Victor Grayson

Albert Victor Grayson (born 5 September 1881, disappeared 28 September 1920) was an English socialist politician of the early 20th century, belonging to the Independent Labour Party (ILP). A Member of Parliament (MP) from 1907 to 1910, Grayson is most notable for his sensational by-election victory at Colne Valley in 1907, and for his unexplained disappearance in 1920.

Albert Victor Grayson
Victor Grayson MP.jpg
Grayson c. 1908
Member of Parliament
for Colne Valley
In office
18 July 1907 – January 1910
Preceded byJames Kitson, 1st Baron Airedale
Succeeded byCharles Leach
Personal details
Born(1881-08-05)5 August 1881
Liverpool, England, UK
DiedUnknown
Political partyIndependent Labour Party
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/service New Zealand Army
Battles/wars
DisappearedSeptember 28, 1920 (aged 39)
StatusPresumed dead

Early yearsEdit

Albert Victor Grayson was born in Liverpool, the seventh son of William Grayson, a Yorkshire carpenter, and Elizabeth Craig, who was Scottish.[1] He became an apprentice engineer in Bootle.[1] Grayson joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and toured the country giving lectures, becoming a well-known orator despite having a stammer. In 1907 he stood as an ILP candidate in the 1907 Colne Valley by-election, having been nominated by the Colne Valley Labour League; he won a sensational, albeit narrow, victory. Grayson was paid an allowance by the ILP but refused to sign the Labour Party constitution.

Grayson was subject to an amusing assessment by Winston Churchill in 1908: "The Socialism of the Christian era was based on the idea that, 'All mine is yours,' but the Socialism of Mr Grayson is based on the idea that 'All yours is mine.'"[2] Writing of Grayson in an article on British radical politics in Pravda, Vladimir Lenin noted that Grayson was "a very fiery socialist, but one not strong in principles and given to phrase-mongering."[3]

Grayson rarely attended the House of Commons and began to develop a drinking problem. After losing his seat in the January 1910 general election, and failing even to retain his deposit when standing for Kennington, he continued his lecture tours but suffered a mental breakdown in 1913. Grayson later alienated many of his left-wing colleagues by backing Britain's entry into World War I and turning his oratorical skills to recruiting soldiers. He enrolled in 1916 and served briefly in the New Zealand Army and was wounded the following year on the Western Front. After the war, Grayson attempted to resurrect his political career.

Personal lifeEdit

In 1912, Grayson married Ruth Nightingale, a young actress with boyish looks, with whom he had a daughter. The marriage was unhappy, however, and Ruth died in the 1918 influenza epidemic.[4]

Grayson appears to have been bisexual. In the 1980s, a collection of love letters that he had written to Harry Dawson, a fellow Merseyside socialist, was discovered. Both men had an affair which lasted several years.[5]

Honours scandalEdit

In 1918, Sir Basil Thomson, head of the Special Branch, asked Maundy Gregory to spy on Grayson, suspecting him of working as an agent for the new communist government in Russia or for the Irish Republican Army. Grayson discovered that Gregory was spying on him and, with the help of some important friends, found out that Prime Minister David Lloyd George was using Gregory to sell political honours.

At a public meeting in Liverpool, Grayson accused Lloyd George of selling honours for between £10,000 and £40,000. He declared: "This sale of honours is a national scandal. It can be traced right down to 10 Downing Street, and to a monocled dandy with offices in Whitehall. I know this man, and one day I will name him." Grayson's "monocled dandy" remark let Gregory know that he was in danger of being exposed. At the beginning of September 1920, Grayson was beaten up in the Strand. This was probably an attempt to frighten him, but he continued threatening to name the man behind the corrupt system.

DisappearanceEdit

By 1920, Grayson was living in an expensive suite of rooms in Piccadilly, although he earned only a modest income from occasional pieces of journalism.[6] Biographer David Clark believes that, having alienated both the socialists and the trade unions, Grayson had entered into blackmail in order to fund his lavish lifestyle.[6]

On 28 September 1920, Grayson was out drinking with friends when he received a telephone message. He told his friends that he had to go to the Queen's Hotel in Leicester Square and would be back shortly. He did not return.[7]

Journalist Donald McCormick claims that artist George Flemwell had been painting a picture of the Thames when he saw Grayson entering a house (Number 6, The Island, Thames Ditton) on the river bank on 28 September 1920. Flemwell knew Grayson, having painted his portrait before the war, but did not realise the significance at the time because Grayson was not reported missing until several months later. An investigation carried out in the 1960s revealed that the house that Grayson entered was owned by Gregory. Research by Andrew Cook, however, suggests that McCormick may have fabricated the story.[8]

It has been speculated that Grayson was murdered to prevent his revealing evidence of corruption. However, a comprehensive biography by David G. Clark suggests his possible survival into the 1950s under a pseudonym. Clark believes Grayson was bribed in order to keep quiet about the honours scandal, and was told to forge a new identity.[6] Clark also argued that Grayson was bisexual, a claim repeated elsewhere.[9][10]

See alsoEdit

FootnotesEdit

  1. ^ a b Mystery of Left's maverick Nally, Michael. The Observer (1901- 2003) [London (UK)] 30 August 1981: 4.
  2. ^ Dr. Larry Arnn (13 October 2015). Churchill's Trial: Winston Churchill and the Salvation of Free Government. Thomas Nelson. pp. 155–. ISBN 978-1-59555-531-1.
  3. ^ V.I. Lenin, "British Socialist Party Conference," Pravda, No. 109, 14 May 1913. Reprinted in V.I. Lenin: Collected Works, Vol. 19. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1963. Page 93.
  4. ^ Bloch, Michael (2015). Closet Queens. Little, Brown. p. 240. ISBN 978-1408704127.
  5. ^ Bloch, Michael (2015). Closet Queens. Little, Brown. p. 240. ISBN 978-1408704127.
  6. ^ a b c Coman, Julian (10 May 2020). "A century on, whatever happened to Labour's firebrand lost leader?". The Observer. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  7. ^ admin. "Victor Grayson – 1920 | Criminal Encyclopedia". Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  8. ^ Andrew Cook (1 May 2013). Cash for Honours: The Story of Maundy Gregory. History Press Limited. p. 63. ISBN 978-0-7524-9621-4.
  9. ^ Andrew Cook (1 May 2013). Cash for Honours: The Story of Maundy Gregory. History Press Limited. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-7524-9621-4.
  10. ^ Bloch, Michael (2015). Closet Queens. Little, Brown. p. 240. ISBN 978-1408704127.

Further readingEdit

  • David Clark, Victor Grayson: Labour's Lost Leader (Quartet Books, London, 1985) ISBN 0-7043-2539-X
  • Reg Groves, The Strange Case of Victor Grayson (Pluto Press, London, 1975) ISBN 0- 902818775

External linksEdit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir James Kitson, Bt.
Member of Parliament for Colne Valley
19071910
Succeeded by
Charles Leach