Leeds MPs

BAINES, Edward (1774–1848) Whig/Liberal. Editor.

In 1801 he acquired the ailing Leeds Mercury radically transforming it into the mouthpiece of Whiggery and Nonconformism in the West Riding. By the 1830s it had become the most influential provincial newspaper in the country. He campaigned against the slave trade, slavery and the Corn Laws, and was in favour of Parliamentary Reform, Catholic Emancipation, and Free Trade. His greatest editorial scoop was in 1817 when he revealed that the Government was using spies and agent provocateurs in the famous Oliver Affair. He became increasingly active in Leeds politics leading a campaign to wrest power from the Anglican/Tory axis by gaining control of the town’s vestry, and equally taking on the Whig grandees and squirearchy of the county in an effort to give power to the bourgeois middle-class manufacturers and merchants. He won the first ever by-election called in Leeds in 1834 when Macaulay resigned. He went on to retain the seat in both the1835 and 1837 elections. He retired in 1841. He was said to be the mouthpiece of Nonconformity at Westminister. For further reading see D. Thornton, Mr Mercury, the Life of Edward Baines 1774–1848 (Chesterfield, 2009).