Posts Tagged ‘Women’s suffrage’

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