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A Singular Liberal: Richard Robert Fairbairn and Worcester Politics 1899-1941.

By Denise Mylechreest

Abstract

The political career of Richard Robert Fairbairn, a Liberal member of a Conservative- dominated Council in Worcester from 1899 to 1941 provides the focus for this study. Labelled by the Tory press as a Radical, Fairbairn would appear to personify the New Liberalism of the period before 1914 and remained firmly commited to the Liberal cause for the rest of his life. From 1908 he dedicated his considerable energies to municipal affairs and, as chairman of the local National Insurance committee for 28 years, he was responsible for the implementation and administration of a major Liberal reform in the city. Based on examination of his extensive personal collection of press cuttings and other related primary sources, this thesis assesses how far, as the leader of a small minority group within the Council, Fairbairn was able to put his Liberal principles into practice in a largely unsympathetic environment. Fairbairn’s work is also considered within the wider context of the declining position of the Liberal party over the same period. He contested eight general elections as the Liberal candidate between 1910 and 1935 and served briefly as Worcester’s MP in 1922- 3. Analysis of his election campaigns and his numerous public speeches has been used to demonstrate the response of a loyal, but independent, Liberal to changes of leadership and policies within the party. It is argued that by maintaining second position in the polls for the party in the face of any Labour challenge, Fairbairn ensured that Liberalism remained alive in Worcester at a time when the party was seen as increasingly irrelevant elsewhere

Topics: JN101, DA
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.eprints.org:470

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