David Dutton1
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  • 1 University of Liverpool
‘They were the best of friends; they were the worst of friends’: A Tale of Two MPs
in Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
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Edward Hemmerde and Francis Neilson were both Liberal MPs at the outbreak of the First World War, bound together by a common commitment to the principle of land taxation. A shortage of money, at a time when MPs had only just started to receive salaries, led them into extra-parliamentary co-operation in the joint authorship of plays. But the two men fell out over the profits from their literary endeavours. One or other was clearly not telling the truth. Although he gave up his parliamentary career in opposition to British involvement in the war, Neilson later prospered greatly as a writer in the United States. Meanwhile, Hemmerde turned to his career as Recorder of Liverpool, but the wealth that he craved eluded him. This article reminds us that financial impropriety among MPs is no new phenomenon, while highlighting the difficulty of establishing certain historical truth in the face of conflicting documentary evidence.

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