The Advent of the British Labour Party

The Advent of the British Labour Party

The Advent of the British Labour Party

The Advent of the British Labour Party

Excerpt

This book is an attempt to account for the emergence of the Labour party as a major political force between 1900 and the General Election of 1906. The first four chapters on the later nineteenth century background do not pretend to give a complete picture. They deal briefly with the growth of trade union sentiment in favour of independent political action before 1900 and, at greater length, with the relative contribution of the main socialist groups and key figures in the labour movement to the earlier efforts to create a new party.

The emphasis throughout the book is on politics--on the tactics, bargaining and compromise that enabled socialists and trade unionists to work together in the Labour Representation Committee, and on the origins, the nature and the extent of the Committee's electoral collaboration with the Liberals. The trade union section of the Committee has received here less attention than it perhaps deserves, but I hope that the reader will agree that the prominence given to the socialist I.L.P. is justified, that the I.L.P., or certainly its leaders, played the crucial role in forging the socialist-trade union alliance and in guiding it to success.

While I regret that the papers of James Ramsay MacDonald for this period were not available, I very much doubt that they would have led to any appreciable alteration of my conclusions. The important question of MacDonald's dealings with the Liberals is, in any case, remarkably well covered in the correspondence of the Liberal Chief Whip, Herbert Gladstone.

I have cited the Gladstone papers frequently and have given considerable space to the Liberal party. From 1900 to 1906 the fortunes of the Committee and the Liberal party were so intertwined that a history of the Committee must of necessity be a study in inter-party politics, a case study in political opportunism.

I am especially grateful to Mr. Francis Johnson for making available the correspondence of J. Bruce Glasier and the minute books of the I.L.P., to the Passfield Trustees for permission to consult the Beatrice Webb diaries, to the Fabian Society for providing access to various correspondence and the minute books of the Fabian Executive, and to Mr. Victor Hull of the Colindale Newspaper Library for helping . . .

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