Friday, June 12, 2009

A Forgotten Radnorian - Clement Edwards

The barrister, radical journalist and politician, Allen Clement Edwards (1869-1938) was born in Knighton, the son of local auctioneer George Benjamin Edwards and his Llangynllo born school teacher wife Sarah Tudge.

Edwards was the Liberal MP for Denbigh Boroughs between 1906 and 1910. Defeated in the first election of that year, Edwards fought and won the East Glamorganshire constituency for the Liberals in the December 1910 election. A founder of the National Democratic and Labour Party - a Lloyd George supporting socialist grouping - he fought and won East Ham South for the party in 1918, serving until 1922.

As a young man Clem Edwards was a close associate of Tom Mann and Ben Tillet in the Dockers' Union. As secretary of the Federation of Riverside and Carrying Trades he advocated a General Strike which would "dislocate the entire trade of the country and place the whole of the implements of production and industry in the hands of the workers." Edwards later turned his back on these syndicalist views and was an early opponent of the Leninists.

In 1891 Edwards organised a great march of 30000 laundresses to Hyde Park calling for them to be included within the terms of the Factories Act. As a barrister Edwards represented the Dockers Union at the Titanic Inquiry where he condemned the actions of another Radnorian, Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon. Edwards also represented the rail workers union in the famous Taff Vale case.

Clement Edwards was eager to stand up for his native county at Westminster. When the Tories sought to exclude New Radnor from the benefits of church disestablishment because of the supposed English sympathies of its inhabitants, Edwards could call on his knowledge of the area to reply:

"The hon. Member laid down a general principle, however, to which from personal knowledge of New Radnor I will bring its case to the test. He said that it would be well for the Bill, and for future peace in Wales, that only those parishes should be Disestablished where there was a preponderance of Welsh feeling, sentiment, and sympathy. I have no hesitation whatever in saying that the parish of New Radnor which is in Radnorshire, possesses Welsh sympathy and sentiment which is quite preponderating. Applying the general test I should pick out New Radnor as one of the parishes of Radnorshire which has become least Anglicised, except perhaps certain parishes on the Cardiganshire and Breckonshire borders."

No comments: