Born 1873 Died 1946
Charles Butt Stanton was the Member of Parliament for Merthyr Boroughs (1915-1918) and Aberdare (1918-1922).
Born in Aberaman, Aberdare in Glamorganshire on the 7th April 1873 Stanton was educated at the British School in Aberaman. On leaving school he went to work as a pageboy in Bridgend, but later returned to Aberdare to work as a miner. He first came to attention during the Hauliers' Strike of 1893, during which he was alleged to have fired a gun during a clash between the miners and the police, and was subsequently convicted of possession of a firearm without a licence and sentenced to six months imprisonment. He later played an active part in the South Wales coal strike of 1898, after which he left for London and became a dock worker and took part in the London dock strike of 1898. He soon returned to Aberdare however and later became the South Wales Miners' Federation agent and one of the miners' leaders during the Cambrian Combine Strike of 1910 which led to the Tonypandy Riots; being of course the dispute which led to Winston Churchill allegedly authorising the use of troops from the Somerset Light Infantry.
In addition to being an industrial militant, he was a self-declared "revolutionary Marxian Socialist, believing in the class war"; the first secretary of the Aberdare Socialist Society, an active member of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) who became president of the South Wales ILP, and a member of the Aberdare Urban District Council from 1903 to 1908. But having been described as "one of the most notorious advocates of industrial unrest", everything changed for Stanton with the outbreak of World War I, after which he became either a "jingoistic demagogue" or an "arch-patriot", depending on one's point of view. Or as Stanton put it himself "In times of distress and trouble I stand in with my country", an attitude that led him into conflict with the bulk of the Independent Labour Party. Indeed when the ILP announced a meeting in favour of peace at Aberdare on the 6th August 1914 Stanton, although advertised as the chairman of the meeting, flatly refused to even attend.
Matters came to a head following the death of Keir Hardie, one of the Members of Parliament for the local constituency of Merthyr Boroughs, on the 26th September 1915. This created a vacancy which, given the war-time true between the parties, should have led to the Labour candidate being returned unopposed. Stanton put his name forward for the Labour nomination as indeed did one of his political rivals James Winstone, the president of the South Wales Miners' Federation, although as it turned out it was Winstone who won the nomination.
However that was not the end of the matter as far as Stanton was concerned, particularly as Winstone was something of a pacifist and opposed to conscription. With the support of the Socialist National Defence Committee (which had been established specifically to counter such pacifist 'cranks' as Winstone), Stanton decided to stand against him as an Independent Labour - Pro-Coalition candidate "to fight against the Huns for our homeland", and spent much of his campaign attacking the ILP and Winstone for their failure to endorse conscription. The Merthyr by-election of the 25th November 1915 therefore became the first contested election of the war, and much to everyone's surprise Stanton won by the convincing margin of 10,286 votes to 6,084.
Stanton himself saw this as a vindication of his stance, since "If Merthyr Tydfil, the stronghold of the Independent Labour Party, utters its mandate in such clarion terms, be assured that the whole country, saving a handful of cranks or notoriety-hunters, is united." It might well have been the case that the result did indeed help convince the government that public opinion was in favour of the introduction of conscription, as a bill was put before the House of Commons shortly afterwards on the 6th January 1916.
Stanton subsequently became a major figure in, and a Vice-President of the British Workers' League (the successor organisation to the Socialist National Defence Committee) which generally spent its time disrupting the activities of the peace campaigners, with Stanton himself being one of the leaders of the "patriotic crowd" who broke up a peace meeting held at the Cory Hall in Cardiff on the 11th November 1916.
By the time of the next General Election was held on the 14th December 1918, the two member Merthyr Boroughs seat had been divided into two separate single member constituencies, and Stanton stood for the newly created Aberdare seat for the equally new National Democratic and Labour Party. His only opposition was Thomas Evan Nicholas, a Welsh speaking non-conformist minister, who stood as a Labour Pacifist. Stanton's manifesto demanded that "the filthy, murderous Huns" be made to pay for the war whilst he also wanted to "expel all aliens"; an attitude that was no doubt coloured by the fact that his son Clifford had been mentioned in despatches, but killed in action on the 31st July 1917. Stanton won again, this time by the even bigger margin of 22,824 votes to 6,229.
Stanton was awarded a CBE in 1920, however the National Democratic and Labour Party proved to be a short lived affair, particularly when the euphoria of victory became clouded by a post war economic slump, and normal service was resumed as far as domestic politics was concerned. Stanton stood as a National Liberal in the General Election of 1922, when he was defeated by the official Labour candidate George Henry Hall (later the Viscount Hall of Cynon Valley) by 15,487 votes to 20,704. He subsequently retired to Hampstead, joined the Liberal Party proper in 1928, and worked as a violinist and a publican, although he described himself as a 'lecturer and social reformer' and also acted in a number of films where his "distinguished appearance" enabled him to play assorted clergymen and aristocrats.
He was also the author of such political pamphlets as Facts for Federationists, and Maxims for Miners, and died in London on the 6th December 1946, being survived by his son Frank Stanton.
- ‘STANTON, Charles Butt’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, 1920–2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007
- Huw Morris-Jones, STANTON, CHARLES BUTT (1873-1946)
- Anthony Mor-O'Brien, The Merthyr Boroughs election, November 1915, Welsh History Review, Vol. 12, no. 4 (Dec. 1985)
- Anthony Mor-O'Brien, Patriotism on trial, Welsh History Review, Vol. 12, no. 1 (June 1984)
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission