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The Returning Officer: Bolton II

A last minute Labour deal affects a Bolton by-election.

The Liberal MP for Bolton George Harwood died in November 1912. The resulting by-election was fought by Thomas Taylor for the Liberals and the Tory Arthur Brooks. It was reported that Joseph Leach, the national secretary of the Industrial Socialist Party, and T W Stewart, a “free-thought socialist lecturer” who was “known locally as Dr Nikola”, were to stand but neither ended up on the ballot paper.

Dr Nikola, creation of Guy Boothby.

“Dr Nikola” was a fictional villain created by the Australian author Guy Boothby. It was noted that 5,000 people had left the electoral register since the election of 1910, 800 of them having emigrated to Canada or Australia. Taylor won and Brooks wrote to the Manchester Courier: “We were defeated, of course, by the ‘deal’ between Labour and radicalism at the last moment.”

This article first appeared in the 20 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Still hanging