"Lucky Laidlaw" and "Worried Webb": The Robert Laidlaw Exemption Case and Public Attitudes to Conscription in 1918
In February 1918 businessman Robert Laidlaw successfully applied for exemption from conscription, arguing that he alone had the skills to manage his large mail order business Laidlaw Leeds. Opponents of conscription, and many conscription supporters, saw Laidlaw's exemption as proof that New Zealand’s conscription system was failing to guarantee equality of sacrifice. Debate was intensified by the fact that Labour MP Paddy Webb was facing imprisonment for refusing to be conscripted. This paper examines what the Laidlaw case tells us about attitudes to conscription among politicians, the media and the general public in the New Zealand of 1918.
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