Posts Tagged ‘David Shackleton’

Labour history uncut: 358 days with George Barnes

27/12/2012, 10:33:51 PM

by Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal

After the January 1910 election, Labour had, if anything, moved slightly backwards. But that was as nothing compared to the disaster the Liberals had experienced.

They had asked the country “who governs this nation: the peers or the people?” The voters of Britain had responded saying, “democracy is nice but ooh, feel that lovely soft ermine and listen to those posh voices. Can we phone a friend?”

This 1910 election poster foolishly pits the Liberals against a coalition of Santas

From 1906, when the Liberals enjoyed a landslide of 397 seats with a majority of more than 130 over all the other parties combined, they had slumped to just 274 seats – smaller than the Tories.

Parliament was hung (not “like a horse” but “like a legislative body where no clear majority exists on any side”) and the Liberal government was now a coalition, with the Liberals reliant on the support of the Irish nationalists to retain a majority in the House of Commons. If they could keep Labour on side too, so much the better.

The inconclusive nature of the election result meant another poll was surely around the corner.

That made for a tough year for Labour, waiting for this inevitable election. It was particularly hard for one George Barnes. He was the man in the hot seat as the new leader of the Labour party, a job that came with few perks and a dress code that included a pair of trousers with “kick here” embroidered on the seat.


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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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