Leeds MPs

DAWSON, Richard (1855–1923) Conservative. Barrister.

Originally from Limerick, he stood in the 1885 election for Leeds East. About a quarter of the electorate here were Irish. Two days before the election Charles Stewart Parnell, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, urged all Irishmen to vote against the Liberals in protest at Gladstone failure to support Home Rule. It was said the Liberals resorted to underhand campaigning, including threatening voters their property would be damaged if they failed to vote for them. Parnell’s dictum, however, held sway. Dawson won by 345 votes no doubt helped by his assertion that if elected he would raise the problem of unemployment and propose introducing public works to alleviate the problem. His gift for oratory and his ‘strongly diluted Conservatism’ may also have played a part, as well as support from the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches and the brewers. Once in Parliament he became private secretary to Rt. Hon. Henry Chaplin, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Gladstone then changed his policy, Parnell now advised support for the Liberals and in the general election of 1886, John Gane romped home defeating Dawson by 1,110 votes. For further reading see Yorkshire Post, 29 June 1886; Alumni Oxoniensis (1715–1886) vol. I.