The First Labour Government, 1924

By Richard W. Lyman | Go to book overview

I
THE LABOUR PARTY, 1918-1923

ON the eve of the first World War, there were few indications indeed that the Labour Party was destined ever to rule in Britain. Born in 1900 of an inspired determination on the part of James Keir Hardie and a few fellow visionaries to see socialists and trade unionists in political alliance, the infant party was nourished through its earliest years by the resentment of the trade unions at the Taff Vale decision of 1901.* Their fear lest the right to strike become nugatory brought about the election of some thirty Labour M.P.s in 1905. The party's greatest pre-war success was the legislation of 1906 that safeguarded the unions against a repetition of Taff Vale. But the Liberal Government's appetite for social reform dwindled after the House of Lords crisis and the Lloyd George social insurance schemes of 1911. Labour strength in the House of Commons failed to increase, even dropped, after 1910. The party had to wait several years before it could even secure Parliamentary reversal of the Osborne judgment, which threatened its lifeblood, the political levy from affiliated trade unions. Loss of momentum accentuated internal differences; the alliance of socialists, however undoctrinaire, with trade unionists who saw

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*
In this case (Taff Vale Rly Co. v. Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants) the House of Lords ruled that a civil action could be brought against a trade union and that it could be sued for damages arising out of the actions of its officers or servants during a trade dispute. Damages of £23,000 were awarded against the A.S.R.S. This decision deprived the trade unions of an immunity they had been generally believed to possess, and by making almost any kind of strike action hazardous, undermined the whole position they had built up.
Osborne v. A.S.R.S. ( 1909). The judgment of the House of Lords declared all political action by Trade Unions to be ultra vires, and thus prevented them from either putting forward their own candidates at national or local elections or subscribing out of their funds to any political party.

-1-

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The First Labour Government, 1924
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • I - The Labour Party, 1918-1923 1
  • Notes 16
  • II - The Election of 1923: the Conservatives 18
  • Notes 39
  • III - The Election of 1923: the Liberals Lloyd George and the Dragon 42
  • Notes 52
  • IV - The Election of 1923; Labour The Politics of Glorious Aspirations 53
  • Notes 67
  • V - Results of the Election of 1923 A House Divided 69
  • Notes 80
  • VI - The Path to Office 81
  • Notes 94
  • VII - Cabinet Making 96
  • Notes 107
  • VIII - Housing 110
  • Notes 129
  • IX - Unemployment The Intractable Million 131
  • Notes 154
  • X - The European Problem Year of Opportunity 157
  • Notes 181
  • XI - Russia Path of Most Resistance 184
  • Notes 207
  • XII - Labourites, Socialists and Reformers 210
  • Notes 227
  • XIII - Problems of Minority Government 230
  • Notes 245
  • XIV - The Election of 1924 Red Letter Day 248
  • Notes 262
  • XV - The Election of 1924 Dimensions of Defeat 264
  • Notes 271
  • XVI - Aftermath 272
  • Notes 281
  • Appendix A: the First Labour Ministry - (january 22 to November 4, 1924) 284
  • Appendix B: the Unsolved Mystery of The Zinoviev Letter 286
  • Notes 289
  • Bibliographical Note 290
  • Index 295
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