Sherlock Holmes and Politics

Given that, here in the UK, we've now entered the General Election season, is it perhaps time to wonder what Sherlock Holmes's political affiliation would have been?

The two dominant parties of the time were the Liberals and Conservatives. However, the conversion of William Gladstone to the idea of Irish Home Rule led to a considerable number of Liberals, who opposed the idea, splitting to form the Liberal Unionist Party (which formed in 1886 - around the beginning of Sherlock Holmes's association with Watson). It should be noted that many believe the character of Prime Minister Lord Bellinger from The Second Stain to have been a cover for Gladstone.

It was this party that Arthur Conan Doyle ran for election with. At the time, he opposed Irish Home Rule fearing, as did many others, that it would lead to the break-up of the UK. He was clearly more Liberal than Conservative at heart as otherwise he would have run under the Conservative banner.

Around the time of the First World War, he was persuaded of the case for Irish Home Rule by Roger Casement and thus found himself more in tune with the mainstream Liberal Party (although he never stood for election again).

The Liberal Unionists, over time, drifted more and more to the right of the political spectrum to the point where there was little to distinguish them from the Conservatives. In 1912 a formal merger took place.

So where does this leave the politics of Sherlock Holmes? He comes across, as did his creator, of being comfortable with the establishment but, at the same time, more than willing to operate outside of its conventions. Despite Conan Doyle's assertion that the doll and his creator are never identical, I'm inclined to believe that Sherlock Holmes would have been of a Liberal/Liberal Unionist persuasion.

Written by Alistair Duncan
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