by Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal
The first gusts of a returning wind seemed to be wafting into Ramsay Macdonald’s sails.
After the general strike in 1926 had shattered morale in the Labour movement, the Tories attempted to curtail union power with the 1927 Trade Union Disputes Act. That threat united activists and unions behind the party.
Once again, parliamentary action was the only game in town to stop the Tories.
As the 1927 conference approached, Macdonald wanted to wow the crowd with something big. A grand statement of Labour aims, perhaps. Or a medley of socialist showtunes.
Fortunately for everyone, he chose the former. Macdonald sat down with Labour’s Burt Bacarach, Arthur Henderson, and started scribbling. One montage sequence later, Labour’s new vision was complete.
They took the paper to the executive of the parliamentary Labour party for sign-off and some insincere praise before going to NEC and then conference. It was just a formality.
The PLP then, very formally, said “Ramsay, this is rubbish.” This was quite something coming from a body so pliable it would have declared Viva Forever ‘a tour de force’ had Macdonald produced it.
Hugh Dalton commented that it was “too long and very dully written,” before adding, “But it might sell if you chuck in a sparkly vampire.”
Meanwhile, the executive of the PLP passed a motion. It urged the NEC not to allow the document to be debated at conference because, being in Blackpool, the event was going to be quite boring enough already.
Instead, Macdonald ended up part of an NEC sub-committee tasked with a rewrite.