Posts Tagged ‘keir hardie’

Labour needs to remember England

02/05/2015, 10:21:30 AM

by Renie Anjeh

Just over a week ago was St George’s Day. Crowds of people displayed their love of England with pride in the knowledge that the general election was just a fortnight away. All the polls presage another hung parliament. Few pundits are brave enough to predict the result. One thing is clear and that is that the outcome will be unclear.

It is very likely that the parliamentary instability which will ensue which may even lead to an election in the autumn.

The reason why the country is on the verge of political pandemonium is because the election result will not be decided in the land of St George but the land of St Andrew.

Since the referendum, the SNP has upended the political landscape north of border, placing them in pole position to be the kingmakers at this election.

2015 could be the first time that nationalists have held the balance of power in over a hundred years. As Jonathan Todd pointed out, the reason for this political earthquake is because the Scots are thinking about “who will get the best deal for Scotland?” rather than “who is best to lead the UK?”

Obviously this is catastrophic for the Labour party. Labour has always had a close affinity with Scotland. Keir Hardie was a Scot. Many of Labour’s greatest big beasts came from Scotland: Donald Dewar, Robin Cook, Alistair Darling, George Robertson, Gordon Brown, John Reid and John Smith.

Tony Blair, Labour’s most successful leader, was born in Edinburgh and educated at Fettes College. However, Labour has not had the same relationship with England.

Whenever issues regarding the West Lothian Question or the Barnett Formula have been raised, Labour has used constitutional conservatism as an excuse not to address a perceived unfairness.

Many English people fear that Labour treats English identity with suspicion at best, derision at worst even though it has no qualms about Scottish or Welsh identity. Labour has not always been the natural home for suburban and rural areas in England. The result of our long-term problem in England has not been great. 2001 was the last time that Labour won the most votes in England.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour history uncut: party divisions deepen as Keir Hardie stands down

18/12/2012, 09:50:22 PM

by Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal

At the start of 1908, the Labour party was divided: visionary socialists on one side;  limited, practical union men on the other: two mis-matched groups forced to work together, like 1970’s undercover cops. Though fortunately in this case they did have more than 24 hours to solve the problems of global capitalism and centuries of inequality, before the DA took their badge.

With Keir Hardie away on an eight month cruise for his health, leadership of the MPs had fallen to PLP vice-chair David Shackleton, a union man and friend of the Liberals. Everything the party’s left disliked.

Shackleton was Keir Hardie’s opposite in almost every respect.

Keir Hardie was a powerful symbol of socialist zeal, particularly for the independent Labour party (ILP). He was unbending, principled and socialist to the core. The flip side of this was a lack of consultation with colleagues and a tendency to be so focussed on high-minded principles, he’d neglect the more mundane details, such as showing up to meetings on time.

Shackleton, in contrast was moderate, consensual, organised and just not that bothered about socialism.

Everyone loved David Shackleton’s Alfred Hitchcock impression

When Keir Hardie was in charge, the ILP and the left were prepared to give the party the benefit of the doubt and tolerate such impurities as the pact with the Liberals. With Shackleton running the show, it was a different matter.

In summer 1907, the discontent bubbled over in the form of a charismatic young man named Victor Grayson.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour history uncut: Labour conference turns on Keir Hardie

13/12/2012, 01:50:02 PM

by Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal

The Labour party in 1906 had experienced some success, notably with the repeal of Taff Vale. However, the parliamentary party was divided between the limited, immediate goals of the union faction and the more visionary, nation-changing, red-flag-singing socialist contingent.

To focus on the practical and attainable, or attempt the wholesale overthrow of the capitalist system? That was the question.

“Or”, said Keir Hardie, “how about we forget that stuff and concentrate on women’s suffrage?”

Hardie was a committed believer in votes for women in general, and of the Pankhursts and their campaigning organisation (the women’s social and political union or WSPU) in particular.

Either that or he was pretending to be a “new man” to impress the chicks.

The suffragettes’ jack in the box was that year’s Christmas best seller

Hardie’s fixation managed to annoy both the union types and the socialists.

For the union brothers, personified by leadership contest runner-up David Shackleton, the issue of votes for women was a complete distraction. Workers were starving, unemployment was rampant and union rights under threat. Compared to these problems, female suffrage was little more than drawing room conversation for women in fancy frocks – a political After Eight mint.

For the socialist comrades, normally staunch supporters of the impeccably socialist Hardie, the WSPU were a) not radical enough and b) sounded like a sneeze (WSPU. Bless you).


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour history uncut: Labour discovers the fun in factions and the value of big friends

11/12/2012, 10:19:55 PM

by Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal

Following the 1906 election, a new dawn seemed to have broken. 29 Labour MPs had been swept into parliament, a huge step forward.

Even the monarchy noticed the Labour influx. “I see,” wrote the prince of Wales to Edward VII, “that a great number of Labour members have been returned which is a rather dangerous sign, but I hope not all are socialists.”

Which just goes to show why princes of Wales shouldn’t be allowed writing desks

Nonetheless, the prince did have a small point.

Critics suggested the Labour Party’s 1906 version of Reservoir Dogs suffered from too many characters

It was true, there were a number of actual socialists in the Labour party. These were generally idealists, who had entered the movement via the independent Labour party (ILP) or social democratic federation (SDF).  They had spent years discussing big ideas like smashing capitalism and now in parliament, were eager to get cracking on the new workers’ utopia that was just around the corner.

On the other side were pragmatic union folk. They had spent a similar number of years getting up in the morning to go to work, so hadn’t had much time to think about economic systems, although they did know you couldn’t feed the wife and kids on big ideas.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour history uncut: the LRC finds its feet

27/11/2012, 05:56:40 PM

by Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal

After the 1900 election, the Labour representation committee had managed to get two MPs into parliament: James Keir Hardie and Richard Bell.  Not a huge number, but at least they could hold party meetings on the omnibus to work.

Whipping was a much simpler affair too. No need to issue papers every week, Richard Bell just had to make sure that, when they went through the lobby, he was holding Keir Hardie’s hand.

For his part, Hardie was returning to parliament for the first time in five years. The time away had not dented the sense of proportion and willingness to compromise that had served him so well the first time round.

Early in 1901, he put down a motion calling for legislation, “inaugurating a Socialist Commonwealth founded upon the common ownership of land and capital, production for use and not for profit and equality of opportunity for every citizen.”  It would have included a free puppy for everyone too, but there wasn’t enough room on the order paper.

Hardie laid out his proposal to the commons.

‘”Who’s with me?” he asked.

“I am,” cried Dickie Bell.

“Anyone else?”



The parliamentary equivalent of taking a shot on goal from kick-off had failed. Shocker. Clearly it was time for the LRC to get over the excitement of being in parliament, and face some difficult facts.

“You, at the back. Perhaps you’d like to share what’s so funny with the rest of the mob?” Keir Hardie addresses the crowd.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour history uncut: the Hardie boys

01/11/2012, 03:00:45 PM

Continuing our series on the history of the Labour party, Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal look at the runners and riders who founded the Labour representation committee (LRC) in 1900. First up, the Independent Labour party.

Before the Labour party there was the Independent Labour party.

In January 1893, 120 delegates met in Laycocks temperance hotel, Bradford (now new Guiseppe’s restaurant “Nice home made food in a relaxed atmosphere”, TripAdvisor) to found the Independent Labour party.

The socialist intent of this group was evident from the start. It’s aim was to “to secure the collective ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange”. The Bradford Observer recorded that “The number of socialists among them was apparent from the large proportion of wideawakes (stand up collars).”

A fact which raises the intriguing notion that Saturday mornings on ITV in the 1980s were part of a cunning socialist indoctrination programme for children. Sadly, records do not show if there was a Comrade Mallett at this first meeting of the Wide Awake Club.

A Bradford mural celebrating the ILP depicting their twin passions of workers solidarity and plate-spinning

The inaugural meeting was lit up by the left’s glitterati such as James Keir Hardie, Tom Mann and George Bernard Shaw.

ILP Founder Tom Mann could impale two capitalists at once on his deadly moustache

Hardie had been elected MP for West Ham South a year earlier thanks to combining a broad message that appealed to radicals, trades unions and the local Irish community alike, effective organisation and, perhaps most significantly, his Liberal opponent conveniently dying just before the election.

Rather than turning up to Parliament, as all new MPs have through the ages, with shiny shoes and slicked-down hair, Hardie did things differently. He rocked up riding a wagonette, accompanied by a trumpeter playing La Marseillaise, rather alarming the older generation of Tories who assumed that Napoleon was on the march again.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour history uncut: in the beginning

30/10/2012, 03:00:44 PM

by Peter Goddard and Atul Hatwal

Education. Education. Education. You don’t have to be Blairite to believe in it. Here at Uncut we support the old dictum “those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” A solid understanding of the our past is important to understand where the party is today and what we need to do tomorrow.

But it occurred to us, aside from comparatively recent events, we didn’t actually know that much about Labour history. To summarise: there was a splendid fellow called Keir Hardie, a bad’un called Ramsay Macdonald, the glorious founding of the NHS, something about the pound in your pocket and then we’re all singing “things can only get better.”

Tragically we cannot look to the education system to fix our ignorance. The national curriculum devotes little time to the history of the party. Nor does it contain much in the way of jokes. And there are exams.

Labour Uncut would like to remedy these manifold problems so we are pleased to present an uncut history of the Labour party.  This will be an ongoing series of articles taking us from the birth of the party and the circumstances behind it, right up to the present day. Prepare to be educated.


The Labour website declares that the Labour party was created in 1900. And who are we to disagree?

This milestone in political history was not some random event. It came about because the demographics, political climate and industrial landscape of Britain were being transformed.

First, the working classes were just beginning to realise there was more to life than forelock-tugging and starvation. Conveniently, increasing numbers of them were also being given the vote, although not the female ones, obviously, for fear that their feeble thinking should lead to a kitten being elected prime minister.

Second, there was increased interest in socialism in Britain. A number of left wing groups were springing up with various aims ranging from having a bit of a think about social progress to storming barricades and kicking off the revolution.

And finally, there was a rise in union activity as the new mass of urban workers began to flex their industrial muscle.

Unions had enjoyed increasing membership and legitimacy over the previous 50 years, but they were well aware that their position was far from secure.

A successful dock strike led by Ben Tillett had made the Conservatives nervous. As a result, they had been busy doing what Conservative governments like doing best; using the full force of the law to mount an offensive against unions.

Gas workers’ union meetings traditionally finished with a rousing rendition of “I’m a little teapot”


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Saturday News Review

14/08/2010, 09:01:47 AM

Whelan v. Mandelson


In his first major newspaper interview since new Labour came to power in 1997, Whelan gives an explosive insider’s account of the civil war that helped destroy the Labour government. In a blistering attack on Mandelson, he says the man who Brown had controversially recalled to the Cabinet after the disgrace of being twice sacked by Blair, actually lost the Labour Party votes because of his betrayal of the PM, and was responsible for a culture of defeatism that blighted Labour’s campaign. – The Mail.

Williams at 80

Shirley Williams has just turned 80. Yes, there was a little birthday party, and lunch with her daughter, but nothing more. “That’s enough to be going on with, thank you,” she says. There’s no time to waste for Baroness Williams of Crosby, now that her party’s finally got a share of government. – The Guardian.

Ed: likes seaside

Mili-by the seaside

Ed Miliband is speaking to me from the last days of his holiday in Cornwall, writes Krishnan Guru-Murthy. Like so many politicians in the new age of austerity he has found the English seaside rather delightful. He is a convert, he says, to British holidays. – Channel 4.

The race

Gazing at what passes for the Opposition, are we supposed to laugh, cry, weep with mirth or smile bravely through the tears? This may be a rhetorical question. With the Labour Party uncertain whether to style itself as tear-jerking soap opera or broad-brush satirical sitcom, it is asking too much of the rest of us to decide for it. – Telegraph.

Hardie remembered

He’s been called Labour’s greatest hero and the party’s most inspirational leader but could Keir Hardie also be in danger of being forgotten?
Some admirers of the founder of the Labour Party believe so and will tomorrow, on the anniversary of his birth, launch a society to promote his life and work across the generations. – The Herald.

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon