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Gower

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Vol. 13, 1960

The 'Khaki Election' in Gower

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appearance of the Eisteddfod bard, who taught at Capel Gomer
Sunday School.(21) In industrial affairs he had often played
a stormy role he had been one of the minority of miners'
representatives who had declined to sign the settlement ending the
1898 stoppage, and had clashed violently with Sir W. T. Lewis
himself.(22) But plitically he was conservative. His union voted by
23-10 against endorsing Hodge's candidature, and Williams
intervened in the campaing on the grounds that the offical candidate
of the Liberal Association should be accepted.(23) He defended
himself on the charge of political blacklegism'. The attitude of
leading miners' representatives turned the scale.
The campaign was run by the Liberals on the traditional
church and chapel' platform. Only faint echoes of the South
African War were heard after the official nomination. In the event
Hodge ran Aeron Thomas close, polling 3,853 votes against 4,276.
There followed a torrent of recrimination and abuse in the press
which almost brought the editor of Llais Llafur one of his frequent
appearances in a libel case. The Labour Leader reviled the coal-
master, moneylender, brewer and employer of women dockers,'(24)
Aeron Thomas, with a brave artistic licence. Once again, the
religious humbugs' had exploited fear of employment, credulity
and greed.(25) John Williams in particular was much abused.
The traditional excuse of over-confidence was also offered as
an explanation for defeat. But to those who could look further
afield, the emerging power of organized labour was a more significant
portent than a temporary setback. In 1903 the secretary of Cardiff
Liberal Association noted that Gower was lost to Labour ’.(26)
For if Labour lost the battle in Gower in 1900, it ultimately
won the campaign. The hysteria of the Boer War passed, while
the threat to labour contained in the Taff Vale decision and the
Glamorgan stop-day' verdict stirred even the S.W.M.F. to self
defence. A Miners' Parliamentary Fund was set up in 1901, and
in 1900 Labour (though not yet the Labour Party), far better
organized by now, fought Gower again and won. Their candidate
was none other than the erstwhile political blackleg', John
Williams.(27) At this same general election, Hodge was returned
for Gorton and in due course was to serve in the wartime coalition
government. (28) The tinplate unions revived also under the
impact of the Conciliation Board in 1904 Phillips was replaced
as secretary of the Tin and Sheet Millmen.(29) Labour candidates,
encouraged by recent successes at Swansea, made gains in many
elections for local councils, Boards of Guardians and School
Boards, particularly at Pontardulais. Until 1914, the process of
change was slow in the Western valleys the population remained
more homogeneous and less influenced by the ideologies of the
new immigrants. Even so, in the year of the Khaki Election can
be seen the emergence of a new pattern, which has survived personal
recrimination, economic depression and cultural upheaval, down
to our own time.
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