Posts Tagged ‘Arthur Henderson’

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.


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Labour history uncut: By-elections beckon and the fixers get fixing for the LRC

29/11/2012, 07:37:20 PM

by Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal

It was early 1902 and times were tough for the Labour representation committee. They had a worryingly low bank balance, only 2 MPs and not enough members to deliver leaflets.

The parliamentary Labour party couldn’t even descend into proper factionalism as Keir Hardie and Richard Bell got on quite well.  This wasn’t what the left was about at all.

The Taff Vale ruling by the Lords had thrown the LRC a much needed lifeline, forcing more unions into the arms of the party, but support wasn’t growing quickly enough. Although more were affiliated by 1902 than 1901, numbers were still down on the founding conference in 1900.

Something needed to be done.

Fortunately, Ramsay Macdonald was on hand. He was a sharp operator and he had a cunning plan.

As party secretary, Macdonald had a key role in developing the party machine and fixing things about which the saintly Keir Hardie didn’t have to ask too many questions.

Secondary duties included taking minutes, making the tea and, eventually removing his glasses, shaking his hair out and waiting for Keir Hardie to say “why Mr Macdonald, you’re beautiful.”

Movember was a way of life for Ramsay Macdonald


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