Armistice 100: Enigmatic demagogue and MP who was revealed a swindler

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Dateline: October 18, 1918: Featuring prominently on page 5 of the Yorkshire Evening Post 100 years ago today was an advert for a forthcoming series of features by ‘Mr Bottomley’, who was said to be “taking a bold and broad outlook upon the New Era now dawning.”

The description continued: “These articles cannot fail profoundly to affect the currents of public opinion. The subject of the first artile will be: ‘The Social Lessons of the Great War.’”

This then was Horatio William Bottomley (March 23, 1860-May 26, 1933) an English financier, journalist, editor, newspaper proprietor, swindler, and Member of Parliament. He was a celebrity in his day. Orphaned at the age of four, he was ‘passed from pillar to post’ and when he reached working age had a series of jobs but eventually went into publishing. However, many of his businesses went bankrupt, while he always managed to come out better off. By the 1890s he had a champagne lifestyle, owning several homes and racehorses.

He was elected to Parliament in 1906 for the Liberal Party.

He founded John Bull, a popular weekly, in 1906 but was forced to leave Parliament in 1912. He was an excellent orator and popular with many, adept at a quick turn of phrase. He even took part in a recruitment campaign for the military.

He was elected again to Parliament in 1918 but in 1922 his downfall came after an investment scheme known as ‘Victory Bond’ was revealed to have defrauded investors out of £900,000. He served five years of a seven year sentence and upon his release attempted to rekindle his public image, in vain. He died ‘friendless and penniless’ in 1933.