Richard Bell (British politician)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Richard Bell in the late 1900s

Richard Bell (1859 – 1 May 1930[1]) was one of the first two British Labour Members of Parliament, and the first for an English constituency, elected after the formation of the Labour Representation Committee in 1900.

Bell was born in Merthyr Tydfil and became a high-profile trade unionist, the general secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants. He was elected for Derby, a two-member constituency, alongside a Liberal in the 1900 general election.[1] He sympathised with the Liberals on most issues, except those that directly affected his union. This meant that he was not very compatible with the other Labour MP, Keir Hardie, a committed socialist member of the Independent Labour Party.

Although its chairman in 1902–03,[2] by 1903 Bell was struggling to adhere to the rules of the LRC group in Parliament, which now had five members following a series of by-elections. By 1904 he was considered to have lapsed from the group and was associated with the Liberal Party.[3] He was re-elected at the 1906 general election.

His supporters in the Derby Trades Council became disillusioned with Bell and replaced him at the January 1910 general election with another trade unionist from the ASRS, Jimmy Thomas.[4] After leaving Parliament, Bell joined the Employment Exchange branch of the Board of Trade. He retired from that in 1920 but continued in local politics and served as a member of the Southgate Urban District Council 1922–29.[5]

Industrial interests[edit]

In 1903, Bell joined William John Parry in forming North Wales Quarries Ltd. which owned three slate quarries in Bethesda, Gwynedd. These were intended to be run co-operatively with the workers, most of whom were on strike against the owners of the nearby Penrhyn Quarry. The three-year strike against Penrhyn was the longest industrial dispute in British history, and brought great hardship to the 2,000 quarrymen who were locked out. The operation of Pandreiniog, Moel Faban and Tanybwlch quarries failed to provide a lasting model of co-operation, but they did keep many skilled quarrymen from emigrating to the United States.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Hansard Record". Retrieved 8 September 2009.
  2. ^ "Labour Leaders". Retrieved 8 September 2009.
  3. ^ David Martin, "Ideology and Composition", in The First Labour Party 1906-1914, ed. K.D. Brown (London: Croom Helm Ltd, 1985), 17
  4. ^ "Richard Bell: Derby's first labour MP". Retrieved 8 September 2009.
  5. ^ "Bell; Richard (1859–1930); Politician, trade union leader and civil servant". Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  6. ^ "THE COOPERATIVE SLATE QUARRIES". Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald and North and South Wales Independent. 26 August 1904. hdl:10107/3606667.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Geoffrey Drage and
Henry Howe Bemrose
Member of Parliament for Derby
With: Sir Thomas Roe
Succeeded by
James Henry Thomas and
Sir Thomas Roe
Trade union offices
Preceded by
Edward Harford
General Secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants
Succeeded by
J. E. Williams
Preceded by
W. Boyd Hornidge
President of the Trades Union Congress
Succeeded by
James Sexton
Party political offices
Preceded by
Allan Gee
Chair of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
John Hodge