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Walter Runciman

(1870—1949) politician


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(b. South Shields, 19 Nov. 1870; d. Doxford, Northumberland, 13 Nov. 1949) British; president of the Board of Education 1908 –11, Agriculture and Fisheries 1911 –14, Board of Trade 1914 –16 and 1931 –7; Baron 1937 After a Cambridge education and a spell in the family shipping firm Runciman sought a political career in the Liberal Party. He won the seat of Oldham West in 1899 but lost it to Winston Churchill the following year. In 1902 he re-entered parliament by winning Dewsbury at a by-election. He was on the fringe of the Cabinet when he was appointed Financial Secretary to the Treasury in the 1906 Liberal government. He had already shown a competence in financial and economic matters. Entry to the Cabinet followed a year later when he was made president of the Board of Education. He held a number of other posts before resigning along with Prime Minister Asquith in 1916. He remained hostile to Lloyd George.

The 1918 general election produced a landslide for Lloyd George's coalition government and Runciman, along with a number of other non-Lloyd George supporting Liberals, lost his seat. In 1924 he returned to the Commons as MP for Swansea West and in 1929 for St Ives. For most of these years he combined his interest in politics with a career in business. During the 1931 economic crisis he supported the national government and sat as a National Liberal until 1937 and was president of the Board of Trade in the government. On leaving the government in 1937 he was given a peerage. His mission to Czechoslovakia in 1938, designed to mend that country's relations with Germany, failed.

Runciman was prepared to treat some of his Liberal values lightly. In the 1914 –18 war he accepted conscription and food rationing. Although the national government's adoption of tariffs in 1932 led to the resignation of a number of Liberals, Runciman remained.

From A Dictionary of Political Biography in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Politics.


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