The next in our series on women MPs by the House of Commons Hansard Writing Team.
Cynthia Mosley (1898-1933) and Lucy Noel-Buxton (1888-1960) were both Labour MPs, but their political positions were fluid and they were influenced, in different ways, by their husbands’ careers. Elected in 1929 and 1930, they each addressed elements of unemployment insurance in their maiden speeches. Both went on to serve only for a short time: Mosley did not stand in the 1931 election and Noel-Buxton was defeated, although she returned to Parliament in 1945.
Lady Cynthia, the daughter of George Curzon—Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905 and Conservative Foreign Secretary from 1919 to 1924—and a protégée of Nancy Astor, married Oswald Mosley, then a Conservative MP, in 1920. Soon after, Oswald split from the Conservative party, and in 1924, both Cynthia and her husband joined the Labour party. She was sought as a candidate by a number of constituencies following her campaign work for her husband and was elected for Stoke-on-Trent in 1929, with a majority of 7,850 and a doubling of the Labour vote—the largest swing to Labour in the election.
Her maiden speech, on unemployment insurance and pensions, was praised by Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald for its “excellent matter and excellent style”, but afterwards she made only a handful of speeches in Parliament, mostly on planning and benefits.
Cynthia resigned from the Labour party on 3 March 1931—a decision she described as “heart-breaking”—to help her husband establish his New Party, which in 1932 became the British Union of Fascists. Heckled in Parliament about her lack of attendance, in July 1931, during another speech on unemployment issues, she replied: “I would not have come back on this particular occasion, if it had not been that all our prophecies have proved right, and that the Labour Government are doing the very things for which we left it”. She also told the press that in Parliament “it does not really matter what you say…it will have no effect on anyone at all”.
Although publicly she supported her husband in forming and campaigning for the New Party, Mosley had reservations about fascism and threatened to publish an advertisement in The Times dissociating herself from his views. Ill health and disillusionment with politics led her not to stand for re-election in October 1931, when her practical involvement in politics virtually ceased. In 1933, she died of peritonitis, following an operation for acute appendicitis.
Lucy Burn was campaigning for the Conservatives at the 1910 election when she met the man who was to become her husband and her parliamentary predecessor—Noel Edward Buxton, a Liberal candidate for North Norfolk. Despite her efforts and slogans such as “No Noel for North Norfolk”, he was returned to Westminster. In 1914, they were married. Noel became disillusioned with the Liberal party and joined Labour, becoming the Labour MP for his former seat in 1922.
Lucy, a published poet and fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society, was selected as the Labour candidate in the 1930 North Norfolk by-election that was triggered by her husband’s taking a seat in the Lords, as Lord Noel-Buxton. Although her selection was opposed by the National Union of Agricultural Workers—the area’s most powerful trade union—she was chosen and won the election by the narrow margin of 139 votes. She used her maiden speech to focus on widening the unemployment insurance scheme to include agricultural workers—an issue that had not yet been addressed. Thereafter, she did not speak often in Parliament, and she lost the following two elections. However, in the Labour landslide of 1945 she was returned as Labour MP for Norwich.
In 1919, Lucy had been a foundation trustee of the Noel Buxton Trust, overseeing its charitable spending in areas such as overseas development, and in Parliament she went on to focus mainly on colonial matters, including agriculture, land rights, democracy and education. She did not stand for re-election in 1950.
House of Commons Hansard Writing Team
Mosley’s maiden speech, 31 October 1929 (231 c417-22) (not in up to date Hansard)
Mosley’s contributions in Parliament https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/people/lady-cynthia-mosley/index.html
Biography of Mosley https://spartacus-educational.com/Cynthia_Mosley.htm
London Review of Books article on “Rules of the Game: Sir Oswald and Lady Cynthia Mosley 1896-1933″ by Nicholas Mosley (their son) https://www.lrb.co.uk/v04/n20/mary-kay-wilmers/attila-the-hus
Norfolk Record Office http://nrocat.norfolk.gov.uk/Dserve/dserve.exe?dsqServer=NCC3CL01&dsqIni=Dserve.ini&dsqApp=Archive&dsqCmd=show.tcl&dsqDb=Catalog&dsqPos=0&dsqSearch=(CatalogueRef==%27MC%202331%27)
Noel-Buxton’s maiden speech http://bit.ly/2JWeM8a
Contributions in Parliament https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/people/baroness-noel-buxton/index.html