Politics and the 1892 General Election

Thomas Parker was always interested in politics and had been an active member of the Liberal Party since his days at Coalbrookdale. He was an ex-president of the Wellington Liberal and Labour Association.

He agreed to be the Liberal Party's candidate in the 1892 general election, for the Kingswinford constituency. Unfortunately he was unsuccessful, and came second to Staveley Hill, the only other candidate. Thomas's nickname was "Honest Tom Parker", which he acquired through his electioneering.



The photograph opposite shows one of Thomas's election posters.

The election poster states the following:

Kingswinford Division of Staffordshire



Having been unexpectedly invited by a large and representative Meeting of Electors to become the Liberal Candidate for his Division at the approaching General Election, I take this early opportunity of recognising the confidence such a request indicates, and of making known the great pleasure which I have in accepting so cordial and so honorable an invitation.

In specifying to you the principles and measures which I shall support, should you do me the honour of returning me to Parliament for the division in which I reside, and in which I have a large commercial interest, I place foremost a properly safeguarded but thorough measure of Home Rule for Ireland, which should give to the Irish people complete control of exclusively Irish affairs.

My knowledge of the conditions under which miners pursue their daily calling, and of their wishes upon the question, will enable me to give hearty approval to a measure which shall limit their daily work to a statutory day of Eight Hours; a similar reform I would extend, as far as practicable, to all who are engaged in dangerous and exacting occupations.

Although a churchman, I concede the justice of the demand for the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales, and will vote for it.

Believing that the constitution of County Councils is only an initial step in the reform and healthy extension of Local Government, I am in favour of proceeding further on the same lines by the establishment of Parish Councils, such Councils to have jurisdiction over Common Lands, Charitable Bequests, Public Elementary Schools, Sanitary Arrangements, Highways, and all other local matters; to possess powers of compulsory purchase of land for allotments, religious and educational purposes, public halls and building societies, and in whose hands should be placed the control of the constabulary.

I am also in favour of giving to the people free and untrammelled Control of the Liquor Traffic, and thus would leave to the popular voice the settlement of all questions arising therefrom.

I am also in favour of the equitable Taxation of Mining Royalties, Way-leaves, and Ground Rents; and of a more just division of the burden of Rates between owners and occupiers of rateable hereditaments.

I am in favour of Cheapening the Transfer of Land and of the Abolition of the Laws of Primogeniture and Entail.

I desire to see the abolition of Plural Voting, the Shortening of the Residential Qualification, the appointment of a Public Registration Officer, an increase in the number of Polling Places, and in other facilities for recording votes; the Shorter duration of Parliaments, the Payment of Members, the Revision of the Poor, Burial and Game Laws, and the general appointment of Stipendiary Magistrates.

I am in hearty sympathy with most of those recent proposals which aim at the amelioration of the condition of the working classes, such as the provision of Better Houses, Public Parks, and Recreation Grounds, improved sanitary conditions, and other means for brightening the homes and elevating the lives of the Poor.

I shall also vote for any measure calculated to improve the official Inspection of Mines by the appointment of inspectors from the ranks of the miners.

So many questions appear to me to be ripe for settlement that I cannot do more than give the above outline of my principles and aims, but I shall take an early opportunity of having such personal intercourse with the electors as will enable me more fully to explain my views.

Finally, whilst I am for extending to every part of the Empire the fullest and most effective system of Local Government, I desire to state that my vote and influence shall always be exercised for the uninjured preservation of' the British Empire in all its territorial and commercial integrity.

I have the honour to remain, Gentlemen, yours faithfully,

Thomas Parker, Newbridge House, Wolverhampton.

[Printed and Published by Whitehead Bros. King Street, Wolverhampton.]

A card that was possibly produced by Mr. Staveley Hill to celebrate his victory in the election.

The card states the following:

JULY 14, 1892

"Aside for ever! It may sound-

Striking the Electric Chain wherewith we are darkly bound" – BYRON
Air – "Minstrel Boy."

Our leading Rads to the dogs have gone,
In defeated rucks you’ll find them,
The Express & Star cajoled them on,
And to Pat’s Home Rule did bind them.
"Fellow Rads," cried Electric Light,
Though ev’ry fad betrays thee,
One arm at least shall use its might,
One puny voice shall praise thee.
Tom Parker fell, and his foeman’s brain
Had to keep that mad soul under;
The cant he used never spoke again
For the sound of Staveley’s thunder,
Who said: "No M.P. shalt thou be.
Thou mite of Radical bravery;
Thy voice was made for the factory,
And must e’er give way to Staveley."

Hill, C………..5,371     Parker, G……….3,801      Majority……….1,570

After Thomas's defeat, the local Liberals held a meeting in the Agricultural Hall, Wolverhampton, on Wednesday, 16th November, 1892, to congratulate him on his efforts:

Kingswinford Division

  Great Liberal Meeting in Wolverhampton

  Presentation to Mr. Thomas Parker

On Wednesday night Mr. Thomas Parker, who contested the Kingswinford Division of Staffordshire at the General Election, was presented with an illuminated address and a handsome brougham in recognition of his gallant fight. The ceremony took place in the Agricultural Hall, Wolverhampton, where Liberals were present from all parts of the division. 

The hall was filled long before the proceedings commenced, and the time was pleasantly passed by the singing of Liberal songs by the audience, and the performance of popular music on the organ by Mr. T. Clements. The Hon. Philip Stanhope, who presided, walked on the platform escorting Mrs. Parker, Mr. Parker himself escorting Miss Amy Mander. Amongst those present were Mr. C.E. Shaw, M.P. for Stafford; Alderman T. Bantock, Messrs. J. Addison, C.C. (President of the Dudley Liberal Association), J. Skidmore (Chairman of the Brierley Hill Liberal Association), G. Green (Old Hill), G.R. Thorne, Major Walker, G. Armstrong, J.T. Homer, W. Thomas, T.P. Newbould, C. Boyes, G.M. Morgan, R. Willcock, B. Hadley, C.C. (Blackheath), S. Wilkes, C.C. (Sedgley), Councillor Baker, S. Ingram, G. Hodges, T.G. Greensill, S.M. Wright, G. Woodhall, T. Woodhall, C. Blackshaw, J.F. Bectett, Councillor Price Lewis, Z. Butler, W. Fithern etc.

The brougham was supplied by Mr. Clarke of Chapel Ash. Letters of apology were received from the Right Hon. H.H. Fowler, M.P., President of the Local Government Board, who said “The Liberal Party are deeply indebted to Mr. Parker for his gallant attempt to win the Kingswinford Division, and though he was unsuccessful I trust that as the representative in Parliament of a Liberal constituency he will ere long be enabled to render those public services for which he has so many valuable qualifications”. Apologies were also received from Mr. B. Hingley, M.P., Mr. G. King Harrison, and Mr. P. Pargeter.

The Chairman said they had hoped to have assembled for the purpose of congratulating themselves and their friend Mr. Parker on being elected their representative in Parliament. Before he said anything on the subject that had called them together however, he must express his regret, and he was sure their sympathy, with their friend Mr. Thomas Graham, chairman of Mr. Parker’s election committee, whose recent sad bereavement was known to them all. He had received a telegram from that gentleman in which he said: “I am sorry I cannot be with you tonight to take part in the presentation to our friend Mr. Parker. He is most deserving of the tangible acknowledgements of our hearty wishes for his ultimate political triumph”.

The Illuminated address that was presented to Thomas Parker, that evening, by Alderman Bantock. Courtesy of Peter Parker.
The constituency was not one of the most promising for anyone to attack at the last General Election. It had long been politically neglected, and, if he might venture to characterise it, it had become a sort of political desert, in which one gentleman of very strange and archaic views, Mr. Staveley Hill, was allowed to run riot. But Liberals were never in favour of leaving constituencies uncontested.

It was an arduous duty, and they were at some pains to find a man who would unite in his own person that degree of popularity and merit that would entitle him to the confidence of his constituents. But they found in Mr. Thomas Parker, a man whom he might call a typical Liberal candidate, springing as he did from the people, proud as he was to ally himself with the people, and arriving as he had done by hard work and by his undoubted ability at a position of trust and confidence and eminence in the commercial world.

Well, Thomas Parker entered the lists. Some of them thought perhaps a little too soon, for battles such as that were not to be won in an hour, and required constant preparation over a long period of time, and, perhaps, had he had a longer time a different result might have been achieved.

But it was only fair, to remember that the Kingswinford Division had in its electorate of 12,000 voters, no less than 4,800 plural voters; property voters who resided outside, but pounced down upon the constituency on the day of the election. 

That would be remedied by a Bill which they expected would shortly be presented to Parliament, requiring that a man should have but the only vote to which he was entitled. If that salutary change was introduced into their laws he thought the position in the Kingswinford Division would be modified to that extent that they would have Mr. Thomas Parker on the platform as their honourable member, and hear of a testimonial being presented to the defunct political representative, Mr. Staveley Hill.

Their Tory friends would tell them that the majority of 1,500 was an enormous one, but to come to a little question of subtraction, he should imagine that his friend Parker would not command much sympathy from people of property. Perhaps a proportion of one in ten, and of the number of plural voters, probably 500 would support the Liberal candidate, all the remainder going for the representative of vested interests. Let them take off those 4,000 votes, and where would Mr. Hill be then?

This evening, at all events, they could present to their opponents a more interesting object lesson. The last election was fought upon their present electoral system. If the Liberal party was true to its pledges, if it were resolute in Parliament, the next election would be fought upon a Radical system. And then they would see a very different condition of affairs throughout the whole of this district.

They all knew Mr. Parker’s defeat was only one of a long list of reverses which they unfortunately had all sustained in this district. He was not going to enter into the full particulars of those reverses. He was going to affirm boldly tonight as he had said before, and as he should continue to say, and as events would prove, that Unionism had little to do with it. Were they as a Liberal party, prepared to accept the position that they saw the Licensed Victualler’s Association hold, in which, as he read the account of their meeting at Burton, the chairman, boldly declared that the licensed victuallers had the fate of the country in their hands, that they could, if they wished it, transfer the government of the country from one party to the other, and until they were satisfied they would continue to hold the roost.

He also said that the Liberals were ready in this district to fight the battle over again. He did not see many downcast countenances before him, and for his own part he felt none of the premonitory symptoms of a dying candidate. They were as determined as they were before the General Election that the stain; he could call it nothing else, which rested upon a great portion of this country, and which attached to a great industrial centre like this of being represented by a Tory, he could not find a worse word than that and that discredit should be removed as soon as possible.

Alderman Bantock, to whom the honour of making the presentation was entrusted, expressed the pleasure it gave him to be present. After reading the address accompanying the gift, he remarked that it did not make reference to the recipient’s character and the claims he had upon the constituency. Wolverhampton had a great appreciation of Mr. Parker. He might be spoken of as a great benefactor to the town, and was not only a man of ability, but of uprightness and honesty. During the election he was even called “Honest Tom Parker”. The people knew that what he said in one place, he would not turn his back on in another. And as regarded ability to represent a constituency, why the chief electrical advisor to the Government had spoken of Mr. Parker as the Edison of England, and his works, for excellence of mechanical arrangement, yet simplicity, were foremost in the country. 

They were, indeed under great obligation to such a gentleman, who came and brought his industry among them. At no time, continued Alderman Bantock, had he more confidence in the success of Liberalism and in that connection they must remember what had happened in their kindred nation across the water. Liberalism and then principals of fair trade and free trade had had a splendid victory in America, and such a victory as would cement the English speaking races more and more together, and all the high protection notions of Tories and American citizens, who ought never to have held such views, would be thrown to the winds. They would stand happy and united, loving one another, and setting the rest of the world an excellent example.

Alderman Bantock then moved the following resolution: “That this meeting of Liberals desire to express their gratitude to Mr. Thomas Parker for his services to Liberalism in the Kingswinford Division.”

The illuminated address read as follows:

Kingswinford Division of the County of Stafford.

To Thomas Parker, Esq., of Wolverhampton

Dear Sir,

On behalf of the Liberals of the Kingswinford Division, we desire to acknowledge the great services you have rendered to the Liberal cause by your vigorous candidature at the General Election of 1892.

Although your candidature was unsuccessful, your example and efforts will have an abiding influence throughout the constituency, and will more firmly establish the spirit and teachings of Liberalism in the minds of its people.

We therefore ask you to accept this address, and the accompanying gift, as some slight token of our appreciation and gratitude, and of our undiminished faith in those Liberal principals which you have striven to maintain.

Thomas Graham, Chairman
John T. Homer, Vice-Chairman
November 16th, 1892.

Mr. J. Addison seconded and was followed by a speech of thanks given by Mr. Parker.

Mr. Parker, whose rising to receive the presentation was the signal for a renewed outburst of enthusiasm, returned thanks. It was a difficult thing he said to return thanks comfortably. The fight, he said, had been undertaken simply so that the people should have a champion for their cause, and as a feeling of duty not influenced by any other considerations. He knew the difficulties and was fully rewarded by the assurance that the people thought he had done all that it could reasonably expected of a man to do. The effects of that contrast, would be, he hoped, the education of the people of the constituency, many of whom, unless that election had been fought, would have remained strangers to political education. By that means, above all others, the great cause of the people was to be helped.

For years the people had been kept in that ignorance which the capitalists thought so necessary for their condition, and he looked forward to the time when the people should be educated, and so demand their fair share in the country’s prosperity, and fight for the privileges so selfishly held from them during their period of ignorance. It was the power of the vote which could set the people free from that tyranny.

He had felt rather sore during the election, that he should have had the Church so antagonistic to him, believing himself that he was on the side of righteousness and justice. He had felt that here was something about the Church that he could not exactly understand, but since then he had made careful investigation, and he thought, on future occasions, he would be able to tell the reason.

Mr. Parker, alluding to commercial subjects, said the electrical industry in the town was but a growing one, and he hoped that unlike the bicycle industry, it would continue growing there. In conclusion he paid a high compliment to the energetic work done during the election by Mr. Homer, than whom he never wished to have a better or more cheerful friend.

Further speeches were given by Mr. C.E. Shaw, M.P., Mr. G.R. Thorne, Mr. S. Wilkes and Mr. Green.

The Chairman closed the proceedings and the new brougham was wheeled out, and Mr. and Mrs. Parker drove home in it amid the hearty cheers of the crowd.

Mrs. Parker and one of the children in the brougham, outside the Manor House.

Courtesy of the library and archives of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum, at Coalbrookdale. 

July 9th, 1895

Mr. Thomas Parker said that he knew something of the pinch of a poor home. His father had never earned more than £1 a week in his life, and during the last twelve years he had had to keep him. Speaking of the House of Lords he said that they could excuse them as they were an accident and their accidents had been most carefully arranged and had been fenced round by every force that law could bring to bear. It was a peg upon which the aristocracy of the country could stand.

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