1929 Election Manifesto and other political stories from the archive
06 May 2015
Posted by: Anna Stone
Subjects: Interesting stories
With the General Election imminent I thought I’d take a look in the archive for some stories with a political slant.
Over the years Aviva companies have insured their share of politicians including 5 Prime Ministers. The most famous of these was Winston Churchill who took out an accident policy with the Accident Insurance Co. in 1896, purchasing £1000 worth of accidental death cover for an annual premium of £6 14s.
A year earlier another future PM, David Lloyd George, had taken out a life policy with Northern Assurance while W E Gladstone selected Scottish Union as his insurers in 1840. Robert Walpole, Britain’s first Prime Minister, and the Duke of Wellington both insured their properties with our oldest constituent, Hand-in-Hand, in 1710 and 1817 respectively.
Lower down the political pecking order, Hand-in-Hand also insured George Palmer MP. In 1885 Mr Palmer took out a fire policy for £3000 to cover a flour mill in Reading plus granary and stables and adjacent dwelling house. He is perhaps better known for being the ‘Palmer’ part of biscuit manufacturer Huntley and Palmer than for his political contributions.
Another Aviva company, Scottish Union and National, had reason to regret their insurance of Charles Pelham Villiers MP.
Villiers sat in the House of Commons from 1835 – 1898 and holds the record for being the longest serving Member of Parliament. He also holds the record as the oldest candidate to win a parliamentary seat having won his last election at the age of 93. It was his longevity which caused a problem for Scottish Union and National, he had an annuity with the company for £3,500 pa and when his death, aged 96, was reported to the board it was noted that the company had lost £49,395 18s 2d on the policy.
As well as serving customers from the world of politics a search of the archive also reveals politicians among our staff. John Abel Smith, an MP between 1830 and 1859 was also one of the founders and the first treasurer of our constituent company Provident Mutual Life Assurance Association.
Other Aviva insurance company managers who combined business with politics included Francis Norrie Miller who represented Perth in Parliament, briefly, in 1935 while he was also managing General Accident.
Similarly, Samuel Bignold combined his role as secretary of both Norwich Union Fire and Norwich Union Life with representing Norwich in Parliament in the 1850s.
He was defeated in the defence of his seat in the 1857 election, an occasion which prompted the penning of the ballad below.
Ye Doleful Ballad of Sir Samivel
Sir Samivel stood at the Union Gate,
A combing his milk-white steed,
Determined he was both early and late
His country for to bleed, bleed, bleed,
His country for to bleed.
Oh, where are you going, his Lady cried,
Oh, where are you going, said she.
I’m going away (but Sir Samivel lied),
A Member for to be, be, be,
A Member for to be.
Then he waved his hand and a clerkly band
From his office issued forth,
With their pens in their ears, and without any fears,
Except from their Chieftain’s wrath, wrath, wrath,
Except from their Chieftain’s wrath.
Take care, take care, Sir Samivel said,
Take care, take care, said he,
And don’t knock down not nobody dead,
As perhaps he insured may be, be, be,
As perhaps he insured may be.
Lord Bury and Schneider heard the tramp
Of Sir Samivel’s union men,
Says they it won’t do for one of that stamp
To represent Norwich again, ‘gain, ’gain,
To represent Norwich again.
At last the day of the fight came round,
With the hustings here and there,
And at four o’clock Sir Samivel found
He was not near the top nowhere, ’where, ’where,
He was not near the top nowhere.
When Lady Bignold heard it told
How Sir Samivel lost the day,
And how the electors wouldn’t be sold,
She fainted right away, ‘way, ’way
She fainted right away.
Sir Samivel lies on the office shelf,
(He often has lied before),
And out of Lord Derby, place or pelf,
He never will get any more, more, more
He will never get any more.
If proof were needed that political ambition existed at the very bottom of insurance company hierarchies as well as at the top, our final example of a political employee is Peter Walker MBE MP. Later MP for Worcester and a Shadow Minister, he started out as an office boy with General Accident in Gloucester in 1948. He was remembered in a later staff magazine article by Mr R J Cottrell, retired resident secretary of the branch, as “a lanky youth, quite brilliant but with handwriting which still presents problems in deciphering the office records. ”
A specific search in the archive for records relating to elections unearthed examples of our companies offering specific insurance for those involved in the election process. In 1935 General Accident presented election insurance which provided cover for political candidates.
The policy combined employers liability insurance for people employed as clerks or canvassers, public liability for accidents to third parties at public meetings and damage to motor cars used during the election campaign. A similar type of policy was still being offered in the 1980s by Norwich Union, which also included accidental damage cover for loudspeakers and associated equipment being used by candidates seeking election.
Election insurance of a different type was called for in 1885. In that year Railway Passengers Assurance had a special section in their booklet on claims paid entitled ‘injuries at election time’. Amongst the claims listed under this heading were:
Surgeon - West Somerset - blow on eye - £115
Manufacturer - Nottingham - blow from policeman staff - £12
Commission agent - Nottingham - blow from policeman staff - £ 4 10s
My final discovery is this lovely piece of advertising from 1929 produced by the Scottish Insurance Corporation and designed in the form of a spoof manifesto urging readers to ‘vote for the Scottish’ whose policies ‘appeal to all parties’.
Interestingly, the 1929 election involved our insured David Lloyd George as leader of the Liberals and was campaigned for by the Conservatives under the suitably insurance-linked theme of “safety first”. The result was a hung parliament.