Fifty Key Figures in Twentieth Century British Politics

By Keith Laybourn | Go to book overview

See also: Attlee, Bevin, MacDonald, Mosley


Further reading

Holman, B., 1990, Good Old George: The Life of George Lansbury, Oxford: Lion Publishing.

JefFerys, K. (ed.), 1999, Leading Labour: From Keir Hardie to Tony Blair, London: I.B. Tauris.

Lansbury, G., 1935, Looking Backwards—and Forwards, London and Glasgow: Blackie & Son.

Postgate, R., 1951, The Life of George Lansbury, London: Longmans, Green & Co.

Schneer, J., 1990, George Lansbury, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

ANDREW BONAR LAW 1858-1923

Andrew Bonar Law was Prime Minister for barely six months, in 1922 and 1923, but, nevertheless, was a tremendously important political figure in the decade leading up to that point. In particular, he became the Conservative Leader in October 1911, revitalizing and reorganizing the failing Conservative Party, and was an important supporter of Lloyd George from 1916 until 1922, when he replaced him as Prime Minister. Bonar Law is also the only person of colonial birth and upbringing to become British Prime Minister, and the first politician from a relatively humble, middle-class, background to rise to the top of the ‘greasy pole’ of Conservative politics. Indeed, whilst he was Robert Blake’s ‘Unknown Prime Minister’, he was, nevertheless, seminal in the revival of the Conservative Party.

Bonar Law was born at Kingston, New Brunswick, Canada, on 16 September, 1858, the fourth child of the Rev. James Law, a Presbyterian minister, and Elizabeth Kidman. His father was from Portuish in North Antrim, Ireland and returned there in 1877. However, Bonar Law himself was educated at Gilbertfield School, Hamilton, before leaving Canada in 1870 to join his mother’s prosperous family business connection in Glasgow and Helenburgh, and he completed his education at Glasgow High School. In 1874 he joined a merchant bank owned by his brothers, and in 1885, at the age of twenty-seven, he bought a partnership into the iron firm of William Jacks. In 1891 he married Annie Pitcairn, who died in 1909.

Bonar Law began his parliamentary career as Unionist MP for Blackfriars Glasgow in 1900. He then lost this seat in the general election of January 1906. In May 1906 he was returned for the ‘safe’ seat of Dulwich, Camberwell. By this time however he had become the leader of the Unionist section of the Party and he gave up

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