A profile of the tragic Labour councillor who died in office at the tragically young age of 49, having only spent 14 months as MP for Cambridge – only the second Labour MP to have held that seat.
Mike Petty MBE found this rare photograph of Robert Davies MP which was taken shortly after the announcement of the contest in Cambridge where he defeated the Conservative David Lane, the man who would succeed him.
The profile digitised by Mike Petty reads as follows:
“Robert Davies was born at Battersea, London, in the midst of a Zeppelin Raid. He launched himself upon a political career at the age of 17 from a soap box in Reading market square. These two factors may well have helped to shape the man who now stands as Labour’s candidate for the Cambridge City seat, for although his views on warfare & violence are basically pacifist, he can be particularly militant when conducting a political or social campaign.”
“When a boy at Reading Grammar School, he first became actively involved in politics. His first step was to join the Labour Party League of Youth, followed by the publication of a political magazine at school called appropriately, “The Rebel.” Esmund and Giles Romily, nephews of Sir Winston Churchill, supported the youthful Robert Davies in his early campaign and he recalls that he was particularly friendly with other young Socialists now famous as the Boulting Brothers.
“I remember it was not long before I got into trouble over my early political activities as a schoolboy. There was a bit of a row and eventually questions were asked in the House.”Robert Davies in the Cambridge News, 09 Oct 1964.
“On leaving school, Robert Davies began a career in journalism by joining the Press Association in London as a very junior, junior reporter who filled in the ink wells and made tea. He then moved north to the Falkland Herald, and not long afterwards set his sights on joining Reuters. He realised that the ability to speak French with a degree of fluency would be a tremendous advantage, “burned his boats” as he put it and went to Paris. Within a short time, war had broken out and he decided to stand by the line he had taken earlier, by becoming a conscientious objector. He worked at a number of different jobs including the land, hospitals, and the Workers’ Educational Association until his health broke down.
“He obtained a degree in philosophy at London University through spare time study, and then went to Oxford where he was able to carry out graduate research. In the immediate post war years he worked with the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief [today, Oxfam] until he moved to Cambridge to take an administrative job with the Cambridge University Department of Applied Economics. He is now the secretary of the Department and is secretary to the Committee of Management.
“I know that many people will not agree with this,” he says with a smile, “but I am not really what you might call terribly ambitious and I am really very happy here”Robert Davies in the Cambridge News, 09 Oct 1964.
“He has been able to travel a great deal and was one of the first people to travel in China just after the death of Stalin . His journey took him to Russia and Mongolia and has since proved a most valuable experience.
“In 1956 he was on another trip with a group of economists for the discussions in Warsaw when the Polish revolution began at Posnan. Robert Davies considered himself fortunate to be on the spot when it happened. His journalism training soon took him to the thick of the action and some of his photographs were on their way back for publication in London. He still possesses a bullet which was fired at him while being given a view of the secret police building by the rebels. He was even visited by the secret police who searched his room.
“They really were amateurs in those days” he says. “They searched my room under the guise of electricians and they were not very good at concealing their real identity. They found nothing. I had all my notes and photographs with me. After that, I developed a habit of sleeping with them under my pillow.”Robert Davies in the Cambridge News, 09 Oct 1964.
“Mr Davies first appeared on the City Council in 1954. [Lab – East Chesterton 1954-67]. He didn’t really intend to stand, but was persuaded to contest the seat. He defeated a Conservative in East Chesterton and has been a member of the City Council ever since.
“He contested the county Parliamentary Seat in 1962 [the old Cambridgeshire seat, today mainly South Cambridgeshire with some of SE Cambs] after first fighting the City in 1959. Last year he was re-selected as the Labour candidate for this General Election and feels he has a good chance of success. He is now an alderman [senior councillor] of the City Council, an office which would allow him to remain a member of the council even if he was elected the Member for Cambridge in the General Election.
“Robert Davies is a man with many interests and has done a number of television broadcasts with BBC, ATV and Anglia.
“His early views on violence and insistence on a pacifist point when faced with compulsory O.T.C. at school led in later years to him becoming a vice-president and founder member of the Cambridge branch of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The windows of his house at Beaumont Road [Queen Edith’s ward] Cambridge, carry C.N.D. stickers alongside the normal election posters, although his views do not stick rigidly to the present C.N.D. line.
“He feels it is essential to confine nuclear weapons to the United States and Russia in the first instance, and to stop them from spreading further. His current views earned him a sharp rebuke from Peter Cadogan in “Angles” published this autumn by the Eastern Region of C.N.D., but its appearance does little more than emphasise Davies’ individual relationship with C.N.D.
“Robert Davies describes himself as a “back room boy by nature”, one who is interested in facts surrounding many subjects including education and housing. It is important, he says, that such facts should be related to Cambridge, that voters should be told what remedies are proposed and the bearing such remedies have upon a local situation.
“However, a great many local problems cannot be solved without a change in policy at a national level”
“He is a member of the Clerical and Administrative Workers Union [today, part of the GMB Union] and has worked with the Old People’s Welfare Council and the Cambridge Branch of the United Nations Association. He was recently co-opted onto the Local Government Committee of the National Executive of the Labour Party where he has been pushing subjects like rate relief [council tax relief] to colleges and inadequate compensation paid to people affected by clearance orders.
“His election campaign is an energetic one which will take to every ward in the city. It is not being fought on personalities he says, and points to George Brown and Raymond Williams are about the only names assisting him in the campaign at the moment.
“Robert Davies sees Cambridge as a marginal seat which needs only a slightly greater swing than the national average to make it his. If it does escape him, it will not be for a lack of energy on his part.