“Random History” is what happens when you mix together a newspaper archive, a random number generator and a man with too much time on his hands. Today our random-driven time machine takes us back to SATURDAY 21 JULY 1934, and the West Yorkshire town of Shipley.
The front page of the Shipley Times and Express seems to be totally dominated by a speech from the local Member of Parliament, J Horace Lockwood, to the Annual Garden Fete at the Windhill Conservative Club. The speech is a lengthy one and about as interesting as a mouldy corned-beef sandwich. I have the full text, and I will happily provide it to anyone who can come up with a good reason for wanting to read it.
To understand the degree of inappropriateness of the MPs words, you need to see them in the context of the economic and social situation of the times. Britain remained in the grips of the Great Depression, and unemployment in many northern towns was still in the realms of 30%. Poverty was widespread, housing conditions were appalling, and any social benefits available were based on the cruel system of “the means test”. Singing the praises of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Neville Chamberlain, Mr Lockwood told his Conservative audience: “He has tried to make our national income greater than our national expenditure and because of that we have comfort, financial safety, safety of property and of persons.”
Large parts of his speech are self-congratulatory and contain warnings about lies and half-truths from opponents and the press alike: the words almost have a Trumpian feel about them. No MP works harder for his constituents, he declares. Criticism was acceptable, he said, “but continual back biting, under-hand methods, and the sayings of untruths or, worse still, half truths, was a very difficult thing to combat“. It is unclear what the criticism and half-truths were, but it is interesting to note that within twelve months of the speech, he had been deselected by the local Conservative Party and went on to come fourth in the 1935 General Election in Shipley, standing as an independent Conservative.
Leaving politics aside, 1934 was a good year to buy a motor car – if you were lucky enough to be able to afford one. Appleyard’s of Leeds were advertising 1933 Morris cars from as little as £110, and as an added bonus, every car was fitted with four new Dunlop tyres! But if you really wanted a bargain, you could turn to the second-hand cars being sold by local garages, and, in particular, the 1929 4.5 litre Bentley which was on sale for just £350 (taking inflation into account that is equivalent of around £17,500 today). It is interesting to note that a similar 1929 Bentley 4.5 litre car was sold at auction last year for about £750,000 (which is the equivalent of a lot of money today).
I have not been able to discover what Mr Lockwood did after losing his seat in the 1935 elections – perhaps he bought a second-hand Bentley and rode off into the political sunset.