Albert Davy

Last updated

Albert Ernest Davy (17 August 1886 – 13 June 1959) was a New Zealand political organiser and campaign manager; and at the height of his career, was regarded as one of the best in the country. [1] He was a strong opponent of socialism, and spent most of his life fighting what he saw as socialist tendencies in New Zealand politics.


Early life

Davy was born in Wellington, where his father Charles was a police officer. His great grandfather - Captain Lleyson Hopkin Davy emigrated out from Wales in 1841. His family moved around the country considerably during Davy's youth, eventually coming to live in Gisborne. Davy held a number of jobs there, including bootmaker, draper, and hairdresser. He married Florence Maude Sawyer, a milliner, in 1908. He was to have two sons. He was active in the New Zealand Auto Cycle Union and the New Zealand Athletic and Cycling Union, holding a number of prominent organisational roles.

Wellington Capital city in New Zealand

Wellington is the capital city and second most populous urban area of New Zealand, with 418,500 residents. It is located at the south-western tip of the North Island, between Cook Strait and the Remutaka Range. Wellington is the major population centre of the southern North Island, and is the administrative centre of the Wellington Region, which also includes the Kapiti Coast and Wairarapa. Its latitude is 41°17′S, making it the world's southernmost capital of a sovereign state. Wellington features a temperate maritime climate, and is the world's windiest city by average wind speed.

Lleyson Hopkin Davy

L(l)eyson Hopkin Davy (1782–1872) was a decorated captain in the Honourable East India Company (HEIC), political representative of the British government, brewer and early inventive industrialist.

Gisborne, New Zealand Urban area in Gisborne Region, New Zealand

Gisborne is a city in northeastern New Zealand and the largest settlement in the Gisborne District. It has a population of 37,200. The district council has its headquarters in Whataupoko, in the central city.

Reform Party

Davy's first major political activity came as part of Douglas Lysnar's successful campaign for the Gisborne seat in the 1919 election. In 1923, Davy was offered an organisational position in the Reform Party, to which Lynsar belonged. He was largely responsible for Reform's strategy in the 1925 election, focusing strongly on the party's leader, Gordon Coates. This was unusual in New Zealand politics, where the focus tended to be on local candidates. Also unusual was the degree of central control – party headquarters provided each candidate with instructions and guidance, rather than simply allowing them to run their own campaigns. While this is now the norm in New Zealand politics, it was rare at the time.

William Douglas Lysnar, known as Douglas Lysnar, was a New Zealand politician of the Reform Party.

The elections were a major victory for Reform, and Davy gained much of the credit. He quickly developed a reputation as the country's top political organiser. Soon, however, rifts began to emerge between Davy and the Reform Party. As the country's economic situation worsened, the Reform Party began to adopt more radical measures to address the problem – Davy condemned the measures as "socialistic". He also made enemies by allegedly blocking Ellen Melville, who sought the Reform Party candidacy for an Auckland by-election – when Melville lost, she contested the seat as an independent, and split the vote. In late 1926, Davy left the Reform Party, possibly under pressure. He denounced its leadership as "autocratic".

Ellen Melville New Zealand politician

Eliza Ellen Melville was a New Zealand feminist and politician.

United Party

In the middle of 1927, Davy was contacted by John William Shaw McArthur, an Auckland businessman who shared Davy's view of the government. With financial backing from McArthur, Davy began to lay the foundations of a new political party, eventually dubbed the United New Zealand Political Organisation. He was assisted by the fact that he still retained membership and contact lists from the Reform Party, enabling him to draw away Reform supporters who were sympathetic to his cause. In November, Davy's organisation merged with two factions of the collapsing Liberal Party, led by George Forbes and Bill Veitch – the new organisation was named the United Party. When a leadership clash between Forbes and Veitch loomed, Davy arranged for Joseph Ward, a former Liberal premier, to take the position as a compromise candidate.

The New Zealand Liberal Party was the first organised political party in New Zealand. It governed from 1891 until 1912. The Liberal strategy was to create a large class of small land-owning farmers who supported Liberal ideals, by buying large tracts of Māori land and selling it to small farmers on credit. The Liberal Government also established the basis of the later welfare state, with old age pensions, developed a system for settling industrial disputes, which was accepted by both employers and trade unions. In 1893 it extended voting rights to women, making New Zealand the first country in the world to enact universal female suffrage.

George Forbes (New Zealand politician) New Zealand politician

George William Forbes was a New Zealand politician who served as the 22nd Prime Minister of New Zealand from 28 May 1930 to 6 December 1935.

Bill Veitch New Zealand politician

William Andrew Veitch was a New Zealand politician. He began his career in the labour movement, but was a strong opponent of socialism, and rejected the militant views held by many of his colleagues.

In the 1925 election, Davy ran a strong campaign for the United Party. The party performed well, managing to win the same number of seats as the Reform Party. However, neither United nor Reform had enough strength to govern alone – the Labour Party held the balance of power. United managed to secure Labour's support, and formed a government, but Davy was displeased at this development – far from fighting the left-wingers, United was now dependent on their support, and was implementing many of the same policies that had caused Davy to quit Reform. Davy came to believe that as long as United and Reform remained enemies, the left would hold the balance of power, and would therefore be able to dictate terms. As such, Davy began to advocate an "anti-socialist" grand coalition between United and Reform, hoping to shut the left out altogether. In early 1930, Davy publicly attacked Ward, accusing him of authoritarianism and of caving in to Labour's demands too readily. Shortly afterwards, he was dismissed from the party.

The New Zealand Labour Party, or simply Labour, is a centre-left political party in New Zealand. The party's platform programme describes its founding principle as democratic socialism, while observers describe Labour as social-democratic and pragmatic in practice. It is a participant of the international Progressive Alliance.

A grand coalition is an arrangement in a multi-party parliamentary system in which the two largest political parties of opposing political ideologies unite in a coalition government. The term is most commonly used in countries where there are two dominant parties with different ideological orientations, and a number of smaller parties that have passed the election threshold to secure representation in the parliament. The two large parties will each try to secure enough seats in any election to have a majority government alone, and if this fails each will attempt to form a coalition with smaller parties that have a similar ideological orientation. Because the two large parties will tend to differ on major ideological issues, and portray themselves as rivals, or even sometimes enemies, they will usually find it more difficult to agree on a common direction for a combined government with each other than with smaller parties.

Reform Party again

Later in 1930, Davy rejoined the Reform Party, believing that United had become corrupted by its alliance with Labour. Shortly afterwards, the agreement between United and Labour collapsed, and United and Reform agreed to the grand coalition that Davy had proposed. Despite the new alliance, however, the government did not significantly back away from its existing approach to the country's economic problems. As such, Davy was still not fully behind the government, and he gave assistance to John Ormond, an independent candidate who wished to "reform the Reform Party". However, Davy did not follow Ormond and his allies when later broke from the Reform Party, founding an organisation would evolve into the New Zealand Legion. [2]

Other parties

In 1934, Davy was approached by another Auckland businessman, William Goodfellow. Goodfellow agreed to finance another new party, dedicated to opposing the government's "socialism". The group was named the Democrat Party, and Thomas Hislop, a former Mayor of Wellington, was recruited to be its political leader. Goodfellow later withdrew from the party, saying the Davy's goals were unrealistic and that resources were being spread too finely, but Davy pressed on. In the 1935 election, however, the Democrats failed to win any seats. According to some, the party merely succeeded in splitting the right-wing vote, assisting the Labour Party in its landslide victory.

Davy then briefly left politics, working as a sharebroker and newspaper manager. In 1940, he returned to politics, joining the People's Movement.

In February 1941 part of the People's Movement merged into the National Party (the ultimate conclusion of the United-Reform coalition), and Davy established his own Co-operative Party, but he soon abandoned this and returned to the remnants of the Movement. The later People's Movement or Independent Peoples Group (IPG) organised by Davy stood 25 candidates in the 1943 election without success, gaining only 7,389 votes (0.89%, provisional count). [3] Davy complained that the election was decided on "strictly party" lines, and said that the effect of the Democratic Labour Party standing was to give six seats to the National Party. [4]

Later life

Finally giving up on politics, Davy returned to business. He also served on the Trade Practices and Prices Commission. He died in Wellington on 13 June 1959.

Related Research Articles

Socialism in New Zealand

The extent to which socialism plays a part in modern New Zealand politics depends on which definitions of socialist are used, but few mainstream politicians would describe themselves using the word "socialist". The term "social-democrat" is more common, but the more general "left-wing" or "centre-left" are used far more frequently. New Zealand has a complicated assortment of socialist causes and organisations. Some of these play a considerable role in public activism—some commentators claim that New Zealand socialists are more prominent in causes such as the anti-war movement than in promoting socialism itself. Other groups are strongly committed to radical socialist revolution.

The United Party of New Zealand, a party formed out of the remnants of the Liberal Party, formed a government between 1928 and 1935, and in 1936 merged with the Reform Party to establish the National Party.

1990 New Zealand general election

The 1990 New Zealand general election was held on 27 October to determine the composition of the 43rd New Zealand parliament. The governing Labour Party was defeated, ending its controversial two terms in office. The National Party, led by Jim Bolger, won a landslide victory and formed the new government.

The United Labour Party of New Zealand was an early left-wing political party. Founded in 1912, it represented the more moderate wing of the labour movement. In 1916 it joined with other political groups to establish the modern Labour Party.

The Reform Party, formally the New Zealand Political Reform League, was New Zealand's second major political party, having been founded as a conservative response to the original Liberal Party. It was in government between 1912 and 1928, and later formed a coalition with the United Party, and then merged with United to form the modern National Party.

The New Zealand Democrat Party was a political party in New Zealand, founded in 1934 with the purpose of opposing socialist legislation by the government.

1935 New Zealand general election

The 1935 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the New Zealand Parliament's 25th term. It resulted in the Labour Party's first electoral victory, with Michael Joseph Savage becoming the first Labour Prime Minister. The governing coalition, consisting of the United Party and the Reform Party, suffered a major defeat, attributed by many to their handling of the Great Depression. The year after the election, United and Reform took their coalition further, merging to form the modern National Party.

1931 New Zealand general election

The 1931 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the New Zealand Parliament's 24th term. It resulted in the newly formed coalition between the United Party and the Reform Party remaining in office as the United-Reform coalition Government, although the opposition Labour Party made some minor gains despite tallying more votes than any other single party.

Joseph Ward New Zealand politician

Sir Joseph George Ward of Wellington, 1st Baronet, was a New Zealand politician who served as the 17th Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1906 to 1912 and from 1928 to 1930. He was a dominant figure in the Liberal and United ministries of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Gordon Coates New Zealand politician

Joseph Gordon Coates served as the 21st Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1925 to 1928. He was the third successive Reform prime minister since 1912.

The Independent Political Labour League (IPLL) was a small New Zealand political party. It was the second organised political party to win a seat in the House of Representatives, and was a forerunner of the modern Labour Party.

Bill Barnard New Zealand politician

William Edward Barnard was a New Zealand lawyer, politician and parliamentary speaker. He was a member of Parliament from 1928 until 1943, and was its Speaker from 1936 till 1943. He was known for his association with John A. Lee, a prominent left-wing politician.

24th New Zealand Parliament

The 24th New Zealand Parliament was a term of the New Zealand Parliament. It opened on 23 February 1932, following the 1931 election. It was dissolved on 1 November 1935 in preparation for the 1935 election. The 24th Parliament was extended by one year because the 1935 election was held later than anticipated due to the ongoing depression, similarly the 1919, and the 1943 elections were held two years late, having been postponed during World War I and World War II respectively.

Fred Bartram New Zealand politician

Frederick Notley (Fred) Bartram was a New Zealand Member of Parliament for Grey Lynn in Auckland.

Andrew Walker (politician) New Zealand politician

Andrew Walker was a New Zealand politician of the United Labour Party and then the Labour Party from Dunedin.

The Wellington Central by-election of 1918 was a by-election held in the Wellington Central electorate during the 19th New Zealand Parliament, on 3 October 1918. It was caused by the death of incumbent MP Robert Fletcher of the Liberal Party and was won by Peter Fraser with a majority of 1,624.

Labour Unity Conferences

In April 1912 and July 1913, two "unity conferences" were held to discuss and determine the future of organised labour in New Zealand. The events mainly centred around the debate over whether industrial action or political activity should be the means of achieving the aims of workers and additionally to unite the "moderate" and "militant" factions within the labour movement. Whilst neither conference fully unified the labour movement, it laid a framework of co-operation that would later assist during the creation of the current New Zealand Labour Party in 1916.


  1. Gustafson, Barry (1986). The First 50 Years : A History of the New Zealand National Party. Auckland: Reed Methuen. p. 360. ISBN   0-474-00177-6.
  2. Beaglehole, Diana (22 June 2007). "Davy, Albert Ernest 1886 – 1959". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography . Retrieved 6 September 2010.
  3. "Party Support: Results analysed". Papers Past. 27 September 1943.
  4. "On Party Lines: Mr Davys' analysis". Papers Past. 27 September 1943.