Horabin was born in Merthyr Tydfil and educated at Cardiff High School, and during the First World War he served from 1914 to 1918 with the Cameron Highlanders. After the war he went into business, and became chairman of Lacrinoid Ltd, which made buttons and other synthetic products. Later he worked as a business consultant, and worked with a company formed in 1948 to develop trade with Yugoslavia.
Following the death of Liberal Member of Parliament (MP), Sir Francis Acland in 1939, Horabin was selected by North Cornwall Liberals to defend the marginal seat at the resulting by-election. Along with his party leader, Sir Archibald Sinclair, he was a vocal opponent of Chamberlain's Nazi appeasement policy. This issue was central to the debate in the by-election, which he won with an increased majority of 1,464 in a straight fight with the Conservatives. He was also a strong advocate, along with Sir Stafford Cripps, of a Popular Front of left-of-centre parties coming together to defeat the Conservative led National government. He continued to hold the seat until 1950.
In 1944 he authored Politics Made Plain. What the next general election will really be about, a book published by Penguin which urged voters to reject Churchill and the Conservatives at the general election. He was re-elected in 1945 and appointed Liberal Chief Whip by the new Liberal leader, Clement Davies. However, he became frustrated with some of the pro-Conservative sympathies of some of his colleagues. He resigned his post and his party's whip in 1946 to sit as an Independent.
In January 1947, he was seriously injured when a BOAC aircraft in which he was a passenger crashed in Kent. He later sued BOAC for damages, and after hearings in the High Court, the case was settled in November 1952 when he accepted £3,017 in damages.
In November 1947 Horabin took the Labour whip. The North Cornwall Liberals wanted him to resign the seat and seek re-election, but he refused, saying that the principles for which he stood had been set out clearly in his address to voters at the general election.
At the 1950 election, Labour invited him to defend North Cornwall as a Labour candidate, but he refused on the grounds that he would then be campaigning against people who had previously campaigned for him. A further factor was that his injuries in the crash had been severe, keeping him away from Parliament for a year, and a campaign in the scattered North Cornwall constituency might have been too great a strain. Instead he fought Exeter as the Labour candidate, but lost to the sitting Conservative MP John Cyril Maude.
- Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "C" (part 6)
- "Mr. T. Horabin Former M.P. For North Cornwall". The Times. London. 30 April 1956. p. 13, col E. Retrieved 8 February 2011. (subscription required)
- Stenton, Michael; Lees, Stephens (1981). Who's Who of British Members of Parliament: Volume IV, 1945–1979. Brighton: The Harvester Press. p. 172. ISBN 0-85527-335-6.
- Craig, F. W. S. (1983) . British parliamentary election results 1918–1949 (3rd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 312. ISBN 0-900178-06-X.
- "Air Crash Near Folkestone Six Persons Killed, M.P. Among Injured Passengers". The Times. London. 13 January 1947. p. 2, col C. Retrieved 8 February 2011. (subscription required)
- "High Court Of Justice Queen's Bench Division, Dakota Crash In 1947: Settlement Of Action, Horabin v. British Overseas Airways Corporation". The Times. London. 7 November 1952. p. 11, col G. Retrieved 8 February 2011. (subscription required)
- "Mr. T. L. Horabin, M.P. Reasons For Joining Labour Party". The Times. London. 19 November 1947. p. 2, col B. Retrieved 8 February 2011. (subscription required)
- "Mr. Horabin's Change Of Party Reply To N. Cornwall". The Times. London. 28 November 1947. pp. 6, col E. Retrieved 8 February 2011. (subscription required)
- "Labour Victories On Minority Vote Split Vote Decisions At Bristol". The Times. London. 25 February 1950. p. 4, col B. Retrieved 8 February 2011. (subscription required)
- “Tom Horabin” - the maverick career of the radical Liberal MP by Jaime Reynolds and Ian Hunter: Journal of Liberal History, Issue 28, Autumn 2000
- “Tom Horabin remembered” – interview with Mary Wright, the daughter of Tom Horabin MP by Robert Ingham, Journal of Liberal History, Issue 53, Winter 2006-07
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Tom Horabin
- Portraits of Tom Horabin at the National Portrait Gallery, London
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
Sir Francis Dyke Acland
| Member of Parliament for North Cornwall
Sir Harold Roper
|Party political offices|
| Liberal Chief Whip