The story of Burke, Blair and election
From philosopher/ parliamentarian Edmund to a pretty straight sort of guy called Tony, politicians of all hues have played a role in Beaconsfield, as historian Donald Stanley reveals
WHEN the voters of Beaconsfield go to the polls today in the 2015 General Election they will be accompanied, in spirit, by three former Prime Ministers.
Although one, the Conservative Benjamin Disraeli who was reputed to be Queen Victoria’s favourite, never lived in the town, in 1876 he took the titles 1st Earl of Beaconsfield and Viscount Hughenden.
It is believed that he chose Beaconsfield as a tribute to the political philosopher and parliamentarian Edmund Burke. Although Burke lived in the town and is buried in the parish church of St Mary’s, in 1794 he declined King George III’s offer to raise him to the peerage as Lord Beaconsfield.
Hughenden Manor, near High Wycombe, was Disraeli’s home from 1848 to 1881. It is now a National Trust property.
Despite being regarded as the safest Conservative seat, Beaconsfield has close associations with two former Labour Prime Ministers and the family of a third.
The death in 1982 of the sitting member, Sir Ronald Bell, led to a by-election in which the Labour candidate was the 29-year-old Tony Blair.
Undeterred by forfeiting his deposit as the 3,886 votes cast for him, compared to the 23,049 received by his successful Conservative opponent, fell below the threshold to retain it and halved his party’s vote, he went on to be more successful the following year when he was returned for the newly created constituency of Sedgefield in County Durham which he represented until retiring in 2007.
Sarah, the last Labour Prime Minister’s wife, was born Sarah Jane Macaulay in Beaconsfield in 1963. She married Gordon Brown in a private ceremony in Fife in 2000.
Felicity, one of three daughters of Clement Attlee – who served as Labour Prime Minister from 1945 to 1951 – lived for many years in the town with her husband and children.
At one time their neighbour was the children’s author, Enid Blyton. A teacher by profession Felicity was headmistress of a local school. One of her daughters served as town mayor.
When Felicity’s father retired he took his seat in the House of Lords as Earl Attlee and, in honour of the Buckinghamshire village near High Wycombe where he lived, the subsidiary title Viscount Prestwood.
Tony Blair canvassing in Beaconsfield for the Labour Party during May 1982, and below talking to a local resident