A Short History of the Labour Party

A Short History of the Labour Party

A Short History of the Labour Party

A Short History of the Labour Party

Excerpt

At the end of February 1960 the Labour Party could have celebrated (though it did not) its diamond jubilee. As an institution it was sixty years old, having been founded in 1900, although for the first six years of its life its title was different. From the inaugural conference until just after the general election of January 1906, its activities were conducted under the more modest title of the Labour Representation Committee .

How did the Labour Representation Committee (or L.R.C. as we must call it) come into existence, and how did it succeed in transforming itself into a Labour Party? The long-term reasons were complex. It was partly because the enfranchisement of the manual workers in 1867 and in 1884 tended to increase the electoral importance of 'labour' and its leaders. But this factor by itself would not have been enough, as we know from our observation of American politics. Why was 'labour' a more or less homogeneous force in British politics, at least at the turn of the century? And why could it not adapt one or other of the existing parties to its purposes? The answer to the first of these additional questions takes us into the realm of the sociologist and economic historian; but it may be tentatively suggested that various social and economic changes were in the later nineteenth century leading in the direction of a greater solidarity of manual workers, partly by raising the standards of the unskilled workers to a level somewhat closer to that of the artisans, and partly by depressing, or . . .

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