The Truth about Camborne

Much interest was manifested last month concerning the electoral activities of the Social-Democratic Federation, when it was publicly asserted, on oath, that the candidature of Cllr. Jack Jones, S.D.F., for the Mining Division of Cornwall, was being financed by “Tory gold.”

The allegation was made at a public meeting held at the Public Hall, Camborne, on Saturday, June 3rd, when Mr. James Lightwood read documents, which he and his wife had sworn to. The following are the essential extracts :

“I, James Lightwood, solemnly and sincerely declare as follows :—

“For several years past I was superintendent of a number of model dwellings situate in Seaward Street, East Finsbury, which Mr. Richards, K.C., represents in Parliament as a Conservative. I became very friendly with Mr. Richards, and on more than one occasion have I discussed with him and his friends the political aspect of the Housing question.
“I had an interview with Mr. Richards some days prior to the 23rd of January, 1904, at my house. He told me he had a friend who was coming up from Redruth. He said ‘He is a fine fellow, you will like him very much.’ As he was going he said to my wife,’ Mrs. Lightwood, how would you like to see your husband an M.P. ? ‘She replied ‘He is happier as he is.’

“On the 23rd of January, 1904, I received from, Mr. Richards a postcard in the following words :—

“Dear Mr. Lightwood,—I shall call on you on Saturday between 5 and 5.15 with a friend from Redruth, and if you are free I hope you will wait in for me or write when you will be free Saturday or Sunday after 6.

“On the evening of the same day I received the postcard, Mr. Richards called as appointed. He brought with him a gentleman whom he then introduced to me as the gentleman from Redruth. This gentleman was Mr. Cheux, the Unionist Agent for the Mining Division of Cornwall. On this introduction Mr. Richards left, as he said he had to be off to the House. Mr. Cheux said that he had been deputed by a wealthy gentleman in Cornwall, who was a great sympathiser with the Socialist movement, to find a man who would, stand as a candidate for the Mining Division. He said he wanted me to be the candidate, as Mr. Richards had spoken very highly of my qualifications. I declined to consider the matter. He pressed me as he said I was a Cornishman, a native of the Mining Division, and that I had worked in the mines as a boy (all of which was true). I told him that even if my qualifications were sufficient, I could not go down into the constituency without a local mandate. I suggested his applying to the Labour party for a man, but he demurred. I then suggested his applying to the Social Democratic Federation.
“On Thursday, January 28th, 1904, Mr. Lee, Secretary of the Social Democratic Federation, called on me. I knew Mr. Lee slightly. Mr. Lee said a gentleman from Redruth had asked him (Lee) to meet him at my house, and that they were anxious for me to become the candidate, and that a rich friend of the Redruth gentleman would find the money. Mr. Cheux did not, however, turn up while Mr. Lee was with me, .but a few minutes after Mr. Lee had gone he called. He apologised for being late and hurried off to catch Mr. Lee at the office of the Social Democratic Federation. On Feb. 5th, 1904, I received a letter from Mr. H. W. Lee; this letter was written on the ordinary note paper of the Social Democratic Federation, and was in words as follows :—

“Mr. J. Lightwood,
4, Bartholomew Buildings, E.C.
Dear Comrade,
Shortly after I reached the office after seeing you last Thursday the gentleman came up. From what he said he seemed inclined towards you yourself running for the Camborne Division. Have you seen him since, and has he said anything more to you about your coming forward ? Because if you thought of doing anything in that direction, we should be perfectly willing, I am sure, to leave it at that.
To-day another gentleman has been up. He says he comes from the one who saw me last Thursday. I gave him the decision of the Committee, which was to the effect that before we could actually decide that someone from the S.D.F. should go down to Camborne, and prepare the way, so to speak; that is to say, it would not be the best tactics, to put a candidate down upon the Division unless some preparations had been made beforehand. To this proposal he readily agreed, and stated that he had been authorised to place something of the same suggestion before us. He says he will come in and see me again before next Tuesday, when the matter again comes forward for consideration.
I thought I would let you know how the matter stands at present, and I think I will call and see you on Saturday morning at about 11, if that will be convenient for you.
Yours fraternally,
H. W. LEE.”

“A few days after the receipt of this letter Mr. Lee again called, accompanied by Mr. Green, the Treasurer of the Social Democratic Federation, and Mr. Cheux, and a fourth gentleman. They were with me over an hour ; my wife gave them tea. They all urged me to accept the position of Socialist candidate, and Mr. Lee explained that my candidature would be endorsed by the Social Democratic Federation, and Mr. Cheux urged that his Socialist friend would pay the Federation all the expenses incurred, and that the Federation would remunerate rne for my trouble. I persisted in my refusal, although they continued to urge me for a long time, but when they found I was obstinate they left, and I understood the Social Democratic Federation would find another person to undertake the job.
“I have in my possession a number of letters in addition to those to which I have referred in this my Declaration. Some from Mr. Richards, some from Mr. Lee, some from Mr. Cheux, and some from Mr. Hamilton. As these letters relate to a matter at present the subject of litigation, I am informed I should not be justified in setting them out here.
“Declared this 29th day of May, 1905. Before me,
“A Commissioner for Oaths.”

The Executive of the S.D.F. have issued an oflicial pronouncement, and state that:—

“It is not true that the secretary of the Social Democratic Federation, Mr. H. W. Lee, approached Mr. Lightwood about the running of a Socialist candidate at Camborne. It was Mr. Lightwood who first called at the offices of the Social Democratic Federation. It is not true that our secretary arranged to meet the “gentleman from Redruth” at Mr. Lightwood’s office. It was Mr. Lightwood who arranged the meeting, stating the time when our secretary was to call. Mr. H. W. Lee consented to call, after consulting the Organisation Committee, who agreed that he should go with a ‘watching brief’ and report afterwards. It is not true that when Mr. J. F. Green, our treasurer, and the secretary called subsequently at Mr. Lightwood’s office they found Mr. Cheux there. Mr. Cheux, they assure us, is absolutely unknown to them, and his name has never been mentioned in connection with any proposed Socialist candidature in the Mining Division. It is not true that at the interview in question Mr. Lightwood was pressed to become the candidate, or that the Social Democratic Federation offered to pay his expenses.
“Mr. Lightwood, when in London, though not a member we believe of the Independent Labour Party, and certainly not of the Social Democratic Federation, was, nevertheless, known to members of both bodies in Clerkenwell and Finsbury as a sympathiser with the Socialist movement. We were the more disposed, therefore, to consider a proposal of the character mentioned coming from him than we might have been from an entire stranger. Moreover, we were anxious to take advantage of any bona-fide offer, as for some years past members of the Social Democratic Federation who knew the Mining Division have declared that it could be won in time by a Social Democratic candidate. The Social Democratic Federation would do nothing in the way of putting forward a Social-Democratic candidate at Camborne until propaganda work had been carried on and literature distributed in order to make our principles known among the people, and until enquiries conducted by the secretary and treasurer convinced them that the offer to assist financially in running a Socialist candidate in Camborne came from a sympathetic private, arid not a political party source.
“The one important point on which the whole of Mr. Lightwood’s statement centres is that the offer to assist financially the expenses of a Socialist candidate in the Mining Division came from, or was prompted by Mr. Reginald Cheux, acting as the election agent for Mr. Strauss, the Unionist candidate. That, if true, would undoubtedly suggest that the Unionist candidate believed that the presence of a Socialist candidate would be to his political advantage for which he was willing to pay. The Social Democratic Federation has always been willing to accept help from any quarter so long as no conditions are attached and no restrictions placed upon our speeches, and actions, providing always that the help comes from a private and sympathetic source, but not from a political party, centrally or locally, with a view to using Socialist work, organisation and influence for its own particular ends. We have been, and are still, convinced that the help for the Socialist candidature in the Mining Division is from a private and sympathetic source, and we see no reason, until Mr. Cheux’s connection with that assistance is established, to alter our opinion.”

Mr. R. F. Cheux has sent a communication to the Press in which he refers to Mr. Lightwood’s story as “preposterous” and “manifestly absurd ” but makes no denial of the statements excepting the following :—

“At present I need do no more than refer the public to the categorical denials of the officers of the Social Democratic Federation which have appeared in the columns of to-day’s Press, and to state that at the time of the select ‘tea party’ which Mr. Lightwood says took place at his house, and at which I was alleged to be present, I was as a matter of fact in Cornwall ”

The name of Mr. A. E. Fletcher having been mentioned in connection with the matter, that gentleman made the following statement to a representative of Reynold’s Newspaper:—

“My position is this. I was asked by the secretary of the S.D.F. if I would go down to Camborne as the Labour candidate, as they considered I was the one man who was acceptable to the miners of this division. A friend of the Socialist movement, who wished his name not to be mentioned, was prepared to pay the whole of the cost if a Labour candidate, acceptable to the miners, was adopted. He also said that the present Liberal candidate was a member of the Rosebery faction, who had offered to retire if a Labour candidate were adopted. I said, if these conditions were carried out, I would go and address a meeting, and that I had no ambition to go into Parliament, but my ambition was to further the Socialist cause; but if I were accepted as a Labour candidate I would stand. But I was not aware that Mr. Dunn’s promise to retire if a suitable Labour candidate was found was made two years ago, and I went down to Camborne. They listened to me, but the meeting was packed with Mr. Dunn’s men. They heckled me, and asked if Mr. Dunn’s promise was to be considered perpetual. I replied no, it could not be forever; but he was a Jingo and a member of the Rosebery faction, supported the Boer War, and so on. But his chief supporter said, ‘If you had been first in the field we should have adopted you.’ Finding I had been misinformed as to Mr. Dunn’s promise, and not being satisfied where the money was coming from, I retired. I am convinced that Mr. Lee, the secretary of the S.D.F., believed that the money was coming from a sympathetic source, and had no idea that it was to be supplied by the Tory party. In fact, he told me it was not coming from any political source.”

Mr. Lightwood’s promised further revelations will be awaited with interest, and in the meantime let us ask :—

1) Why Mr. and Mrs. Lightwood should render themselves liable to a criminal prosecution for perjury if they have sworn to lies ?
2) Whether Mr. H. W. Lee’s statement can be believed in view of the fact that at the Annual Conference of the S.D.F. At Shoreditch in 1903, he admitted that he had lied to the delegates at the previous Conference, and declared his intention of doing so again if he considered it necessary in the interests of the S.D.F. Is the present an occassion when it is necessary to lie “in the interests of the S.D.F.”?

It will be noticed :—

1) That although the S.D.F. now declare that they knew Mr. Lightwood only “as a sympathiser with the Socialist movement,” Mr. H. W. Lee wrote him the remarkable letter which Mr. Lightwood received on Feb. 5th, 1904. If that incriminating document is a forgery why has not the S.D.F. instituted proceedings against the forger ?
2) That although these negotiations with the mysterious unnamed gentlemen took place in Jan. and Feb., 1904, the members of the S.D.F., assembled in Annual Conferences at Easter, 1904 and Easter 1905, were told nothing of the circumstances. If the Executive of the S.D.F. cannot trust their own members, how can the members trust the Executive ?
3) That although the S.D.F deny that they know Mr. Cheux, they do not give the names of either of the gentlemen who interviewed them, and who were admittedly acting only as agents;
4) That the S.D.F. declare their willingness to accept help from any quarter, so long as no conditions are attached. But here there were conditions, viz., that the money should be used, not as the S.D.F. Executive thought best, but in making a three-cornered contest in a particular constituency,
5) That, with the exception of the last paragraph, Mr. Cheux’s letter is an evasion. Mr. Lightwood has sworn that he holds letters from Mr. Cheux ;
6) That the S.D.F. misled Mr. A. E. Fletcher concerning Mr. Dunn’s promise; That although the S.D.F. were convinced that the money came from a sympathetic private source, they could not satisfy Mr. Fletcher, who visited the constituency, on that point;
7) That the S.D.F. statement, which appeared in Justice, was preceded by an intimation that “another statement will be at once sent out to the branches.” In what reespect will this differ from the public statement ?

Leave a Reply