With the Munich Crisis, Richard Acland had the moment he had been waiting for. A perfectly-timed by-election in Bridgwater would give him the chance to strike a high-profile blow for left-wing unity, and against Appeasement. But he was lacking one last, crucial ingredient – a viable candidate.
Luckily for Acland, his co-conspirator Cresswell Webb had found one, fixing his sights on a popular radio broadcaster, with whom he had served in the trenches of World War One.
Charles Vernon Oldfield Bartlett was born on April 30th 1894 in Westbury, Wiltshire. Educated at Blundells School,Tiverton, Bartlett joined up, but was invalided out of the Army. As a journalist, he worked first for the Daily Mail, and was subsequently a foreign correspondent for The Times.
In 1922, he was appointed director of the London office of the League of Nations and witnessed first-hand the effects of the rise of fascism across Europe.
In 1933. he joined the Liberal-Progressive paper ‘News Chronicle’ and was it’s diplomatic correspondent for 20 years. In addition, it was frequently heard on the radio, becoming a popular broadcaster with an extensive knowledge on foreign affairs.
And, in 1938, accosted in London by a maverick Somerset vicar and an unusually progressive Liberal MP, Vernon Bartlett was persuaded to stand for parliament, in the recently-vacated Bridgwater constituency. Acland told Bartlett his plan – to use the upcoming by-election in Bridgwater as a publicity-grabbing piece of anti-Appeasement propaganda – and convinced him that he was the man of the moment.
Postscript: Bartlett served as MP for 12 years (some of which he spent in Acland’s wartime socialistic ‘Commonwealth Party’) after which we continued his journalism until retirement whereupon he moved to Italy, living in Tuscany and writing many books about his life and travels. In later years he settled in Polruan in North Cornwall and made one final trip to Bridgwater to support the newly formed SDP. He died on January 18th 1983 and is survived by two sons.