Posts Tagged ‘Ernest Bevin’

Labour history uncut: Ernie Bevin “hammers George Lansbury to death” and changes the course of party history

02/01/2014, 02:18:31 PM

by Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal

Labour might have spent most of 1934 duelling between the leadership and the Socialist League but it didn’t seem to cause too much harm at the ballot box. The party picked up two seats from the Conservatives in by-elections, they nicked one from the Liberals and they also beat the splitters of the ILP to win back Merthyr – a great boost to the party’s Scrabble score.

In a world without opinion polls, these by-election successes seemed to point the way to a Labour resurgence at the next election, expected sometime in late 1935.

The case for optimism was boosted in June 1935 when the ailing Prime Minister, Ramsay Macdonald retired, to be replaced by Tory Stanley Baldwin.

Although the Labour movement was agreed that Macdonald was Satan incarnate, the rest of the country couldn’t see the horns and pitchfork and he had remained popular as the head of the national government. With his resignation, the government’s fake moustache and glasses were removed and it suddenly looked like the Tory outfit it had been all along.

Everything was falling into place. The election would now be a clear choice between the Tories and Labour.  Yes the Liberals were lurking around too, but everyone just assumed they’d support whoever won to form a majority government because, well, Liberals right?

But beneath the surface trouble was being stirred up for the party by, oddly enough, Benito Mussolini.

Benito Mussolini gazes into the future, fails to spot the meat-hooks

Benito Mussolini gazes into the future, fails to spot the meat-hooks

Over the past two years, fascism had spread across Europe. The prospect of international conflict topped the political agenda and Mussolini’s threats to forcibly plant spaghetti trees throughout Abyssinia brought matters to a head.

This was the defining issue of the day. And on it, Labour was conflicted.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour history uncut: Splitters! The fall of the second Labour government

31/07/2013, 10:24:04 PM

by Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal

Panic gripped the Bank of England.

By the 7th August 1931, just a week after the publication of the doom-laden May report on Britain’s finances, unhappy foreign investors were selling sterling at a record pace.

The Bank of England reported that its gold and foreign exchange reserves had lost £60m in the past few weeks in its attempt to prop up the value of the nation’s currency and keep Britain on the gold standard.

A first-ever Brexit seemed imminent. Although nobody actually used the word “Brexit” because these were more civilised times.

Only a hastily arranged £50m credit from French and American bankers was keeping the Bank of England solvent. This wouldn’t last long and future loans were in doubt – it’s hard to take a payday loan when you’ve got no payday in sight.

In order to secure more international loans to sustain the currency, a plan to pay down the deficit was needed.

Governor of the bank of England, Montagu Norman talks to Ramsay Macdonald who has chosen, appropriately, to dress as an undertaker for the occasion

The bankers wanted £80m of cuts. So prime minister Ramsay Macdonald and chancellor Philip Snowden put together a programme to deliver them, including a painful reduction of over £40m to unemployment benefit.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour history uncut: Industrial war beckons, Labour looks at its shoes

02/06/2013, 04:24:37 PM

by Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal

On 31st July 1925, the unions celebrated “Red Friday.” The threat of general strike over miners’ wages had forced prime minister Stanley Baldwin to concede a 9 month wage subsidy. A royal commission had also been sent off to peer down a few mines and figure out how to fix everything.

It looked like a victory for the unions, but everyone knew it wasn’t over yet. When the commission reported, battle was likely to be resumed unless the deadlock could be broken in the intervening nine months.

The best hope for peace lay with the miners’ leader, Herbert Smith.  He was a realist and a moderate union man.

Unfortunately, standing right next to him was almost the biggest threat to peace. The increasingly influential miners’ union secretary AJ Cook was, in the words of TUC general secretary Fred Bramley, “a raving, tearing Communist.”

AJ Cook even did his own signing for the deaf

Cook was a syndicalist, a Marxist and a firm believer in the power of direct action. He was also extremely charismatic and, like the Yamaha YHT-893BL with 100W subwoofer, a very powerful speaker.

According to the home office, he was also “an agitator of the worst type.”  Although ironically, being the worst type of agitator in the home office’s eyes meant that he was actually very good at it.

Cook was, in contrast to the solution-seeking TUC and Herbert Smith, keen to get stuck in and challenge the status quo with a bit of workers’ power.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon