Sunday, 7 October 2012

Another Liberal hero

Sunday Supplement is a mine of information. For instance, I didn't realise that Disraeli's beloved Mary Anne was born in Cardiff until Vaughan Roderick dropped that information into a discussion about "one nation" (a phrase which Dizzy never used, incidentally).

But I am most indebted to this morning's programme for turning me on to William Powell (WRH Powell, not his more conservative antecedent), the radical Liberal MP for Carmarthenshire 1880-1889, about whom the local history society has just published a book. While remaining true to the land-owning class's leisure pursuits of hunting and horse-racing, he had a genuine concern for his tenants. For instance, he provided a school free of the dogma taught in the otherwise obligatory (Anglican) church school, to which his largely non-conformist tenants objected. He abolished toll-gates where he could, thus defusing locally the Rebecca Riots which rumbled on in other parts of Wales.

On the national front, "he advocated the disestablishment of the Church of England in Wales, education for all, tenants' rights, expansion of the franchise, local democracy, Home Rule for Ireland and for Wales". His radical stance provoked the Western Mail into dubbing him a "communist". I'm sure he would be fighting further social security cuts if he were a member for Carmarthen today.

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