Money in Politics

In his autobiography My Early Life: A Roving Commission, Winston Churchill recounts his first attempt to run for a seat in the House of Commons, the democratic half of the British Parliament.

Early in November [1898] I paid a visit to the Central Offices of the Conservative Party at St. Stephen’s Chambers, to inquire about finding a constituency. […] The Party Manager, then Mr. Middleton, […] was very cordial and complimentary. The Party would certainly find me a seat, and he hoped to see me in Parliament at an early date. He then touched delicately upon money matters. Could I pay my expenses, and how much a year could I afford to give to the constituency? I said I would gladly fight the battle, but I could not pay anything except my own personal expenses. He seemed rather damped by this, and observed that the best ans safest constituencies always liked to have the largest contributions from their members. He instanced cases where as much as a thousand pounds a year or more was paid by the member in subscriptions and charities in return for the honour of holding the seat. Risky seats could not afford to be so particular, and ‘forlorn hopes’ were very cheap.

But Churchill actually got his first chance the next year.

Churchill_&_Mawdsley 1899 Oldham

(Thanks to long-time reader Ana Alves who mailed me Churchill’s autobiography as part of her annual book package. If you want to support this blog too, here is my wishlist of books. It’s hard to get the books I want in English or in German in South America, so I appreciate any help. Thank you!) 

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a writer, a spy or a hobo.
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