Richard Anthony Lamb Esq. The Conservative Candidate
This Conservative Candidate in the 1950 General Election fought hard for old fashioned Conservatism in the heartlands of the Labour North East.
Lamb was unsuccessful in this election by no slender margin, despite a strong fight against the successful Labour contender. Many Northern Parliamentary seats were to stay Labour rather than go Conservative in 1950 as they had been before the outbreak of War in September 1939. Lamb was essentially fighting in “injun country”, to use the American phrase. He had to take the fight to the opposition Labour strongholds in the North East, which he duly did: - He was called by those Labourites:
“A wolf in sheep’s wool or sheep’s clothing!”
His name was Lamb – of that there was no doubt.
- He had fought the no hoper seat of Lichfield in 1945 as a Liberal. This time was for real and no holes were barred. He said in a speech 1949-50, Churchill had once been a Liberal and was now Leader of the Blue party. Lamb was 38 years old in 1950 (born 11th May 1911) and recently married. He lived in Stockton when nursing the Constituency and during the campaign to 23rd February 1950 polling day. His estates were in North East Cumbria and West Denton Northumberland – the family coalmining interests in the North East, having been nationalised by the 1945 Labour Administration.
He was seeking to turn the tide back to the halcyon days of pre-1939 politics, when Conservatism still represented the working man whilst a number of its parliamentary party members and peers were leaders of industry. Lamb appealed to the individual man in the street in his 1949-50 political speeches, but underlying his rhetoric is his call to righteously command the support of the ordinary voter as a Landowner and former Director of the family coalmines enterprise in Northumberland. The essence behind this vocal plea to the voters was that he would make his own interests second to his constituents and above all the National interest. He was a man of means who would put his wealth at the service of his political arguments, not his own personal satisfaction.
He was altruistic and had a social conscience as they would say in the 1970’s and before. He put himself forward as a man of principle not a player of partisan and divisive politics. A lot of these themes are under the surface in Lamb’s political 1949-50 speeches. But his speeches still resonate this clarion call – vote for Major R.A. Lamb and you will not be disappointed – he is a man of honour and integrity, surpassing mere party politicking.
3. Emanuel Shinwell MP, Labour and Major Richard A. Lamb in their head to head (1949-50) in the North East
Shinwell was the serving Labour MP for Easington, County Durham whilst Lamb fought another Durham seat at Stockton on Tees, and was Shinwell’s main critic in that region. Shinwell had been given a post in the War Office by Attlee during his 1945-50 Administration. He had a poor War Service record in WWI when he ought to have fought for King and Country, but took the Conscientious Objector route to avoid serving in our Armies when his Country needed him. In WWII his political position exonerated him from military service in all likelihood. In the Second World War Lamb said Shinwell did not truly support our War effort. In Lamb’s words he considered Shinwell’s appointment to a War Office job by Attlee;
“A gross insult to the families of all those who lost their nearest and dearest relations in the War.”
What did Shinwell do in response? He labelled Lamb as “the Stockton Professor” for Lamb’s mastery of economic policy and food production issues, not to mention Lamb’s B.A. and M.A. degrees from Oxford University (Merton College) in the 1930’s in Agricultural Economics, and his education at Downside School in Somerset earlier.
Lamb made no boast of these academic accolades, but Shinwell could not resist the jab. He may have been re-elected to the Westminster Parliament in the 1950 General Election as he was to be returned in many parliamentary elections thereafter, finishing up as Father of the House of Commons, but he had no reply to the accusation of cowardice in WWI and the white feather. Lamb was fierce, yes, and of the old officer class, but with good reason.
He had served seven years in the Territorial’s 1939-45, reaching the rank of Major in the Artillery, and being mentioned in despatches for his conduct when on active service in Italy during the period 1944-45. It did Lamb no good politically: - he was never elected to Parliament, not even as a Liberal in North Dorset in the 1964 and 1966 General Elections.
Lamb carried real clout in Stockton: 1949-50 as his recently discovered speech notes reveal. I quote his words;
“I saw a lot of the sufferings and heroism of the ordinary English soldier, and I am convinced that they only made those incredible sacrifices because they felt they were fighting to save something which was well worthwhile. And that something is our tradition: British freedom and way of life.”
1949 Stockton speech to its Conservative Constituency Association by Major R.A. Lamb
His words were well chosen. Here he was out in the open with his active service. As always old soldiers may die hard but officers never brag about their bravery. Lamb believed what he said in this quoted speech and what he said about Shinwell. How may I draw these threads together? What does Lamb’s stand say about English Conservatism of 1949-50? It was based on the British Army when we really had an Army with National Service. What gave Lamb the right to speak out? His understanding of the ordinary Englishman born of seven long years in the Territorial Army and, even more importantly, his sense of sacrifice and deep desire to serve his country men. Churchill, our War leader, and Eden and Macmillan, his successors, would all have echoed Lamb’s “Call to arms” in this polarised arena of English politics of those years: County Durham.
Make no mistake Lamb spoke truly, even though Shinwell had the last laugh in 1950 when the election produced a virtual hung Parliament and Labour clung to power. Lamb would return to fight another day in North Dorset as a Liberal in 1964 and 1966 General Elections – indeed an old fashioned Gladstonian Liberal then under Grimond. He would not give up his fight for freedom for the English people he had begun in 1950 at Stockton, and he an old fashioned Englishman himself to his dying day.
Richard M. Lamb Esq. – oldest son of Major Richard A. Lamb