Leeds MPs

WALTON, John Lawson (1852–1908) Liberal. Barrister.

In 1877 he was called to the bar and joined the North-Eastern Circuit. In 1890 he became a QC and by this time had one of the largest and most successful practices. He supported the Liberals as an original member of the Eighty Club, a gentleman’s club aligned to the Liberal Party, and in 1891 toyed with the idea of standing for Battersea but then stood aside to allow John Burns to contest it. The general election of 1892 saw him invited to stand for Leeds Central as the Liberal candidate but he was defeated by Gerald Balfour, the sitting member by 113 votes. In August 1892 Sir Lyon Playfair, MP for Leeds South, was elevated to the Lords and Walton was asked to stand in the by-election. He was successful and continued to hold the seat until he retired in 1910. He continued his legal practice in both civil and criminal cases and was in great demand as his fame spread. An imperialist, he supported Roseberry’s position and helped found the Liberal Imperial League. Nevertheless, it did not prevent him accepting a position in 1905 in the anti-imperialist Campbell-Bannerman’s administration. He was appointed Attorney-General and knighted. His days were spent in the courts and his evenings at Westminster. He found it difficult, however, to relate to his working-class constituents in Hunslet, lacking the common touch of Playfair the previous incumbent. Nevertheless, his worth as an MP was well recognised; as one member remarked to him, ‘You look the part.’ For further reading see Yorkshire Post, 20 January 1908.