A first political rally in Great Linford
On June 2nd, 1885 and having been refused leave to use the school room on The High Street for a meeting, the villagers chose to convene in the street outside the school so as to hear the liberal candidate Captain Edmund Verney speak. This was reported by the Northampton Mercury as the first political meeting ever held in the village, and with the crowd filling the street, Captain Verney was cheered and held court for an hour, speaking principally on the so called “land question.” The “land question” was something that in one form or another had vexed the country for hundreds of years, but in 1885 the debate centred on the relationship between landowner and tenant agricultural workers, so it seems understandable that Verney would have attracted a considerable audience from amongst the rural population of Great Linford.
The throng dispersed at about 9pm and Verney would go on to win the North Buckinghamshire seat in an upset byelection, defeating his Tory rival by a majority of 1456 out of 9468 votes cast.
Reporting on his victory, an article in The Oxfordshire Telegraph of Wednesday December 9th spoke darkly of the pressures brought to bear upon working class voters by supporters of the Tory candidate. “The agricultural labourers in the villages, and the mechanics and artisans in the towns, have behaved nobly. They have maintained their principles in many instances at the cost of no little sacrifice. Every conceivable form of pressure has in several districts been brought to bear upon them and the influence and presence of the employer or landlord have been exercised and felt up to the very threshold of the polling station.”
We might presume that the paper had a liberal bias so the accusations expressed might be open to question, but it is perhaps telling that the liberals had been refused leave to use the Great Linford school room for their meeting, while over the coming years no such restrictions seems to have been placed on their Tory rivals, who used the school on a regular basis for meetings. That there might have been some favouritism at work has some credence, given that in this period the school master William Chetwynd was the chairman of the Conservative and Unionist Club in the village.