles in denying him a promised salary increase and they did ensure that in future parents would be more courteously treated when asked to keep their children’s heads clean and clear of nits.

Apr 28, 2014

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win – women taking on the establishment in Aberdeen in 1912

suffragettes from newspaper 1912

There were extraordinary scenes in Aberdeen’s police court on 30 November 1912 when a group of suffragettes were accused of disorder during a visit to the city by then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lloyd George, in town to address a meeting at the city’s Music Hall. Amid the farsical prodeedings one accused removed her shoes and threw one at the magistrate and the other at the procurator fiscal.

One of the four, Mary Humphreys, was charged with breaking a window of a car she maintained carried Lloyd George. However in what reeks of jiggery pokery by the prosecution and the court authorities the actual charge and the identity of the car were brought into question.

The men of the court, thinking they had matters well in hand, proceeded to outline the case against Humphreys which involved a good deal of ridicule. However Humphreys realised she was being faced with a different charge from that on arrest so repeatedly asked for it to be re-read so she could understand precisely what it was she was accused of.

The baillie or magistrate tried to ignore her and pressed for her plea, guilty or not guilty. Humphreys insisted the charge be re-read so she could follow the names of those the court claimed were involved in the incident and was eventually told by the clerk to read it for herself. She did then contested the charge on the grounds that no owner of the car was named, only a chauffeur.

A verbal rammy ensued between her and the Fiscal who maintained it was irrelevant whose car it was but Mary Humphreys insisted that was entirely relevant to any charge against her.

After a delay the charge was clarified. She was accused of breach of the peace and behaving in a disorderly manner. Humphreys retorted the breach of the peace charge was ‘very vague.’

A clearly exasperated Fiscal tried once more to drag a plea out of her but found his match in Humphreys who declared she had acted for political reasons, not criminal, and the charge was inaccurate and she demanded witnesses, including Lloyd George whom she maintained was her target and was in the car she attacked and so the reason for the incident.

The bickering continued, neither side willing to relinquish ground until the baillie ordered she be bailed till the following Tuesday. Humphreys was told if she wanted witnesses from those in the car she should provide the court with their names. She did, requesting Lloyd George be called as a witness.

Meanwhile three other women who planned to target Lloyd George while at the Music Hall, by attacking him with Knall Korkes (a kind of cork used in small guns to make loud noises), had also pleaded not guilty to their charges of breach of the peace. Contesting her charge also was a Miss Parker. She had been arrested for being in the Music Hall for ‘some unlawful purpose’ but in court she was told, “You are charged with breach of the peace now.”

antii suffrage pc

 

The Fiscal was keen to delay the proceedings while the defendant wanted it finished there and then and carried on with her defence,  challenging the court’s refusal to bail the women the previous evening when they were detained, forcing them to endure a night in the ‘drunk cells’ with a man staring at them throughout.  All to no avail – the case was adjourned and she was granted bail. At this point another of the accused, Locke – an art student from London, removed her shoes and hurled one at the magistrate and the other at the Fiscal. She was manhandled out of the court by five bulky bruisers. The women’s supporters in the court room were thrown out at the same time.

When Humphreys case was resumed the car’s occupants were then  identified as a Mrs Crombie, owner, and two prominent northeastern men, Robert and Joseph Farquahrson.  Robert Farquharson was a Liberal MP, from Lloyd George’s Party. The chauffeur was Thomas Bartlett of Balgownie Lodge. Humphreys questioned their involvement – especially when they were said to have travelled in a blue car while she had thrown her stone at a red one, carrying Lloyd George. And once more she demanded the Chancellor turn up in court as a witness. The court ignored her repeated demands for him to be called insisting he had not been in the car.

Humphreys more of less accused Joseph Farquharson, an artist of considerable reputation, of dressing up as Lloyd George to give the appearance of confusion. Despite his abilities with paint pots Farquahrson did not appear to know whether the car he travelled in was red or blue and he came across as an unreliable witness. He didn’t recall which window had been broken, misidentifying it. The more Humphreys questioned him the more agitated he became.

There ensued a game of evasion. Humphreys again called on Lloyd George as a witness but the court prevaricated over whether or not he should have been cited – clearly not taking her request seriously. When pushed they replied they hadn’t bothered citing him as -“he was out of town” and the court had no jurisdiction beyond the city, not in the Shire and certainly not in the Houses of Parliament which Humphreys gave as his address.

She accused all involved of a cover up to protect Lloyd George from facing her in court.

A witness came forward to say the suffragette had broken the window of a red car while the car with the Farquahrsons was blue. Again the court found the best means forward was opacity. The charge was read out that she had damaged a ‘certain motor-car’ and so in a clear case of witness collusion the ill-tempered exhanges resumed.

A fine of 40 shillings was placed on her but when Humphreys refused to leave the court she was set upon by several policemen who tore her clothing as they ejected her to cries of ‘Shame! from the back of the court.

The women refused to pay their fines  and so were sent to Craiginches prison.

 

Following his engagement the Chancellor Lloyd George had been returning home by train and so the Joint Station became the focus for suffragettes hoping to catch his ear before he fled south.

Moments before the train departed, a Baptist minister, Rev Forbes Jackson, said to resemble Lloyd George, was standing in a compartment taking leave of his wife, when a woman, mistaking him for the Chancellor, hurled herself forward and struck him across the face with a dog-whip.

“Villain, traitor! take that – and that,” she cried while continually ‘pummling’ him.

The police were called and she was dragged away still convinced it had been the MP she had assaulted. Of course at a time before television when peoples’ likeness came from newspaper photographs it was very easy to misidentify a person. As for the minister, Rev Jackson, he took the incident very calmly, saying his concern was for the woman and in her defence agreed he did bear a striking resemblance to Lloyd George.

Despite his not wanting to press charges the authorities were determined to do so and the suffragette in question, who found herself before Aberdeen Police Court was none other than Emily Wilding Davison (or Mary Browne as she was named) who died a few months later under the king’s horse while fighting the cause of votes for women.

Emily Davison at court in Aberdeen

Emily Davison at court in Aberdeen

That December 1912 she was found guilty of whipping the minister and her fine of 40 shillings was paid anonymously. Might it have been by the Baptist minister?

During her four days in Craigniches prison she maintained a hunger strike but did comment that she was treated kindly by the prison staff. force feeding

 

 

 

 

 

The newspaper account of the court case exuded prejudice and hostility against the women and their cause, showing itself a stout defender of the status quo. Some things don’t change.

‘Something in the nature of a sensation was created yesterday afternoon when, shortly after four o’ clock, three Suffragettes with ‘explosive bombs’ in their possession were found concealed in the Aberdeen Music Hall three hours before Mr Lloyd George was to address his great meeting. The discovery was made while the attendants, accompanied by detectives and members of the Shore Porters’ Society, were making a careful search of the premises.

One of the Suffragettes was discovered in the hall, and two in a paybox at the Golden Square entrance. This paybox is open at the top but had the door locked. In the possession of one of the Suffragettes there was a box of Knall Korke explosive cork cartridges, known as ‘explosive bombs,’ which, when fired from a small toy pistol, make a loud report. No pistol was found, but it is assumed that the intention of the Suffragettes was to throw the cartridges high over the hall from the open spaces above the paybox, so that they might fall on the platform while the Chancellor of the Exchequer was speaking, and thus create a disturbance, and, in all probability, a panic. The box of those cartridges found in the possession of the Suffragettes contained several dozens of the explosive corks, and, if the plot had not failed, would probably have been the cause of great alarm; indeed, might have resulted in a fatal rush from the building.

A FELINE FIGHT

When the women were discovered they manifested great disappointment, and at once showed signs of fight when the attendants sought to arrest them. According to the police report they struggled and kicked out vigorously, scratched and bit their would-be captors, and resisted with considerable power. At length superior forces and numbers prevailed, and the Suffragettes were taken into custody. Chief Constable Anderson, who happened to be in the vicinity at the time, ordered the prison van to be sent for, and it was not long before passers-by were surprised to see “Black Maria” in front of the Music Hall Buildings. When the women were conveyed to the Police Office in Lodge Walk they were asked to give names, addresses, and other information, but this was looked upon, in certain cases, as inquisitorial. According to the statements given the women are –

JOYCE LOCKE, aged 22, art student, London

MARION POLLOCK, who, though not belonging to Aberdeen, gave her address as the Aberdeen Branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union, 7 Bon-Accord Street, Aberdeen; and

FANNY PARKER, who would give no address.

The three will be brought before the Aberdeen Police Court to-day on a charge of having been found upon premises – namely, the Aberdeen Music Hall – contrary to the Prevention of Crimes Act, for an unlawful purpose.

In the course of the evening a sympathiser took tea to the Police Office for the three arrested women. There was no question of bail, and the Chief Constable stated that that would have required consideration if it had been raised.

It is pointed out that although the “explosive corks” may not be dangerous in the sense of inflicting bodily harm, yet by the loud report they give on exploding were calculated to create panic, and that therefore they were not to be used with impunity at any large meeting, where panic might lead to serious disaster.

A SUFFRAGETTE’S ESCAPE

While the arrest of the three Suffragettes referred to was being effected, a fourth was seen making her way from the hall, but she escaped and no attempt was afterwards made to secure her. It is alleged that she had a dog-whip in her possession.

A GRANITE MISSILE

While Mr Lloyd George was departing, in a motor car from the Young Men’s Christian Association Hall, a Suffragette was seen to throw a piece of granite in the direction of the car. As was remarked, a woman’s aim in missile throwing is proverbial for its inaccuracy, and that proved so in this case, for instead of striking the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the motor car he had entered, the granite struck and did some slight damage to a cab in the vicinity! The Suffragette who threw the missile was arrested, and speedily removed to the Police Office, where she refused to disclose her identity. She was locked in a cell, and will appear with the other three before Baillie Robertson at the Police Court to-day.

CAR WINDOW SMASHED

Just as he had reached the entrance gateway to Glenburnie Park on his return from the meeting, Mr Lloyd George had his narrowest escape from personal violence. Very few people were in the vicinity of Rubislaw Den North at ten o’clock. About the time the the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s motor car was approaching a Suffragette, well known to the authorities, made her appearance on the scene. Her movements naturally attracted attention and her companion, who remained less conspicuous, forced her way forward when the motor car was entering the gateway. With a big stone in her hand she thrust it at the car, crashed it through the window, and made her escape.’

 Aberdeen Journal Sat 30 November 1912

suffragette cartoon male suffering

 

The Chancellor’s venture north was deftly defended by a thick black line of police and the courts. There was so much social agitation taking place in Britain during this period and women, demanding equal rights with men, were proving to be some of the most ruthless and determined campaigners – demanding answers from the politicians who, abetted by the police, courts and other parts of the establishment, evaded whenever possible being accountable for their actions.

A male supporter of the women’s cause shouted out to Lloyd George as he passed by the Music Hall, “Don’t forget the women,” but the local newspaper said with not a little glee, ‘The Chancellor passed on without taking any notice.’

Protesters spilled out from the Music Hall, congregating by the Wallace statue including members of the Aberdeen Branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union to plan for another day.

The reluctance of politicians to defend their positions through proper debate with those whose lives are impacted by their actions was as reprehensible then as it is now.

The disgraceful behaviour of the courts to cover-up, collude over evidence and protect public figures was as reprehensible then as it is now.

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The shameful denigration of women through coverage in the press is part of a broader attack that goes on by much of the press when authority or the establishment is challenged by any group. The eagerness to laugh at, collude against, humiliate and dismiss arguments – to concentrate on the sensational at the expense of the rationale behind protests was as reprehensible then as it is now.