Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Sir Percy Harris

The Parliament website has a short biography of Sir Percy Harris, who was Matthew Taylor's great-grandfather:

Harris; Sir; Percy, Alfred (1876-1952); 1st baronet, politician

Sir Percy Harris was educated at Harrow and at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He was called to the bar by the Middle Temple, but never practised. Instead, he was for some years engaged in the prosperous wholesale and manufacturing firm of Bing, Harris, which his father had founded in New Zealand. Harris first helped to look after the London office, then spent three years in New Zealand. His lifelong interest in that country found expression in his book 'New Zealand and its Politics' (1909).

Harris returned to England in 1903. From then on, his main interest was in politics, where he took his stand firmly on the Liberal side. In 1907 he was elected a Progressive (Liberal) member of the London County Council for South-West Bethnal Green. He played an important part in the work of the Council, becoming chief Progressive whip in 1912 and deputy chairman in 1915-16. His book 'London and its Government' (1913, rewritten 1931) was considered a standard work of its kind.

Harris entered Parliament at a by-election at Market Harborough in 1916. His main work in the short remainder of the wartime Parliament was as a member of the select committee on national expenditure. In the election which followed the armistice in 1918 he suffered for his loyalty to Asquith, and the refusal of the "coupon" by the coalition leaders was sufficient to ensure his defeat.

In 1922 Harris returned to Parliament as member for South-West Bethnal Green. He was created a baronet in 1932; was chief Liberal whip in 1935-45; and in 1940, on Winston Churchill's recommendation, was sworn of the Privy Council. Harris held Bethnal Green in six successive general elections; for years his constituency was the only Liberal seat in or within a hundred miles of London.

You can also find photographs of the old boy here and here.

1 comment:

asquith said...

I remember him. I used to go out drinking with him in the 1910s.