Kenneth O Morgan

Last Seen in an Electric Canoe

Victor Grayson: The Man and the Mystery

By

Quartet Books 324pp £20 order from our bookshop

The fiery meteor that was Victor Grayson blazed briefly across the socialist firmament in Edwardian England. He was a flamboyant rebel, a handsome, spellbinding orator who rose up from nowhere, winning a famous by-election in Colne Valley in July 1907 at the age of twenty-five. He embodies the native American notion of ‘the legend that walks’, or in this case perhaps staggers. For years after his death, his memory was cherished in socialist circles, especially in the industrial North: Victor Grayson Hardie Feather, the Bradford-born general secretary of the Trade Union Congress, was, for example, named in his honour. Some still revere him as ‘Labour’s lost leader’. And yet his political career was from the first disastrous and destructive. He proved to be a wilful, uncooperative comrade who rejected the discipline of the whip and introduced seeds of division into both the new Labour Party and its socialist affiliate, the Independent Labour Party (ILP). His life degenerated into alcoholism, gambling and nervous collapse. When he left for Australia during the First World War (which he strongly backed) it was almost a relief. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Sign up to our email newsletter below! Get free articles, highlights from the archive, and chances to win theatre… ,
    • RT : Founded in 1979, is a trusted independent source for reviews of new books across a variety of genres. A… ,
    • RT : Here we are - "Shelf Indulgence" by Ed Potten, a wonderful read, well worth your time: @Lit_Review,
    • 'Like going to a party hoping to get away as quickly as politeness allowed and at 4am finding myself still engrosse… ,
    • 'Neville never shed his sense of being the junior, and perhaps least-deserving Chamberlain.' From the archive, Mic… ,
    • 'The erecting and immediate destruction of a series of straw men rather detracts from what is for the most part an… ,
    • RT : A magnificent demolition job on this "acid laced tirade...unpleasantly self-obsessed...self pitying polemic...book… ,