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Common Wealth Party

Common Wealth Party. Formed in 1942, Common Wealth was a merger of a movement Forward March, formed by the Liberal MP Sir Richard Acland, and the 1941 Committee of the playwright J. B. Priestley. An idealistic, socialist party, its membership was heavily middle class. Its two main themes were common ownership and vital democracy. The major parties had an electoral truce during the war. This gave a great fillip to Common Wealth, which won Conservative seats at Skipton and Eddisbury: it also supported an independent candidate who won easily in West Derbyshire. The party's application to Labour to affiliate was rejected, but it won another sweeping victory in April 1945 at Chelmsford, a safe Conservative seat.

Once the electoral truce was over, Common Wealth suffered the fate of most new parties in Britain. At the general election it held only Chelmsford, where Labour did not run a candidate. After the election, Acland called upon the party to dissolve and for its members to enrol with Labour as individuals. The success of Common Wealth, though fragile, foreshadowed the Labour victory of 1945.

Hugh Berrington

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