02 December 2021
The RCP and Neath

A Minor Political Disturbance

Keith Tucker

Considering the strong relationship that the town of Neath had with the Liberal Prime Minister David Lloyd George (he had been given the Freedom of the Borough when he visited the National Eisteddfod, held here in 1918), then it was maybe inevitable that Neath would return the Liberal coalition candidate Hugh Edwards at the 1918 election.

It was in February 1918 that the Representation of the People Act widened suffrage by abolishing practically all property qualifications for men and by enfranchising women over 30 who met minimum property qualifications; all men over 21 gained the vote in the constituency where they were resident.

The rise in popularity of socialism particularly in south Wales would, however, mean that from 1922 to the present day, Neath had remained a Labour stronghold returning the following candidates;

1922 - 1944 - William Jenkins, 1945 - 1964 - David James Williams,

1964 - 1991 - Donald Coleman, 1991 - 2015 - Peter Hain, 2015 - present - Christina Rees

It is usual in the main that a number of parties will table candidates in election contests.  Apart from the usual 'big gun' parties there have been, over the years, some surprising fringe factions appearing on the ballot paper.

(1929) - Unionist

(1983) - Computer Democrat

(1991) - a 'bumper' year

Local Labour Independent

Monster Raving Looney, when David Edward Sutch famously known by his stage    name 'Screaming Lord Sutch' stood. (sadly, he would commit suicide in 1999)

Barry Kirk stood as Captain Beany of the Bean Party

(1997) - Referendum

Legalise Cannabis, when the candidate was the notorious Welsh drug smuggler Howard Marks (Mr Nice)

(2001) - Pro Life Alliance

 Socialist Alliance

(2005) - Respect

(2010) - BNP (British National Party)


(2019) - Brexit

Most of these factions garnered only a handful of votes and candidates may only have stood for the reason of advertising their cause, or out of pure vanity.  However, possibly the most interesting challenge took place at the Neath By-Election of 1945 (caused by the death of William Jenkins in 1944) when one of the contenders was the Revolutionary Communist Party with their candidate Jock Haston.

The RCP was a British Trotskyist group formed in 1944 who were supporters of the political ideology and branch of Marxism developed by the Ukranian/Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky.  The south and west Wales coalfields held many supporters of the Communist Party, but loyalties waned when after June 1941 they supported the War effort and condemned unofficial strikes.  The vacuum thus created on the left gave an opportunity for the Trotskyists to exploit.  The Neath branch of the 'Anti-Labour Laws Defence Committee' was supported by local miners' lodges which gave the RCP the view that Neath was an area of advance Labour views.

Although they knew that they would not win the seat they saw the election as an opportunity to present their views to the public.  The Neath Guardian reported 'Jock Haston is an outstanding orator who answered all questions with good humour.'

From left to right: Anne Ward, Bill Davy, Sastry, John Lawrence, Heaton Lee, Ted and Jimmy Deane

The by-election was fought between the Labour Party, the RCP, and the Welsh Nationalist Party [now Plaid Cymru] with the Conservative and Liberal parties unrepresented because of a political truce.  However, there was a real fight between the RCP and the Communist Party (who were supporting Labour).  In a booklet 'Trounce the Trotskyists' Alun Thomas of the CP said that 'Trotskyists are a greater menace and far more dangerous than a Fascist paratrooper' a claim that he followed up with statements from the Moscow show trial of Nikolai Bukharin who was charged with conspiring to overthrow the Soviet state. The RCP exposed this as a frame up.  The RCP itself held 70 public meetings and distributed 30,000 leaflets at places of work.  A debate between Alun Thomas and Jock Haston at the Gwyn Hall was attended by 1,500 people.




Jock Haston in discussion outside the Neath election campaign headquarters on  Alfred Street near the Neath & District Auto Co. Ltd.

The results of the election were:

DJ Williams (Labour) - 30,847

W Samuel (Welsh Nationalist) - 6,290

Jock Haston (RCP) - 1.781

Even though the RCP were happy with the result, after all of this considerable effort the long term effect was small with only six new members joining the Neath branch.  This disappeared soon after the collapse of the RCP in 1949 following debates on the nature of the class struggles in Russia.

It seems that Haston's relations with DJ Williams were personally harmonious since later in 1949 Williams was instrumental in finding Haston a job with the National Council of Labour Colleges where he became a lecturer.  Following this he was educational director for the Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbing Union (EEPTU).


For all that it remains one of the many unique chapters in the history of Neath.


More detailed information on Jock Haston, the RCP and the Neath by-election of 1944 can readily be found through online searches.  


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