Posts Tagged ‘Tom Mann’

Labour history uncut: no strikes please, we’re Labour

01/01/2013, 09:06:01 PM

by Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal

New year, new leader. That was Labour’s motto at the start of 1911 as it set about electing its fourth leader in four years. This time, the lucky front-runner (also middle runner, and back runner – he was standing unopposed) was Ramsay Macdonald.

An able organiser and pragmatic strategist, he also had a background with the socialist Independent Labour party (ILP), so the left approved. For now.

Macdonald was to be supported by Arthur Henderson who would take over his old job as party secretary and de facto deputy where he could help look after the low politics of Westminster.

If it wasn’t quite the dream ticket, it was certainly closer than the dog-eared bus tickets of previous leaderships.

On the 6th of February 1911, the new leadership team were confirmed in their roles and hit the ground running. The dynamic duo set to work tackling the number one priority facing the country: MPs’ pay.

More than unemployment or Irish home rule, a government-funded salary for members of parliament was the burning issue of the day. Well, it was for Labour MPs anyway, and not in an “expenses” way either.

Before 1911, MPs had to be supported by their party, by a union or, for the Tories, whichever chunk of Shropshire they managed to inherit. For Labour, thanks to the Osborne judgement which prohibited unions from funding the party, finding a way to maintain the £200 per year stipend was increasingly difficult.

So Ramsay Macdonald used MPs’ wages as his chief demand for continued support of the Liberal government. In 1911 provision for a state-funded payment of £400 per year was agreed and inserted into the parliament act limiting the Lords powers. This was a victory for Macdonald, although it can’t have been that hard to convince Liberal MPs to vote for more money for MPs.

Critics suggested this document was a fair summation of the parliamentary Labour party’s socialism

Macdonald was a hero to the parliamentary party. Doubling their wages and freeing union resources to spend on party campaigns meant he commanded a united and supportive parliamentary party.

Unfortunately, outside the gilded corridors of Westminster, pay rises for everyone was not the order of the day.


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