THE PARLIAMENTARY ACTIVITY
OF TRADE UNION M1P's, 1959-1964
WILLIAM DALE MULLER
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY' OF FLORIDA
To the mernory of
John C. Muller (1900-1965)
Dorothea M. Muller (1901-1964)
It is impossible to individually acknowledge all of the debts in-
curred in the preparation of this study, but a few are of special impor-
tance. Two men in particular stand behind this study. The first is Roy
P. Fairfield of the Antioch-Putney Graduate School of Education who
provided the initial inspiration to do graduate work. The second is
Arnold J. Heidenheimer of the University of Florida whose constant
prodding and criticism gave to this study whatever merit it might have.
The "Introduction" was greatly improved by the criticism of John
R. Todd of Central Florida Junior College.
The material contained in the body of the study was made possible
by the co-operation of many people in the British Labor movement. In
particular, my thanks go to the Rt. Honorable Richard Marsh, M. P.,
the Rt. Honorable Charles Pannell, M. P. and the Rt. Honorable
Charles Loughlin, M. P., who proved especially helpful during my stay
in England. The other Labor Members of Parliament, Labor Party
officials, and trade union officials who helped are too numerous to
mention. The majority of them are identified in the Bibliography.
This study also owes a great deal to the staffs of the University of
Florida Library, especially Mr. Ray Jones who gave yeoman service in
locating many obscure references; of the University of Florida Computer
Center, especially Professor A. E. Brandt who was of very considerable
assistance in the preliminary analysis of the data in Chapter VI; and of the
libraries of the London School of Economics and Political Science, the
Trades Union Congress, and the Labor Party.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF TABLES ...
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
INTRODUCTION: A DEVELOPMENTAL MODEL OF
LEGISLATIVE INTEREST REPRESENTA-
TION . .
I. EARLY TRADE UNION PARLIAMENTARIANS
IN THE ELECTORAL AND LEGISLATIVE PHASE
OF INTEREST REPRESENTATION .....
The Trade Union General Secretaries
The Reception of Union Leaders in the House of
C omm on s
The Activity of Union Leaders in the House of
Comm on s
II. CHANGING PATTERNS IN PERSONNEL RECRUIT-
MENT AND PARLIAMENTARY PERFORMANCE OF
TRADE UNION SPONSORED MEMBERS OF PARLIA-
MENT . ..
The Passing of the General Secretaries
The New Members of Parliament
The Sponsored Members and the House of Commons:
The Parliamentary Labor Party
The Technicians and White Collar Unions
III. UNION-MEMBER RELATIONS: THE PROBLEMS
OF MANY MASTERS .. 109
Political Recruitment of Trade Union Sponsored
Members of Parliament
The "Kept Men"
Channels of Communication Between Member s of
Parliament and Their Union Headquarters
The Problem of Role Confusion
IV. UNION-MEMBER RELATIONS AND THE DEFENCE
DISPUTE OF 1960-1961 .. .. .. .. .. 154
The Issue of an Independert Deterrent
The Unions and the 1960 Party Conference
Gaitskell and the Parliamentary Labor Party:
Support, Disposition and Revolt
Attempts of Sponsored Members of Parliament to
Influence the Unions
Role Confusion and the Sponsored Members of
V. TRADE UNION SPONSORED MEMBERS AND THE
PARLIAMENTARY LABOR PARTY, 1959-1964 .. 198
The Trade Union Group
The Trade Union Group and Parliament
Trade Union Sponsored Members of Parliament
and the Leadership of the Parliamentary Labor
Extra-Parliamentary Leadership of the Labor Party
VI. THE TRADE UNION SPONSORED MEMBERS OF
PARLIAMENT AND THE HOUSE OF COMMONS,
1959-1964 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 236
Legislative Behavior and Personal Background
SU MMAR Y .. .. 288
APPENDICES .. .. 295
LIST OF TABLES
1 Phases of Union Parliamentary Representation 12
2 Trade Union Supported Members of Parliament and
Union General Secretaries (1874-1910) 25
3 Trade Union Affiliation to the Labour Representation
Committee, 1900-1906 47
4 Labor Party Growth, 1900-1964 62
5 Union Representation in Parliament, 1918-1964 102
6 Proportion Trade Union Candidates Actually Elected 126
7 Direct Union Financial Assistance to Sponsored
Members of Parliament 129
8 Union Position at 1960 Party Conference 163
9 Trade Union Sponsored Members Who Did Not Vote
in Division 22 169
10 Position of Trade Union Sponsored Members of
Parliament in Division 22 in Relation to Union Votes
at the 1960 and 1961 Labor Party Conferences 173
11 Members of Parliament Agreement or Disagreement
with Sponsoring Union 175
12 Relation of Union Region Position at Miners' Union
Conference and Division 22 Vote of Members
Sponsored by the Miners' Union I 176
13 Relation of Union Region Position at Miners' Union
Conference and Division 22 Vote of Members
Sponsored by the Miners' Union II 177
14 Unions and Potential Influence 179
15 Officer and Executive Committee of the Trade Union
Group by Session 203
16 Trade Unionists on the Parliamentary Committee,
17 Trade Unionists with Shadow Cabinet Responsibility,
18 Trade Union Sponsored Members of Parliament
Serving on the National Executive Committee,
19 Trade Union Sponsored Members of Parliament
Elected in October, 1959, Who First Entered the
House of Commons pr ior to their For tieth Birthday 2 33
20 Military Questions by Group, 1962-1963 239
21 Foreign Affairs Questions by Group, 1962-1963 244
22 Industrial Questions by Group, 1962-1963 249
23 Question Specialization by Miners, 1962-1963 256
24 Question Specialization by Railwaymen, 1962-1963 262
25 Legislative Behavior by Group Means 266
26 Background Differences 271
27 Correlation of Legislative Behavior and Age by Group 276
28 The Relation Between Age and Legislative Behavior
for Each Group of Labor Members of Parliament 278
29 Correlation of Legislative Behavior and Education (B)
by Group 280
30 The Relation Between Education and Legislative
Behavior for Each Group of Labor Members of
Parliament 28 2
31 The Relation Between Age and Education of Trade
Union Sponsored Members of Parliament 283
32 The Relation Between Age and Education on
Behavior of Trade Union Spons or ed Member s of
33 Sample Composition by Party 319
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Union General Secretaries in Parliament,
2 Miners in the House of Commons, 1874-1964
3 Distribution According to Age of the Members of
Each Group of Members of Parliament
4 Distribution According to Educational Level of the
Members of Each Group of Members of Parliament
A DEVELOPMENTAL MODEL OF LEGISLATIVE
In a recent study, Samuel H. Beer has written, "In any theory
of representation, some answer is given to the questions: 'How is
the community as a whole to be represented?' 'Who or what is to
represent the common good or public interest, as compared with
the more particular interests of the component parts ? "1 The
theoretical answers given to these questions are determined by and
are major determinants of the types of representational behavior
found in any given political system. On the one hand, the theory
may stress the importance of the entire community, the public
interest, or general will. More usually, even when speaking of the
public interest, the theory tends to legitimize the particular interests
of selected parts of the community. 2 Such theories generally do not
emphasize the legitimacy of the same particular interests at all times.
1Samuel H. Beer, British Politics in the Collectivist Age
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965), p. 6.
2See Glendon Schubert, The Public Interest (Glencoe, Illinois:
The Free Press, 1960).
Changes in the political system or its environment will usually
produce changes in the conventional political theory of the system
which, in turn, may contribute to further changes in the system. 3
In finding or securing an accepted position in the representa-
tional theory and practice of a political system, particular interests
with some degree of mass support may be thought of as passing
through several phases of access to the system's decision-making
processes or machinery. 4 When first articulated, a particular
interest is relatively disorganized and lacks recognition in either
the representational theory or practice of the system. Lacking any
significant degree of social or political legitimacy, the interest in
this first phase is forced to resort to varieties of anomic behavior
to secure attention or redress for its demands. Since the new
group is demanding some sort of reallocation of resources within the
system, its acceptance is opposed by those groups which already have
access. Rioting or other forms of violence are among the more
extreme forms of anomic activity. A more moderate form of such
activity might take the form of mass petitioning of the legal authorities
for redress of grievances. Examples of such anomic activity are not
3Beer, et. passim.
4This model or theory is based on a number of empirical studies
of pressure groups in the United Kingdom. In addition, two surveys
of the activity of British interest groups were especially helpful.
They were Allen Potter, Organized Groups in British National Politics
(London: Faber and Faber, 1961); and J. D. Stewart, British Pressure
Groups: Their Role in Relation to the House of Commons (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1958).
difficult to find. Mid-twentieth century America witnessed spontaneous
actions such as the first scit-ins which form part of the Civil Rights
movement which is sweeping the entire nation. In England, certain
aspects of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament provide another
Within an Anglo-American political system, anomic activity
is seldom an end in itself. If the articulated interest is able to organize
and create some sort of permanent organization, it may be said to
have entered the second phase of interest articulation. It still11acks
access to the decision-making centers, but its existence as an
organized group within the broader social system is not seriously
threatened. The permanent organization thus created functions as
the center of future interest articulation.
In this second or organizing stage of interest articulation,
the demands of the group may be given a somewhat more rational and
coherent shape. To the extent that they bear on the political system,
such interests may find expression in demands for access to the
political system and its decision-making centers. The techniques
used to articulate these demands may often resemble anomic activity
but they are far more rationally planned and organized rather than
being the result of more or less spontaneous action by the parties
concerned. Rioting, for example, may be the result of spontaneous
action by the groups involved, or it may take the form of demonstra-
tions, the result of deliberate planning and organization by the groups
which are created to articulate the interests involved. While the
anomic activity was lacking in any coherent aim, demonstrations
may be used by organized groups to demand access to the centers
of decision-making power in the political system during the second
phase of interest articulation. If these demands are met, we may be
said to have entered the third or electoral and parliamentary phase of
In this third phase of interest articulation, the group has
secured a degree of access to the decision-making machinery of the
political system. While not having complete access, the interest
has secured the right to articulate its demands and it at least shares
in the processes by which policy decisions are ratified and made legiti-
mate within the system. The extension of the suffrage to new groups
in the Anglo-American political systems provide one example of this
sort of interest representation. This was particularly true in the
nineteenth century as the suffrage was gradually expanded to include
most major groups within society. Parliamentary representation
and lobbying are also two common forms of activity in this third stage
of interest articulation within these political systems. If lobbying
seems to be somewhat more important in the American system with
its fractured party system, it is probably replaced by parliamentary
spokesmen in the British system where a strong and disciplined party
system serves to insulate the legislators from the lobbyists. Such
differences, however, are marginal to the overall picture of limited
access which we are trying to suggest.
There is no inherent reason why a group must move from the
organizational phase of interest articulation to this phase. Some groups
may never make the transition. Likewise, there is no inherent reason
why a group should find itself even more closely integrated into the
system's decision-making processes. But if the group does secure
some concessions from its parliamentary activity in the form of
favorable legislation, it may find itself increasingly concerned with
administration of the legislation, the rules and regulations which are
issued under it, and changes in its formal outlines. The group finds
itself being consulted about legislative action even before such altera-
tion in the status quo are actually made public. This close and
intimate contact with the administrative authorities may be viewed as
the fourth or consultative phase of interest articulation. 5
As an interest group moves from one phase of articulation to
another, the techniques of articulation change. Behavior useful in
drawing attention to the interest in the anomic phase is less useful
after it has organized itself or actually secured some voice in the
decision-making process of the political system. But this change in
behavior is usually more of a change in emphasis, and the older
5A story which appeared shortly after the 1964 General Election
in the United Kingdom should remind us that access is not the same as
influence. According to the story, "The old civil servant watched the
new Minister studying a file. 'I think I. ought to warn you, Sir, 'he said,
'that we don't take that organization very seriously. 'I think I ought to
warn you, said the Minister amiably, 'that I am a member of this
organization."' The Times (London)(November 30, 1964), p. 6. Cf.
PEP, Advisory Committees in British Government (London: George
Allen & Unwin, 1960), p. 43.
techniques may continue on a considerably reduced basis. Thus,
legislative representation useful in the third phase might continue when
a group enters the fourth phase as a device for insuring that the consul-
tations will continue. Older techniques might also be continued simply
because of the lack of any real opposition to them.
As an interest acquires additional confidence and security in its
consultative status, it enters a fifth or symbolic phase of interest
articulation. If parliamentary representation is continued, its major
function changes. Specific representation of the interest gives way to
diffuse representation. Increasingly, the supporting interest group
no longer expects the representatives, in practice, to work closely
with the interest. The legislative representatives become symbols or
outward and visible signs of the less observable processes of consulta-
The pattern of legislative behavior expected in the third, fourth,
and fifth phases do not remain constant. The long-term decline of the
interests' insistence that the legislative representatives act specifically
on behalf of the interests means that the representatives are able to
adopt other legislative roles or patterns of behavior. It is possible to
briefly outline a number of different roles which a Member might fill.
6For a discussion of legislative roles, see J. C. Wahlke, et. al.,
The Legislative System (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1962), pp. 11-17,
465-470. Cf. "All MPs do not share the same conception of their role
in Parliament, or their role in relation to ministers, to pressure groups,
and to their constituents. There are several dozen combination of roles
for MPs to choose from. Richard Rose, Politics in England (Boston:
Little, Brown, 1964), p. 93.
The roles outlined in the following pages by no means exhaust the
number of roles which a legislator might play. The six roles used
here were chosen mainly for their utility in this study.
One of these possible roles centered on the constituency which
elects the Membe r. Their constituents expect a Member of Parlia-
ment to devote a certain amount of his attention to their problems.
A second parliamentary role is that of interest representative. In
filling this role, the Member seeks to promote the advantage of the
particular interest group with which he is associated. A third role
is that of class representative. The Member is expected to promote
the interests of the class to which he belongs or is associated.
While usually associated with the working class, this role is not
exclusively theirs and other classes might have similar expectations.
A fourth role which the representative might be expected to fill
is outlined by the liberal ideology of the nineteenth century. Rather
than looking after the interests of various sections of the community,
they are expected to use their own conscience as a guide in seeking
the national interest or public good. Still a fifth role which demands
some attention from a Member of Parliament is that of the partisan
or party adherent who allows Party considerations to determine the
nature of his legislative activity. A sixth role which should be men-
tioned is that based on the expectations of a Member's fellow legisla-
tors. Here the Member of Parliament is expected to carry his share
of the burdens of legislative work.
The concept of role which we are using here refers to a learned
pattern of behavior whose limits are defined by the subject's reference
group. That is to say, the Member's role in the House of Commons is
defined by the expectations of the group or groups with which he
identifies.7 Each group or clientele referred to in the above paragraphs:
constituency, interest group, class, nation, party, and the House of
Commons, holds certain expectations regarding the behavior of
Members of Parliament. The expectations of a specific group become
important to the extent that they are perceived by the Member himself
and allowed to influence his behavior. In a historical situation, of
course, it is not always possible to be certain that an individual was
aware of a group's expectations, but we can sometimes infer such
awareness from his behavior.
The clientele or groups to which we referred above may not be
completely independent of each other. Thus, five of them would be, in
effect, sub-groups of the nation or community as a whole. At the same
time, constituency, interest group, class, party, and Parliament are
both interrelated and autonomous. Since each of these groups has its
For a more technical definition of "role" as it is being used here,
see A. Paul Hare, Handbook of Small Group Research (New York: The
Free Press, 1962), pp. 101-125.
An alternative conceptualization of "role" which places more
emphasis on the actual behavior of the actor is found in T. Sarbin,
"Role Theory, in Gardner Lindzey (ed. ), Handbook of Social Psychology
(Cambridge, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley, 1954), I, 224.
Wahlke, et al., p. 9; Rose, p. 93.
own set of expectations regarding the proper behavior of the Member
of Parliament, there is always the possibility that the expectations held
by one group might be in conflict with the expectations held by another
group. There is, of course, no inherent reason why the expectations
of different groups must conflict. The situation in which an actor finds
himself confronted by conflicting expectations by different groups or
the same group to which he belongs has been termed "role confusion. ,9
The confusion results from the conflicting or inconsistent expectations
held by the groups. To the extent that the actor is unaware of such in-
consistencies or conflict, role confusion would be of no interest. Again,
in a historical situation, we must base any discussion of an individual's
role confusion not on the solid evidence which might be provided by
personal interviews, but rather on inferences drawn from the conflicting
expectations of the individual's multiple reference groups. Such in-
ferences can be supported by occasional personal statements, but they can-
not be taken to definitely prove the existence of role confusion in the
The ability of a given legislative representative to fill any or all
of these roles is related to the representative's social and political
background. Social characteristics such as class, occupation, age,
education, and sex might contribute to the Member's ability to fill these
Hare, p. 120.
Cf. Donald S. Matthews, The Social Background of Political
Decision Makers (New York: Random House, 1955).
roles. The degree to which the Member is integrated into or linked
with the various clienteles would also be a factor influencing the
Member's response to group expectations. Political characteristic which
might influence or condition a Member's role-playing include experience
in local government, electoral majority, or parliamentary seniority.
An example of this developmental model and accompanying
legislative role behavior is supplied by the British labor and trade
union movements. The working classes brought into existence by the
industrial revolution usually lacked any effective voice either economi-
cally or politically. Attempts to organize the workers in the early
nineteenth century were not very effective and frequently illegal.
Gradually, in the middle part of the century, the working classes were
able to organize more trade unions sometimes disguised as Friendly
Societies or insurance groups. The unions, while organized mainly
for economic reasons, provided a convenient agency for the articu-
lation of the political demands of the working classes. While the
working classes did not share in the suffrage reform of 1832, they
were able to secure the vote in 1867.
The use of the union's industrial opponents of the House of
Commons as a tool for furthering their class interests led to a demand
in the unions in the latter nineteenth century for union representation
in Parliament. This same demand underlay the willingness of the
trade union to support the Labor Party in the first two decades of
the twentieth century. The access to the decision-making centers of
the political system provided by parliamentary representation in the
years 1874 until 1920 was wupplemented after World War I by the start
of direct consultation between the unions and the Government. This
consultative status was expanded during and after World War II. The
successive phases of this model as applied to the British Labor Move-
ment are shown in the following table. Of particular concern for the
remainder of the study are the last three phases and the type of legisla-
tive representation found therein.
In both the third, fourth, and fifth phases of interest articulation
and access, the individual trade unions maintained or supported a num-
ber of parliamentary representatives. Starting in the third phase of the
model, these representatives were sent into the House of Commons in
order to speak and act for their unions. But once in the House, they
found themselves under increasing pressure to respond to some of the
other clientele to which we have already referred.
In the third phase of interest articulation, the unions were quite
concerned with the substantive contribution which the Members of
Parliament supported by the unions might make to the unions' welfare.
To insure this, they saw to~ it that first rank union leaders were promi-
nent among the Members of Parliament supported by the trade unions.
The unions were prepared to go farther to insure that the Members of
Parliament acted in accordance with the unions' expectations rather than
any of their other clientele through the use of the unions' ability to with-
draw support from the Members of Parliament. If such conflicts were
STAGE OF I PARLIAMENTARY UNION EXPECTA- RATIONALE OF
INTEREST ,UNION TYPE OF UNION ROLES OF TION OF UNION
REPRESENTA- TIME UNION REPRESENTATIVES UNIONSUPPORTEII PARLIAMENTARY REPRESENTATION
TION OBJECTIVES .I REPRESENTATIVE LINKAGE MEMBERS OF ROLES
Anemic Nineat enth Right to
Middle Legal protection of No direct represen-
Organization Nineteenth union organization; station save for None
Century suffrage; industrial some friendly or
benefits middle class Ifra
Personal; Role Confusion; Representation of
Electoral 1867 Legal protection of Union Leaders; Union leaders ote Resulting from Union's Industrial Utility,
and to union organization; Formal and informal stiHoeof diverse clientele; Interests. Little Honor, and
Pa rliamenta ry 1920's political reform of alliance with some Commons union; party; class awareness of pos- Symbol of
industrial conditions middle class repre- nation; constituency; sible conflict be- Acceptance
sentatives in liberal parliament cause of personal
and labor parties union-member ln
Formal Role Confusion: Expectation of
(but decreasing utility of pa rlia Tradition
emphasis on union mentary represen- or
Consultative World War I Political reform in Secondary Union clientele) station Consolation
to industrial sphere; leaders; rank and Prize
World War II file union members
Eventual decline of Union prestige,
Decline of industrial Foml Dcieo oe union expectation of Symbol of
Since World Insurance against *nnions after World Dainate cofsnbsd mmergemnt Consultation,
Symbolic loss of consultative War II New spon- World War on union expecta- with union. Increase Service to Party,
War II position; aid to party sored Members 11tosin expectation of and
lacking in industrial Member's support Tradition
expe rience of pa rty.
PHASES OF UNION
infrequent, it must be partly credited to the fact that the Members of
Parliament who were also union leaders were hardly likely to find
themselves out of step with their sponsoring organizations.
The unions entered the fourth phase of interest representation about
the time of World War I and the 1920's. They gradually ceased sending
top union personnel into the House of Commons. In their stead, more
and more rank and file union members or low ranking union officials were
found. Since the fourth phase is one of transition during which the unions
were adjusting to their increasing status as consultants to the govern-
ment while not completely giving up the expectation of substantive
service from their sponsored Members of Parliament, the occasion
for conflict between the unions and their sponsored Members increased.
The unions were willing to take action against Members who disagreed
with the unions. Such action might include the loss of financial support.
Gradually, the trade unions acquired greater confidence in their
consultative status, and parliamentary representation took on a more
and more symbolic function for them in the years after World War II.
Channels of communication between unions and their sponsored Members
were allowed to fall into decay, and the Members of Parliament were
increasingly responsive to the expectation of other clienteles (especially
party). This was accompanied by an increasing acceptance by the
trade union leaders of norms calling for Members of Parliament to be
more responsive to other groups such as party. Conflict between union
and sponsored Member thus decreased.
Despite the decline in active union use of and dependence on their
parliamentary representatives, in the symbolic phase, the union
supported Members of Parliament are not free to ignore their union
association. Like other Members, they bring with them to the Palace
of Westminister a set of background experiences and skills which greatly
influence their contribution to the life of Parliament. Even without the
active prod of their unions, they would be drawn toward industrial
subjects as a result of their occupational careers. Likewise, the nature
of their educational background and age of recruitment into Parliament
might be expected to exert some influence on their legislative behavior.
To further illustrate the developmental model of interest represen-
tation and accompanying legislative roles suggested above, we have
undertaken in the following pages an extended study of the political
activities of the British trade union movement with regard to their
support over the past century of Members of Parliament. We have
been especially concerned to show some of the conflicts which have
resulted from the different role perceptions held by these Members and
the impact of their social and political background of their contribution
to parliamentary activity.
In Chpaters I and II we deal with changing patterns of personal
recruitment and parliamentary performance by the trade union supported
Members of Parliament. Chapter I might be thought to deal mainly
with the third phase of interest representation, while Chapter II covers
the fourth phase. In these chapters we are concerned with the types of
representatives selected by the unions to be sent into Parliament and
what these representatives did after they arrived there. In Chapters III
and IV we are concerned with union-Member relations in the fifth phase
of inter est r epr es entation. Chapter III gives specific attention to the
nature of contemporary links between unions and Members. Chapter IV
then devotes attention to how these links work in an analysis of the
defence dispute of 1960-1961. The analysis is especially useful in
showing the differences in attitude still held within the unions with re-
gard to the proper role of the union supported Members of Parliament.
In Chapter s V and VI, we turn our attention to an examination of
the contribution of the trade union supported representative to the 1959-
1964 House of Commons. In Chapter V this includes an analysis of the
activities of the Trade Union Group and the place of the trade union
representatives in the leadership of the Parliamentary Labour Party.
Finally, in Chapter VI, we focus on the substantive contribution of the
trade union sponsored Members to Debate and to the Question Hour;
and we have undertaken a modest statistical analysis of the impact of
certain aspects of the trade union sponsored Members' social and
political background on their participation in Debate, the Question Hour
and the Standing Committees of the House of Commons. Through the
use of samples of Conservative and non-trade union sponsored Labor
Members, we have tried to make a comparative study of the impact of
age, seniority, education, and majority on these forms of parliamentary
EARLY TRADE UNION PARLIA~MENTARIANS IN THE
ELECTORAL AND LEGISLATIVE PHASE
OF INTEREST REPRESENTATION
THE TRADE UNION GENERAL SECRETARIES
Joint Industrial and Political Leadership
The British trade union movement entered the third or electoral
and legislative phase of interest representation in the 1860's and
1870's. If a specific date must be assigned, it would be either the
passage of the Reform Act of 1867 which opened the suffrage to a part
of the working class or the election of Thomas Burt and Alexander
MacDonald, both miners, to the House of Commons in 1874. It was
the election of these two men that began the long series of trade union
supported or sponsored Members of Parliament to serve in the British
House of Commons.
Defining an early trade union supported Member of Parliament
as a Labor (or Liberal-Labor) Member with known trade union links,
there seems to have been about 60 known trade unionists among the
81 Labor Members who served between 1874 and 1910. 1 As an actual
estimate of direct trade union representation, even this figure of 60 is
likely to be a bit high. Included in it are Labor pioneers such as
James Keir Hardie whose connection with the trade unions during his
political career is tenuous at best. 2 The exclusion of such individuals
would merely strengthen the conclusions which are derived from our
discussion of the early trade union supported Members of Parliament.
Of the 60 early Labor Members with identifiable trade union
links, over half had held union offices at one time or another. Nineteen
had served as the General Secretary or chief executive officer of their
unions with the responsibility of guiding their organizations through the
1For a comprehensive discussion of the difficulties in identifying
the early trade union Members of Parliament, see H. A. Clegg, Alan Fox,
and A. F. Thompson, A History of British Trade Unions Since 1889,
Vol. I: 18 89-1910 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), pp. 51-52; 283-285.
The definition of a trade union Member of Parliament being used in this
study is somewhat narrower than that proposed by Clegg and his colleagues.
They would include the nature of a legislator's activity as well as the
characteristics we have used.
The trade union supported Members of Parliament who constitute
the basis for the following discussion were taken from the lists of early
Labor Members found in: G. D. H. Cole, British Working Class Politics,
1832-1914 (London: Routtedge, 1941), pp. 255-301, Appendix I; and
A. W. Humphrey, A History of Labour Representation (London:
Constable, 1913), pp. 192-195, Appendix III. A list of these early
Labor Members and the trade unions which some of them had links with
is given in Appendix I.
2Hardie was the Agent for the Lanarkshire Miners' (1879-1881);
Secretary, Ayshire Miners' Union (1886-1890); and Secretary, Scottish
Miners' Federation (1886-1887). All of this took place prior to his
first election to Parliament in 1893. Clegg, Fox and Thompson, p. 100n.
The only election in which Hardie had the direct and official support of
the miners was in 1890 when he stood unsuccessively for election to
Parliament. Had he been elected then, the Ayshire Miners had agreed
rather difficult times of the latter nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries. The General Secretaries were sent into the House of
Commons to fulfill one of the major justifications for direct parlia-
mentary representation for organized labor, i. e. to act as spokes -
men for their individual unions and for the working class as a whole. 3
The personal nature of union representation in Parliament and
its relation to union positions can be seen by examining the careers
of the nineteen General Secretaries who served in the House of
Commons. This personal union of political and industrial roles is
shown in Figure 1. It is apparent that in most cases, there was a
considerable degree of overlapping between the two.
The personal union of the political and industrial leadership
suggested above can also be seen in the Trades Union Congress whose
executive body between 1869 and 1921 was called the Parliamentary
Committee. The Committee usually included a number of Members
of Parliament. The high point came in 1906 when there were nine
legislators included in the thirteen-member Committee. The complex
state of Labor representation is suggested by the fact that six of
these representatives were members of the new Parliamentary Labor
to pay him a salary of 200 a year. Between 1890 and 1893, Hardie
deliberately severed all connections with the miners so that he would
not be bound by vested interests. See David Lowe, From Pit to
Parliament (London: The Labour Publishing Company, 1923),
3Trades Union Congress, Report (1869), pp. 202-203. Cf. John
Hodge, Workman's Cottage to Windsor Castle (London: Sampson Low
and Company, 1931), p. 137.
bMemb e r w w w w w w v v -
/1 / / // /
The union affiliation of the above Member s of Parliament may be
seen in Appendix I.
h\\\\\ refers to parliamentary service
VIJ///// refers to union service as General Secretary
Fig. 1. --Union General Secretaries in Parliament, 1874-1910
Years of Service in Union and Parliament
Wilson, J. H.
I 1 1
Party while the other three were Lib-Labs.4 The Miners' F'ederation
of Great Britain showed a similar concentration of industrial and
political leadership. The Executive of the Federation included the
General Secretaries of the regional components of the Federation.
These men were frequently Members of Parliament. 5
Because the early trade union supported Members of Parliament
were often leaders of first rank within their unions, they could speak
with authority for their or ganizations and they could help to shape
union policy to take advantage of the current political climate reflected
in the House of Commons. They were able to reply to attacks on the
working classes by other Members, and their partial integration into
the existing power structure of British society helped to partially
reconcile the working classes to it.
Rational of Parliamentary Representation
Dissatisfaction with the middle class, Radical Members of
Parliament who had previously provided some political assistance
to the trade unions also contributed to the demand for direct parliamen-
tary representation. The trade union view of these "friends of the
workers" was expressed by a delegate to the Trades Union Congress
in 1869 when he stated, .. these men could not be expected to
4Henry Pelling, A History of British Trade Unionism (London:
Penguin Books, 1963), p. 127.
5R. Page Arnot, A History of the Miners' Federation of Great
Britain (Three volumes: London: Allen and Unwin, 1949-1961),
Vol. I, p. 369.
understand the wants and advocate the interests of working men so well
as men chosen from themselves. Not a single working man had yet
been permitted to enter Parliament in the Labour interest."
The serious interest of the trade unions in securing their own
representatives is suggested by the fact that they frequently gave
financial assistance to the trade union Members elected after 1874.
For example, Thomas Burt, the Lib-Lab Member for Morpeth from
1874 until 1918 received two salaries from his union. The first was
for his duties as General Secretary of the Northumberland Miners'
Association from 1865 until 1913. The second was for his parliamentary
duties. Together, the two salaries totaled aboutf500 per year. 7
Since this was before the start of state payment of Members of Parlia-
ment, many of the early trade supported Members would have been
unable to serve without this assistance. We will have occasion below
to discuss some of the ways in which these trade union representatives
were actually able to act as spokesmen for their unions and for the
working class in the House of Commons.
It would be misleading to assume, however, that interest
representation was the only justification for sending union leaders to
Trades Union Congress, Report (1869), p. 200. This view was
expressed in a paper by Alfred A. Walton entitled "The Direct Repre-
sentation Election of Labour in Parliament. Cf J. E. Williams, The
Derbyshire Miners (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1962), p. 488.
7noVlIp29.In 1888 this had to be reduced tojf400
per year. Aaron Watson, A Great Labour Leader, Being the Life of the
Right Honourable Thomas Burt, M. P. (London: Brown, Langham, 1908),
p. 156. Cf. Williams, The Derbyshire Miners, p. 809.
Parliament. Election to the House of Commons can also be viewed
as a manner in which the unions sought to honor their leaders. Exami-
nation of the data presented in Figure 1 will show that in most cases
the union leaders were not sent to the House of Commons until after
they had been in their union positions for a time. The House of Commons
was recognized as one of the best clubs in Europe and how else might
the working class in a high deferential society reward their leaders ?
On a somewhat lesser scale, this same desire to honor their
leaders could be seen in the election of the trade union representatives
to local government offices. Early union leaders saw no incompatibility
between their union duties and the holding of public offices. They
were quite active in seeking election to the local school boards that
existed between 1870 and 1902. After the passage of the Local
Governments Acts of 1888 and 1894, the trade unionists began to stand
for election to other local government bodies. 8 In some unions
there seemed to be a regular progression from office to office until
they even occasionally reached the House of Commons. 9
There was, perhaps, a third factor contributing to the support
for early trade union parliamentary representation. The acceptance
of working class representatives in the House of Commons
8V. L. Allen, "The Ethics of Trade Union Leaders, British
Journal of Sociology, VII (1956), 319. The trade union sponsored
Members of Parliament still bring a considerable experience in
local government to the House of Commons.
Arnot, Vol. I, p. 293.
can be viewed as a symbolic acceptance of the importance of the
working class within the nation as a whole. The importance of
this symbolic acceptance was occasionally given public recognition.
At a meeting following the election of Thomas Burt to the House of
Commons in 1874,
Robert Elliott, the poet of the contest, was in the chair,
and the speech with which he opened the proceedings is not
without historic interest. They had met, he said, to celebrate
the return of the first veritable working man to the British House
of Commons. They had struck a blow at snobbery and sham
respect ability. The miners of the North of England--or England
generally--had been looked down upon and despised by the other
classes of society; but they might depend upon it that in the
future they would be looked up to with greater respect. 1
The recognition of the symbolic importance of working class represen-
tation can also be seen in the comments of Beatrice Webb on the
participation of Labor ministers in the World War I coalition:
...The ordinary 'rank and filer' is as muddled-headed
as the ordinary Trade Union official. 'We have our men in
the Government, they argue, 'and one of them is in the inner-
most Cabinet, that must be an advantage to us. And they ar e
genuinely elated by this fact--they enjoy the vicarious glory of
the Labour Cabinet Minister being among the ruler s of the earth --a
man whom they addr e ss by his Chir stian name and who sits and smoke s
Cf. L. G. Seligman, "Elite Recruitment and Political
Development, Journal of Politics, XXVI (1964), p. 625, citing
S. Eisenstadt, "Sociological Aspects of Political Development
in Underdeveloped Countires, in S. M. Lipset and N. J. Smelser
(eds.), Sociology (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice Hall, 1961),
The importance of this sort of political symbolism is infre-
quently recognized by most political scientists, but see Murray
Edelman, The Symbolic Uses of Politics (Urbana: University of
Illinois Press, 1964), passim.
with them. They cannot see that their representative may be a
mere tool in the hands of men who have been hardened oppressors
of their clas s. 12
All of these reasons played a part in furthering early trade union
parliamentary representation. But they were never of sufficient strength
to bring about massive working class representation even after the
1880's when Britain achieved almost complete universal male suffrage.
As we have shown in Table 2, trade union representation never rose
above fifteen Members until 1906, and for most of the period, it was
dominated by the General Secretaries.
THE RECEPTION OF UNION LEADERS
IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
In concerning ourselves with the parliamentary performance of
the early trade union parliamentary representatives, we must first
ask how they fitted into the heretofore aristocratic and semi-aristocratic
1Margaret I. Cole (ed.), Beatrice Webb's Diaries, 1912-1924
(London: Longmans, Green, 1952), p. 74. Entry for December 8, 1916.
Cf. the reaction of Mr. Jack Lawson's parents to his first Parliamentary
speech. 'Father at once expressed his satisfaction that I had been
'telling them off, 'the person who had been 'told' being the government. "
Jack Lawson, A Man's Life (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1932),
p. 264. Cf. .. because of what has been labeled the 'halo effect, '
having a generally favorable attitude to the particular occupants of
the authority roles, a member may be inclined to see the authorities
as acting in his interest or on behalf of his demands more frequently
than any objective appraisal would reveal. David Easton, A Systems
Analysis of Political Life (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1965),
1910 1910 -
Election 1874 1880 1885 1886 1892 1895 1900 1906 I II 1918 1922
Total Trade Union Supported
2 3 11 10 15 12 10 54 40 + 42 49 85
Membe rs of Parliament
Total Gene ral Sec reta rie s
as Union Supported 1 1 3 3 4 4 5 13 11 9 ? ?
Membe rs of Parliament
Pe rcentage of Gene ral
Sec reta rie s among T rade
50%/ 33%/ 27%/ 30%/ 26%/ 33%/ 50%/ 24%/ 27%/ 23% ?
Union Supported Membe rs
TRADE UNION SUPPORTED MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT
AND UNION GENERAL SECRETARIES
atmosphere of the House of Commons. 13 Most of the early trade
union supported Members of Parliament were elected as Liberal-Labor
Members, more popularly known as Lib-Labs. Because of their
Liberal sympathies and support from Liberal organizations outside
of Parliament, it was not too difficult for them to be fitted into the
Liberal organization in the House of Commons, and, through it,
into the House as a whole. 14 It was not until the election of
1The aristocratic nature of the House of Commons is indicated by
Taylor when he write s: "Whatever its origin, the spirit of the rules of
debate IS aristocratic. They are the rules which a body of educated gentle-
men would observe when meeting, say, at a rather formal dinner. "
Eric Taylor, The House of Commons at Work (Fifth revised edition;
London: Penguin Books, 1963), p. 87.
And, of course, one of the main differences between the majority
of the middle class Members of Parliament and the new trade unionists
lay in the nature of their education. The middle class Members frequently
were a product of the more exclusive English "public schools" and
Oxford and Cambridge. The trade unionists usually lacked such a back-
ground and were self -educated. On this point, Irving Howe comments,
"The rise of the self-educated proletarian is one of the most remarkable
facts in 19th-Century English history. Frequently this new man discovered
himself through the trade-union and socialist movements, which brought
him a sense of historical mission, an assignment of destiny and role;
..." Irving Howe, "Hardy as a 'Modern' Novelist, The New Republic
(June 26, 1965), p. 19. (A review of a new edition of Thomas Hardy's
Jude the Obscure). Cf. Below, pp. 105, 271-275.
O4strogorski described the early trade unionists in the House of
Commons as follows: "From 1874 genuine working-men had entered the
House, being generally brought in by their respective Trade Unions,
those of the miners, for instance and others. In a dozen years there
were as many as ten or twelve of them, all returned as professed
'Liberals. By their intelligence and their character they almost all
did credit to the social class to which they belonged and some were even
an ornament to the House of Commons. They intervened with zeal and
devotion in the discussion of all questions relating to the toiling masses.
Classed among the Liberals, they followed them in everything according
to the ethics of parties. M. Ostrogorski, Democracy and the Organization
of Political Parties, Vol I: England, Edited by S. M. Lipset (New York:
James Keir Hardie in 1893 that "the man in the cloth cap"' who was
unwilling to conform to the prevailing modes of gentlemanly behavior
appeared on the scene.15
Generally, the early trade union supported Members were well
received in the House of Commons. Thomas Burt, writing in the
Fortnightly Review, described their reception as follows:
The Labour members cannot complain of their reception by
the House. Whatever its faults and failings may be--and it has
many--that assembly is, so far as its own members are concerned,
thoroughly democratic. It believes in, and practices equality, and
is free alike from condescension and from arrogance. Let a member
know in substance what he is talking about--let him talk straight
at the House, not up to it, still less down to it--and the House
will accord him a fair hearing, and will make generous allowance
for his bluntness and inaccuracies of speech. Probably there is no
place in the world where social position counts for less than in the
British House of Commons. It may be unfair in its judgment of a
man; but it never measures him by a mean standard. It estimates
Anchor Doubleday Books, 1964), p. 281. First published in 1902.
Cf. Francis Williams, Magnificent Journey (London: Odhams Press,
1954), p. 211.
"The man in the cloth cap" refers to the usual head covering
worn by members of the working classes and which J. Keir Hardie
pioneered in the House of Commons. When he first took his seat in the
House, Hardie was wearing a cloth cap rather than the traditional high
hat worn by gentlemen of the late nineteenth century. According to one
version of what happened, Hardie had not intended to wear the cap to
the House but was prevented by the enthusiasm of his followers from
returning home to change after a demonstration before going on to the
House. Hodge, pp. 263-264.
H. Asquith, the future Prime Minister, drew a sharp distinction
between the respectable Liberal trade unionists such as Burt or Charles
Fenwick and the new "agitators" such as John Burns or Keir Hardie
who appeared in the House in the 1890's. See the Earl of Oxford and
Asquith (H. H. Asquith), Fifty Years of British Parliament (Two
Volumes; Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1926), Vol. II,
him by his character and ability, and by the extent of his possession,
and cares just as much or just as little for a peasant as for a lord.
Burt, of course, was one of the more outstanding trade union parlia-
mentary representatives in these early years and had shown himself
willing to accept most of the social values of his fellow Members of the
House of Commons. Keir Hardie's reaction might have been quite
Even the creation of the Labor Party did not significantly alter
the reception accorded to the early trade union supported Members.
Following the 1906 election, an anonymous writer described their
treatment by the House as follows:
During the early months of the Session [1906 the Labour Party
received from all quarters in the House an amount of deference
that would have been described as sycophantic if it had been directed
toward an aristocratic instead of towards a democratic group. 17
But the early trade union parliamentary representatives were not
without their critics. Perhaps the most outstanding of them was Joseph
Chamberlain whose views may have been as colored by his political
biases as were Thomas Burt's. Chambe rlain had already broken with
the Liberals and was to become a member of the Tory Government
headed by Lord Salisbury in 1895 when he attacked the trade unionists
Thomas Burt, Fortnightly Review (1889), quoted in Watson,
"71Socialism in the House of Commons, Edinburgh Review, CCIV
(October, 1906), p. 271.
in 1894 as "mere fetchers and carriers for the Gladstonian party. "18
And in 1900 he declared,
When they come into Parliament they are like fish out of water;
their only use is as an item in the voting machine .. not one
of these gentlemen had ever initiated or carried through legisla-
tion for the benefit of the working classes, though occasionally
they had hindered such legislation. 19
Criticism of the trade union leaders who sat in the House of
Commons was partly limited by the fact that it was not until the end of
the first decade of the twentieth century (or even later) that it became
clear which political party would secure the bulk of the working class
vote. For the Liberals, there was a very real possibility that the new
Labor Party might join them or that the trade unions might desert the
new party. 20 It was not until the time of the First World War that the
1Clegg, Fox and Thompson, p. 279. Chamberlain's own record
as a reform leader led one author to comment that .. Chamberlain's
withdrawal from the Liberal party left the labour element, as it were,
without a Liberal leader, and thereby aided in the development of a
separate labour party. Elsie Elizabeth Gulley, Joseph Chamberlain and
English Social Politics (New York: Columbia University, 1926), p. 253.
1Clegg, Fox and Thompson, p. 279, quoting The Times (London)
(October 1, 1900). George Howell spends some 15 pages in trying to
refute Chamberlain. See George Howell, Labour Legislation, Labour
Movements and Labour Leaders (Two volumes; Second edition; London:
T. F. Unwin, 1905), Vol. II, pp. 459-473.
2The relatively reluctant attachment of the trade unions to the
new Labor Representation Committee and its socialist supporters in
the first years of the twentieth century is reflected in recurring examples
of new Lib-Lab Parliamentary candidates who ran with some degree of
union support. For example, in 1910, one of the unions which was to
form part of the National Union of General and Municipal Workers allowed
one of its officers, A. J. Baily, to stand for Parliament as a Liberal.
He was defeated by a Conservative. See H. A. Clegg, General Union
in a Changing Society (Oxford: Blackwell, 1964), p. 59. Another case
Liberals ceased to really expect this. The other major party, the
Conservatives, were also tantalized by the possibility that the working
classes might yet realize that the Tories had their best interests at
heart. 21 The consolidation of the Labor Party by the 1920's meant
that both of the traditional parties were to be denied the bulk of the
working class support.
THE ACTIVITY OF UNION LEADERS
IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
The Representative's Role Confusion
The early trade union supported Members of Parliament in this
third phase of interest representation were subject to pressures from
involved one of the components of the Miners' Federation. In 1913 an
official of the Derbyshire Miners' Association, Barnet Kenyon, stood as
a Liberal in opposition to both a socialist (John Scurr) and a Conservative.
Kenyon won the three cornered contest. See G. D. H. Cole, p. 299;
The Times (London) (August, 1913); Williams, The Derbyshire Miners,
pp. 505-510, 807-821. Cf. Fenner Brockway, Inside the Left (London:
George Allen and Unwin, 1942), pp. 36-38.
2Early trade union political activity was by no means restricted
to alliances with the Liberals. Many trade unionists were Conservatives.
This was especially true in the cotton unions. In 1899, James Mawdsley,
a leader of the Cotton Spinners and a member of the Trades Union Congress
Parliamentary Committee, stood as a "Conservative -Labor" candidate.
Mawdsley was defeated by Lib-Lab intervention. See Henry Pelling,
The Origins of the Labour Party, 1880 -1900 (London: Macmillan, 1954),
p. 217. Further evidence of the continuing working class support
for the Conservatives can be seen in the comment of Austin Chamberlain
in a letter to Arthur Balfour dealing with the first General Election of
1910: "I Don't think we can afford to give away our own men in the
Trades Unions. Austin Chamberlain, Politics from Inside (London:
Cassell, 1936), p. 200. Cf. L. S. Amery, My Political Life (Three
volumes; London: Hutchinson, 1953), Vol. II, p. 112; W. F. Moneypenny
a variety of clientele. On the one hand they had been sent into the
House of Commons to further and protect the interests of their re spec -
tive unions. In addition, they frequently perceived themselves as
representing the entire working class. 22 Within the House of Commons,
however, they found themselves expected to accept the Burkean view
of the representative's function which held that he should be responsible
to no outside body save his constituency and that he should seek to
consider the good of the entire nation rather than sections of it
(including his constituency) when making decisions on public policy. 23
The resulting role confusion created a number of intellectual and
behavioral problems for the early trade union sponsored parliamentary
The simplest and most usual solution to these problems was to
simply ignore all but one of the clientele to which the Member was
linked. In doing this, there was no unanimity among the union supported
and G. E. Buckle, The Life of Benjamin Disraeli (New edition in Two
Volumes; London: John Murry, 1929), Vol II, p. 709.
For a more systematic treatment of this phenomenon of the working
class Conservative, see R. T. McKenzie and A. Silver, "Conservatism,
Industrialism and the Working Class Tory in England, Transactions of
the Fifth World Congress of Sociology (September 2-8, 1962), Vol. III,
pp. 191-202. (Washington: International Sociological Association, 1964),
and a forthcoming book by these same authors.
2Above, pp. 18-21. Cf. Samuel H. Beer,BitsPotisnth
Collectivist Age (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965), pp. 111-112.
23For a thorough discussion of British theories of representation,
see A. H. Birch, Representative and Responsible Government (London:
George Allen and Unwin, 1964). The Burkean view is discus sed on
pp. 48-81. For an argument that the disinterested Member of Parliament
has always been a rarity in practice, see Beer, pp. 23-24.
Members as to which clientele they would favorably respond to.
Some of them made a conscious attempt to claim that they were acting
in behalf of their constituencies. Henry Broadhurst, for example,
refers to his success in having Hanley, a town in his constituency,
made a Quarter Sessions town. He then goes on to say, '1 took great
pleasure in my success in this direction, which entirely disproved the
theory that a labour representative could be of no service to the
general and commercial interests of his constituency, and would
confine his attention to voicing the desires of the working classes only.',24
With regard to his efforts toward legal reform, he writes, "The reform
of the criminal law was by no means a solitary example of the way in
which the efforts of the Parliamentary Committee were exerted, not
merely for the working classes, but on behalf of the community at large. "25
Other trade unionists, however, were quite explicit about
representing the working class as a whole. Will Thorne wrote,
During all the years that I have been a Member of Parliament
I have consistently tried to get legislation enacted that would
improve the lot of the working class. I have been associated
with Bills of all kinds, from nationalisation to cheap workmen's
trains; I have introduced deputations to Prime Ministers and
24H. Broadhurst, H. Broadhurst, M. P.: The Story of his Life:
From a Stone Mason's Bench to the Treasury Bench (Second edition;
London: Hutchinson, 1901), p. 105.
2Ibid. p. 77.
26Will Thorne, My Life's Battles (London: George Newnes,
1925), pp. 208-209; Cf. George Haw, From Workhouse to Westminster
(London: Cassell and Company, 1907), pp. 202-207, 219-226, 230-240.
But others viewed their representative role in still another fashion.
For these men, their primary function was to further the interests of
their unions. Joseph Arch, leader of the agricultural laborers, wrote,
" .. now I hoped soon to be in the House of Commons to give the
landlords a word or two about the periodical increases of rent and a
few other things. 27A similarly viewed statement of the role of the
representative was found in the memoirs of J. H. Thomas, where he
wrote: "Throughout the whole of my life I had never done anything but
work on the railways or for the railwaymen. My life was dedicated
to their interests. 2
That there exists ground for role conflict between the expectations
of different individual unions is obvious. For example, John Hodge
of the Steelsmelters refused to support an effort by the Shop Assistant's
union to secure the support of the Parliamentary Labor Party for
special legislation regulating the hours of shop assistants. But he had
not been unwilling to seek special legislation for the iron and steel
industry. His opposition to the Shop As sistants led to an effort by the
Groton Trades Council to censure him for not following the edict of the
27Joseph Arch, The Story of His Life, Told by Himself, edited
by the Countess of Warwick (Second edition; London: Hutchinson and
Company, 1898), pp. 354-355.
J. H. Thomas, My Story (London: Hutchinson, 1937),
pp. 196-197. Cf. Beer, pp. 23-24, n. 3. The particular interests of
the miners is well known. See H. J. Hanham, Elections and Party
Management (London: Longmans, Green, 1959), p. 326; Cole (ed.),
Beatrice Webb's Diaries, 1912-1924, p. 72. Entry for December 8,
Shop's Assistants' union. When he pointed out the conflict between his
own union, the Steelsmelters, the Shop Assistants', and the local Cotton
unions, the censure move was altered to a vote of confidence. 29 It was
an accepted thing that he should put the interests of his own union first.
Most of the early trade union supported Members referred to
above solved their role confusion problems by giving priority to one or
another of the clienteles to which they were linked. Other union sup-
ported Members solved the problems by combining their clienteles.
Perhaps the best example of this was John Wilson, the General Secretary
of the Durham Miners. Wilson served as a Member of Parliament from
1884 until 1886 and from 1890 until 1915. In this autobiography he
referred to his political career as follows:
It will not be of service for me to dwell upon the personal
side of my Parliamentary life. There would be too much of the
egotist. This much I may say, there are points in which I might
mention with legitimate pride. I went into the House as a thorough
believer in and supporter of Mr. Gladstone and the Liberal party
in gene ral politics. From that I have never swerved. That is my
political creed now (1909), and without a shadow of a doubt it will
remain. The Liberals in the division were told this in 1890; and
with it they were told that the first plank in my platform was the
welfare of my class, and to that I hold as tenaciously as ever. 30
Wilson saw no grounds for conflict between the expectations of his
class and his party. What he might have done had such conflict become
Hodge, pp. 157-159.
John Wilson, Memories of a Labour Leader (London: T. Fisher
Unwin, 1910), p. 284. On the other hand, this is the same John Wilson
who provided so much opposition to the demand for an eight hour work day
for the miners. Below, pp. 43-45.
apparent is difficult to say although it is suggestive that he refused to
go along with the miners' union when they affiliated with the new Labor
Party in 1909. To the end of his political career, he continued to give
formal allegiance to the Liberal-Labor alliance which he had been a
part of since his first entry into politics.
The conflict between the general and particular interests which
attract the time and effort of the Member of Parliament is a continuing
one, and the resulting role confusion is not easily eliminated. The
nation as a whole, his constituency, and the people and organizations
with which he is associated all tend to expect the Member to support
their interests. We will have occasion to examine in greater detail
a number of cases of conflict between the Member and his supporting
or sponsoring union in Chapter III.
General Effectiveness in the House of Commons
The early trade union supported Members of Parliament differed
in their effectiveness within the House of Commons. Some were utterly
unable to impress their colleagues. William Crawford "is alleged
never to have opened his mouth in the House. William Abraham
(Mabon)'s "oratory was designed for the Welsh valleys' rather than
the Palace of Westminster. Even Benjamin Pickard, for all his extra-
parliamentary ability as the leader of the Miners' Federation of Great
Britain "was a failure as a parliamentarian. His interests were narrow;
his speeches rare, bad, and sometimes muddled. But there were also
trade union sponsored Members who made a positive contribution to
the House. Thomas Burt "was the man for general reflections, an
eloquent protagonis t of cla ss collabo ration. Charle s Fenwick "was
the group's specialist on problems like payment of Members and
registration law. John Wilson was recognized as an active committee
man and a ready speaker. "31
Thomas Burt, who represented Morpeth in the House from 1874
until 1918, was one of the more respected early trade union sponsored
Members. Never achieving high office, he did become Parliamentary
Secretary to the .Board of Trade in 1892-1895.
He spoke but seldom in the House, but when it was known that the
member for Morpeth was on his feet, interest was immediately
aroused. His name is associated with many reform measures,
such as the Employers' Liability Act (1880), factory and workshop
legislation, amendments to the Trades Union Acts, and improved
Mines Acts for the greater safety of miners. 32
Burt served on a number of Royal Commissions including the Royal
Commission on Labor in 1894. From the record of these activities,
it would seem clear that Burt devoted a considerable amount of his time
to matters of interest to his union and the working class as a
whole. In the latter part of his parliamentary career, he was honored
3All of the quotes in this paragraph were taken from Clegg, Fox
and Thompson, p. 285. Ben Turner comments that Mabon was "better
known in the trade union world as a singer than a speaker; .. Ben
Turner, About Myself (London: Humphrey Toulmin, 1930), p. 286.
32H. R. H. Weaver (ed. ), Dictionary of National Biography, 1922-
1930 (London: Oxford University Press, 1937), p. 143. Cf. Watson,
by being the first living politician to have his portrait hung in the
Reform Club. 33 Burt finished his Parliamentary career as Father of
the House, having served there longer than any other Member.
Burt was an outstanding example of the union supported Member
as a gentleman. 34 More effective as a political leader was Henry
Broadhurst, the generally acknowledged leader of the early trade union
supported Members of Parliament. Broadhurst was the secretary of
the Trades Union Congress Parliamentary Committee from 1875 until
1890. He served in the House of Commons from 1880 until 1906. For
a decade he provided a direct link between the Trades Union Congress
and Parliament. While he served in the dual capacity, Broadhurst
often introduced legislation drawn up by the Parliamentary Committee.
In 1886 he became the first working class member of the Government
when he served briefly as Under -Secretary to the Home Office. 35
Other early trade union representatives of unquestioned ability
included David J. Shackleton who left Parliament in 1910 for a long
and important career in the Civil Service, Arthur Henderson who
provided much of the organization skill which was to make the Labor
Party a successful mass party in the period after World War I, and
John Burns of the Gasworkers, who was the first member of the working
3Watson, p. 274.
34The Earl of Oxford and Asquith, Vol II, p. 183.
35Clegg, Fox and Thompson, p. 284.
class to enter the Cabinet when he became President of the Local
Government Board in 1906. However, despite the achievements of
these and other individuals among the early trade union supported
Members, there seems little evidence to dispute V. L. Allen's assertion
that the union parliamentary representatives "were now respectable
members of the Liberal Party, fit to be given subordinate Ministerial
positions (where incidentally, they held very little influence . ..). "36
Basically, the early trade union supported Members of Parliament
were concerned to insure that the interests of the working class and the
interests of their respective unions were presented before the nation
assembled in Parliament. At times, this sort of representation could
be very elementary. For example, when the miners of England were
accused of taking improper advantage of the prosperity which followed
the Franco-Prussian War,
Mr. Burt made one of his earliest successes in the House of
Commons .. by replying to Sir John Holker, who told an amazed
assembly how the miners fed their bull pups on mutton chops from
the loin. He [Burt] was able to show that the miners of
Northumberland, at any rate, did not keep bull pups. If they we re
doggy, their tastes ran to grayhounds and whippets. He was able
to show elsewhere that in the year 1872, the average wage in the
Northern coalfields was seven shillings a day, which was comfort-
able but by no means splendid. 37
If nothing else the early trade union parliamentary representatives
must have lessened the ignorance of the propertied classes of living
conditions among the working class.
3Allen, "The Ethics of Trade Union Leaders, p. 320.
37Watson, p. 114.
The eight hour day. --The early trade union supported Members
were hampered in their legislative effectiveness by their own internal
divisions. 38Nowhere did this become more apparent than in the struggle
over the eight hour day. The demand for an eight hour work
day was nothing new in working class politics. As early as 1817,
Robert Owen had been calling for a reduction of the work day to only
eight hours; but until the end of the century, the labor movement was
more concerned with bringing the work day down to nine or ten hours.
Having achieved some success in this and under pressure from the
slowly growing number of socialists to be found in working class circles,
the demand for an eight hour day was revived and intensified in the late
1880's. The Social Democratic Federation was particularly influential
in reviving the issue. 39
The issue of the eight hour day helps to suggest some of the diffi-
culties in determining exactly what was the working class interest.
It provides a clear example of the differences among various unions
within the labor movement. Because the working class was not united
in its expectations of what the union supported Members of Parlia -
ment should do to help secure an eight hour work day, and because
the Members of Parliament were willing to respond to different
clienteles during the struggle, the issue helps to illustrate the
38f. Hanham, pp. 324-327; F. Bealey and H. Pelling, Labour and
Politics, 1900-1906 (London: Macmillan, 1958), pp. 184-185.
39Clegg, Fox and Thompson, p. 292.
behavioral conflicts which resulted from the role confusion of the early
trade union supported Members of Parliament.
That an eight hour work day was desirable, there seems little
dispute. The conflict over the question revolved about the means chosen
to implement it. The two major alternative methods (not mutually
exclusive) were political or industrial action. On the one hand, the
new unionists of the 1890's, socialists, Radical Liberals, and even
some Tory Democrats favored state action or legislation to secure
the reduced work day. 40 On the other hand, old unionists, Liberals,
and Conservatives who accepted the dominant liberal economic theories
of the age were opposed to any sort of state action affecting the economic
sphere. Those in this group who favored the eight hour day felt that it
should be secured through industrial action, through action by the
trade unions against the employers. In addition to these divisions on
the basis of economic doctrine, the dispute was aggravated by rivalry
and bickering between different unions and between unions and their
leaders. This parochialism of the unions was most obvious within the
In the late 1880's, most trade union leaders were opposed to the
idea of legislation which would require the eight hour day. In 1887,
Henry Broadhurst spoke in the House of Commons in the name of the
4For example, Joseph Chamberlain, despite his change in party,
was a supporter of eight hour day legislation. Gulley, p. 257.
Trades Union Congress against an eight hour day amendment to the
Mines Regulation Act.41 At the same time, the Trades Union Congress
was making an abortive effort to poll the rank and file membership of
the individual unions for their views on the question of whether the
eight hour day should be sought by industrial or political means.
The results of the poll were unenlightening, partly because the questions
had been worded to insure opposition to political action. 42
At the 1889 meeting of the Trades Union Congress, the leaders
of the Miners' Federation joined with the majority of delegates from
other unions to defeat a socialist inspired resolution demanding a
general eight hour day law. Having thus prevented action which might
have led to action affecting the entire working class, the leaders of the
Miners' Federation turned about and staged a successful appeal to the
Congress for its support of an eight hour day bill designed to benefit
only the miners.43 Broadhurst was instructed to draw up a bill covering
But the miners' struggle had just begun. The major obstacle to
securing the desired eight hour day law was the failure of many miners
to support the proposed legislation. The Miners' Federation of Great
Arnot, Vol. I, p. 127.
4Clegg, Fox and Thompson, p. 292. The results of the poll by
union can be found in George Howell, Conflicts of Capital and Labour
(Second edition; London: Macmillan and Co., 1890), pp. 522-523.
4Arnot, Vol. I, pp. 130-131.
Britain, led by Benjamin Pickard, was the focus of support for the
eight hour day legislation. A number of the regional or county mining
unions, however, were of a quite different frame of mind. South Wale s
gave ambiguous support to the Federation on the issue, and its principal
parliamentary spokesman, William Abraham ("Mabon "), could not be
depended upon by the Federation leaders. In complete opposition to the
idea of securing the eight hour work day through political action were
the Durham and Northumberland Miners' Associations. From the start
of the active parliamentary campaign in 1890 until the early years of
the twentieth century, these two associations and the Members of
Parliament supported by them took the lead in opposing any attempt
at legislating an eight hour work day. 44 On this problem or issue of
an eight hour work day, the trade union representatives in the House of
Commons appeared to be responding to quite different clienteles. The
miners from the northeast were responding to the expectations of their
local organizations while most of the other trade union supported
Members, including some other Members supported by the miners, were
responding to the expectations of either their local organization, the
Miners Federation, or the Trades Union Congress.
44Their opposition to the eight hour day by legislation becomes
more understandable when we note that they had already secured a seven
hour day, thirty-seven hour week through collective bargaining. See
Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Industrial Democracy (New edition;
London: Longmans, Green, 1911), p. 255.
The parliamentary representatives of the Durham and Northumber-
land miners were Thomas Burt, Charles Fenwick, and John Wilson.
Frequent contributors to debate throughout the nineties on the question,
the three worked consistently with the mine owners and others to
oppose pas sage of eight hour day legislation. 45 Their position was
summed up by Burt when he told the Eighty Club in December, 1890,
that, "I am against, strongly against, the fixing of the hours of adult
men by act of Parliament. "46 Among the Members associated with
unions other than the miners, Henry Broadhurst, retired from his
Trades Union Congress position after 1890, also opposed the legislation.
Throughout the 1890's, the opponents of eight hour day legislation
came under increasing pressure. Broadhurst's defeat at West
Nottingham in 1892 was blamed on his opposition to the Eight Hours'
(Mines) Bill.47 Burt, Fenwick, and Wilson were secure with the support
of their unions, but they could be attacked elsewhere. Fenwick, for
example, had succeeded Broadhurst as the Secretary of the Trades Union
Congress Parliamentary Committee in 1890. The conflict between the
45Webb, Industrial Democracy, p. 262.
Watson, p. 233. Cf. Fenwick's reason given in Arnot, Vol I, p.
Arnot, Vol. I, p. 294. Broadhurst said of this election: "I have
never been convinced that the Eight Hours question was to any appre-
ciable extent the cause of my defeat at the polls. "' See Broadhurst, p. 240.
The opponents of eight hour day legislation could also exert influence.
A. Henderson, whose constituency included many Durham miners, opposed
the eight hour day in 1905 because of pressure from them. See Bealey
and Pelling, p. 201.
Committee's support for the Miners' Federation campaign for an eight
hours day bill and the opposition of Fenwick's union, the Northumberland
Miners' Association, to the same legislation led to repeated attempts
to remove Fenwick from his position with the Parliamentary Committee.
As the Webbs describe the situation:
It was in vain that Fenwick, with most engaging candour, explained
to each successive Congress that his pledge to his constituents, no
less than his own opinions, would compel him actively to oppose
all regulation of the hours of adult male labour. The Congress
nevertheless elected him for four successive years as Secretary
to the Parliamentary Committee, replacing him only in 1894 by an
officer who was prepared to support the policy of the Congress.
The divisions within the trade union movement were only one
aspect of the struggle. Along with this internal disunity, one is struck
by the names of non-trade union supported Members in the struggle.
This was especially true of supporters of legislation who had to depend
on a number of friendly, Radical Members of Parliament for assistance.
For example, it was R. B. Cunninghame-Graham who drafted the first
miners' eight hour bill introduced by the Federation leaders in
Parliament in 1890. 49 Sir Charles Dilke was active in support of the
legislation throughout most of the 1890's. And in 1898-1900 it was
J. A. Jacoby, M/. P., who acted as the floor manager for the Federation. 50
4Sidney and Beatrice Webb, A History of Trade Unionism (New
edition; London: Longmans, Green, 1920), pp. 567-68.
The text of this Bill adopted by the Federation in 1890 is given
in Arnot, Vol. I, pp. 133-134.
Ibid., pp. 270-271. Cf. Williams, The Derbyshire Miners,
In part, this dependence on middle class Members of Parliament
must reflect on the legislative ability of the men sent into the House of
Commons by the miners' unions.
The opposition of the Durham and Northumberland miners'
associations to the eight hour day lessened in the first decade of the
twentieth century. As it waned, the opposition of their parliamentary
spoke smen waned also. But to the very end, the Members of Parliament
supported by the miners' union showed that they were prepared to
put the demands of their supporting union above all else on this question.
Finally, in 1908, after over fifteen years of parliamentary struggle,
a miners' eight hour day bill was enacted into law when the Government
adopted the proposal as its own.
Trade union law: The Taff Vale Decision. --The struggle over
the eight hour day emphasized the internal divisions within the trade
union movement and its contribution to the role confusion of the early
trade union supported Members of Parliament. These divisions were
much less obvious in the struggle over trade union law which lasted
from 1900 until 1913. In this dispute, trade union law was thrown into
considerable confusion by the Taff Vale and the Osborne decisions of
the House of Lords. The Taff Vale case arose out of a railroad strike
in South Wales, and the decision of the House of Lords placed in
jeopardy the right of unions to strike. Summing up the decision, the
After elaborate argument, the Law Lords decided that the Trade
Unions, though admittedly not a corporate body, could be sued in
a corporate capacity for damages alleged to have been caused by
the action of its officers, and that an injunction could be issued
against it, restraining it and all its officers, not merely from
criminal acts, but also from unlawfully though without the
slighest criminality, causing loss to other persons.
As early as May, 1902, even before the final results of the decision
were known, Richard Bell, the General Secretary of the Amalgamated
Society of Railway Servants (the union directly involved in the case)
and the Member of Parliament from Derby, acting on behalf of his
union, introduced a bill to reverse the House of Lords' ruling. The
bill was designed to permit peaceful picketing, but had to be withdrawn
in the face of Government hostility.
The trade unions, realizing the seriousness of the situation,
began to take an increasing interest in politics. As the impact of
the Taff-Vale decision became known, the number of trade unions
affiliated to the new Labor Representation Committee took a sharp jump.
As the figures in Table 3 show, it was between February, 1902, and
February, 1903, that the Committee made its most important early
gains. The number of affiliated unions and the number of individuals
represented by those unions belonging to the Labor Representation
Committee almost doubled within this one year period.
5Webb, A History of Trade Unionism, p. 600.
Clegg, Fox and Thompson, p. 331.
TRADE UNION AFFILIATIONS TO THE LABOUR
L. R. C.
Affiliated union Number of
Num be r union Unions affiliating on more membe rs hip a ffilia te d
of member- as a propor- grades
unions ship than 10, 000 members tion of T.U.C. councils
Blastfurnacemen (10, 000)
Boot and Shoe Operatives
Brassworkers (10, 000)
Compositors, London Society
of (11, 415)
Dock Labourers (12, 000)
Dock, Wharf, Riverside and
General Labourers (13, 829)
Gasworke rs and Gene ral
Labourers (48, 038)
Ironfounde rs ( 18, 35 7)
Railway Servants (60, 000)
Shipwrights (18, 000)
Steel Smelters (10, 509)
Builders' Labourers, United
Labour, National Amalgamated
Union of (23, 000)
Plasterers (11, 000)
Postmen's Federation (24, 000)
aTrades Union Congress membership is that for the following September in each case.
bThe rise in this percentage is partly explained by a fall in the total affiliated to the
Trades Union Congress between 1903 and 1904.
cThe decline was due to the compulsory levy introduced at the beginning of 1904. This
reduced the number of small unions affiliating, and caused others to affiliate on a smaller
membership (Labour Representation Committee, Annual Report, 1905).
An additional cause of the fall in this percentage was the reaffiliation of the Engineers
and the Durham Miners to the Trades Union Congress.
This table including all notes, is reproduced from H. A. Clegg, Alan Fox, and A. F. Thompson,
A History of British Trade Unions Since 1889, Vol. I: 1889-1910 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964),
Shop As sistants (1 1, ooo)
Stonemasons (20, 000)
Bleachers, Dyers and Kindred
Trades (10, 000)
Boile rmakers (49, 000)
Carpenters and Joiners, Amal-
gamated Society of (62, 000)
Engineers (84, 000)
Locomotive Engineers and
Firemen (10, 000)
Textile Factory Workers'
Association, United (103, 000)
Bricklayers (37, 500)
Miners Fede ration,
shire and Cheshire
Plumbers (11, 500)
Painters and Decorators
Confronted by a common threat to their industrial position, the trade
unions began to turn toward collective political action as a means of
securing redress. With the increase in the number of affiliated
unions, the Committee was in a better position to put forward addi-
tional candidates at the time of the next election. The Taff Vale
Decision must be given a fair amount of credit for making the Labor
Representation Committee into the beginning of an effective political
force. 53 The decision was a major factor in pointing out to the trade
unions the limitations of their political activity up to that point.
Confronted by a common challenge, the unions and their parliamentary
spokesmen showed that they were quite able to unite to insure that the
common interest of organized labor was made known.
A second lesson of importance for the future development of the
Labor Party was contained in the response of the labor movement to
the Taff Vale Decision. The Trades Union Congress, realising the
seriousness of the situation, sought to enlist additional political help
whe reve r pos sible. The trade union supported Members of Parliament
could be relied on to support legislation to reverse the decision, but
there was a pressing need to secure additional parliamentary support
and to devise legislation which would restore to the trade unions the
privileges and protection which they thought they had possessed since
the 1870's. The Trades Union Congress made extensive use of friendly
53Thomas, p. 23.
Radical Members of Parliament. Sir Charles Dilke was perhaps the
single most important Member among the middle class allies of the
Congress in the struggle to reverse the decision. 54 The majority of
trade union supported Members of Parliament apparently lacked the
legislative skills needed, and only two union sponsored Members,
Richard Bell and David J. Shackelton, played anything like a prominent
role in the struggle. 55
The labor movement did not confine its attention to the floor of
the House of Commons. Securing little assistance from the Conservative
Government of Arthur Balfour, the unions took an aggressive role in
the General Election of 1906. Their efforts were partially responsible
for the defeat of the Conservative Government and the return of a
Liberal majority along with some 29 Members of Parliament supported
by the new Labor Party. 56 The Liberal Government formed by
Campbell-Bannerman was not allowed to forget the importance of its
working class support or the reasons for that support. The new Labor
Members were living proof that the working class as a whole and the
trade unions in particular might find it possible to take their political
support elsewhere if the Liberals did not respond favorably.
5Roy Jenkins, Sir Charles Dilke (London: Collins, 1958),
pp. 394-95. Throughout the latter part of his parliamentary career
Dilke was very active in support of Labor causes in the House of Com-
mons and he maintained close personal contacts with the leaders of the
Trades Union Congress.
5Clegg, Fox and Thompson, pp. 368-369.
Webb, A History of Trade Unionism, p. 604.
The Liberal Party approached the subject of trade union law with
mixe d feeling s. It was not opposed to something which would insure that
the new Labor Party would not become an effective political force. But
the individual Members of Parliament who comprised the Liberal Party
had also to consider their constituencies and the forces that had brought
about their election.
The new Government had attempted to temporize over the annulment
of the Taff Vale decision, but to its discomfort member after member
from its own benches rose to explain that he had only been elected
upon the specific promise of legislation to cancel that decision. The
promises had to be fulfilled forthwith .. 57
The initial proposal of the Campbell-Bannerman Government was not
acceptable to the Trades Union Congress. To force the issue, Walter
Hudson (a former President of the Railway Servants' union and now one
of its official parliamentary representatives) introduced the Parliamentary
Committee's Bill on March 28, 1906. The progress of the Bill through
Parliament was directed by Dilke and Shackleton. When the degree of
support for the Bill within the Liberal Party became apparent,
Campbell-Bannerman, without consulting his Cabinet, 58 announced on
57G. D. H. Cole and Raymond Postgate, The Common People,
1746-1946 (Second edition; London: Methuen, 1961), p. 459.
58Frni ilas Fifty Years March (London: Odhams Press,
1950), pp. 157-158. At least one important member of the Campbell-
Bannerman Government, Herbert H. Asquith, the Chancellor of the
Exchequer, opposed the Prime Minister's action. S. A. Spender
and Cyril Asquith, Life of Herbert Henry Asquith, Lord Oxford and
Asquith (Two volume s; London: Hutchinson & Co. 1932), Vol. I,
the floor of the House that the Government would take over the Bill as
its own. Thus, the Trades Dispute Act of 1906 became law and once
again the trade unions thought their right to strike was protected.
Trade union law: The Osborne Decision. --Even before this
reversal of the Taff Vale decision, a threat to the trade unions' political
activity was emerging. Once again the principal union involved was the
Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants. The secretary of one of the
union's branches, W. V. Osborne, objected to the use of trade union
funds to support the Labor Party and to the attempts made by the union and
the Labor Party to prevent Richard Bell from working with the Liberals
in the House of Commons. The final judicial decision handed down by
the House of Lords in the Osborne case came in 1909 and prohibited
a union from using any of its fund for any political purpose since such
functions had not been included in the list of trade union objectives in the
Trade Union Amendment Act of 1876. 59
The decision was confused in its reasoning with different Judges
using different rationale s, 60but the results were clear. The Labor
Party's source of funds was to be cut off. Some twenty trade union
5Clegg, Fox and Thompson, p. 414. That unions had been using
their funds for political purposes since the 1860's was thought irrelevant.
That some unions, especially among the textile workers were created
precisely for political purposes and had no industrial functions was also
ignored. See Webb, A History of Trade Unionism, pp. 608-611, 615-
625; Webb, Industrial Democracy, pp. 258-260.
A summary table of the reason used in the decisions is found in
Humphrey, p. 199, Appendix VIII.
supported Members of Parliament saw their principal financial support
being eliminated. 61To alleviate the immediate difficulties which this
caused, and to insure Labor Party support for his National Insurance
Program, Lloyd George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, introduced the
state payment of Members of Parliament in 1911 with the annual salary
set at ce400.
The larger problem, from the trade unions' point of view, of how
to protect their political activities and the Labor Party's financial base
was not dealt with. Once again, the Liberal Party was not particularly
disturbed by the discomfiture of the new Party. The Labor Members of
Parliament, for their part, had to continue to support the Liberal
Government or face the possibility of the Conservatives being returned
to power which would make the prospects of reversing the Osborne decision
even more remote. Finally, in 1913, the Liberal Government enacted
legislation which allowed trade unions to establish separate funds for
political purposes after taking a vote of the union membership. This
restored part of what the unions felt they had lost in the Osborne decision,
but the Trade Union Act of 1913 did not go as far as they would have
There were two results of the Osborne decision which greatly
affected the future development of the Labor Party and the entire labor
1Williams, Fifty Years March, pp. 175-180. Fradsuso
of the overall effect of the Osborne decision on Labor Party finances,
see William B. Gwyn, Democracy and the Cost of Politics in Britain
(London: The Athlone Press, 1962), pp. 178-205.
movement. First, the decision solidified the attachment of the trade
unions to the new Party. The Taff Vale decision had resulted in the
decision to make the Labor Representation Committee a successful
pressure group. But many trade unions gave only lukewarm support
to the new political organization and some refused to support it at
all. There was still a strong Liberal sentiment to be found among the
members of the various unions.6 This Liberal support was weakened
now by the fact that one of the judges in the Osborne decision was a
former Liberal Member of Parliament, 63and the failure of the
Liberal Government to take immediate steps to reverse the decision.
In the House of Commons, this disenchantment could be seen in the
way the number of Lib -Lab Members de cline d while the number of
Labor Membe rs grew. "By the time the spate of litigation over the
Osborne case ceased, only three Lib-Lab M. P. s survived whilst
there were fifty M. P. s accepting the Whip of the Labour Party. "64
The Trade unions were gradually learning that they would have to
look out for their own political interests since no one else would do it.
If one result of the Osborne decision was to increase the attach-
ment of the trade unions for the Labor Party and thus open the way
for it to become a national mass party with hopes of eventually forming
Above, pp. 26 -29.
Philip Bagwell, The Railwaymen (London: George Allen and
Unwin, 1963), p. 257.
a government, the second result is equally important. The Osborne
decision opened the way to the eventual separation of the entire labor
movement into two quite distinct wings, one concerned with industrial
and one with political questions. So long as the trade union supported
Members of Parliament were dependent on their unions for their liveli-
hood, there was little likelihood of a serious disagreement between them.
So long as the unions continued to send their top personnel into the House
of Commons, there was little possibility of a serious split between the
industrial and political sides of the movement. But the state payment
of Members of Parliament enacted in 1911 as a reaction to the Osborne
decision laid the groundwork for the end of both these conditions of
working class unity, such as it was.
The trade union supported Member of Parliament now found him-
self with a guaranteed source of income independent of his supporting
union. No longer did he have to anticipate a withdrawal of funds if he
disagreed with his union. More important, pressure began to increase
from other sources to insist that the Member of Parliament devote more
of his time to parliamentary duties. And the trade unions began to
realize that being a Member of Parliament was a potentially full-time
job which was incompatible with the demands of a regular position
within the union. 65The unions gradually found it increasingly less useful
to send their top personnel into the House of Commons.
Sir Arthur Pugh, Men of Steel (London: The Iron and Steel Trades
Confederation, 1951), p. 173.
The separation of the labor movement into political and industrial
wings meant that the trade union supported Members of Parliament would
soon find themselves confronted by yet another set of expectations con-
cerning their legislative behavior, the Labor Party. The long term
growth of party discipline within the House of Commons meant that the
expectations of the Labor Party would have far more impact than had
those of the Liberal Party at the end of the nineteenth century. This
new set of expectations deriving from the Labor Party were merely
added to those expectations arising from the supporting union, class,
constituency, the nation as a whole, or the House of Commons. Thus,
the Member's potential role confusion as he sought to reconcile these
expectations was further increased.
In the long run, of course, the creation of the Labor Party meant
that a new frame of reference was being created which would take
precedence over these other clientele expectations and which would go
a long way to assist the Member of Parliament to reconcile whatever
conflicts there may have been among them.
Evaluation. --The failure of the early trade union parliamentary
representatives and the new Labor Party to achieve greater success
must be viewed against the background of British politics of the late
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. First of all, the union sup-
ported Members were never more than a minority, and a small
minority at that, within one of the two major parties of the time.
Even the distinct Labor Party which came into existence was forced
to function more as a pressure group within the House of Commons
rather than an alternative Government. Perhaps only on the Trades
Disputes Act of 1906 did it have any real power to bring to bear on the
Government, and this due more to electoral pressures on the backbench
Liberal s than it was to the number of Labor Members of Pa rliament. 67
The interests of the early trade union spokesmen may have been
shared by a number of middle class Radical Members of Parliament,
but the Radicals were still only a minority within the Liberal Party.
The ability of the trade union supported Members to attract all party
support for their proposals came into conflict with the gradual increase
in the importance of party discipline within the House of Commons as a
whole, and especially in the Division lobbies. 68The Taff Vale decision
was the last time that the trade unions made a concerted effort to attract
all -pa rty support. 69
66K. B. Smellie, Great Britain Since 1688: A Modern History
(Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1962), p. 321. Cf. Cole,
British Working Class Politics, p. 235; Bealey and Pelling, p. 282.
Clegg, Fox and Thompson, p. 486n. Cf. "Nor can it be said
that this meagre group had any marked effect upon the legislation of
the se years [1900-19063 ." H. Tracey (ed. ), The Book of the Labour
Party (London: Caxton Publishing Co. 1925), Vol. I, p. 139.
See A. Lawrence Lowell, The Influence of Party Upon Legisla-
tion in England and America (Washington: American Historical
Association Annual Report, 1902). Lowell's statistical evidence is sup-
ported by those authors who refer to the period between 1832 and 1867
as the golden age of the Private Member. See Beer, pp. 38-39,
48-49, and sources cited therein.
69V. L. Allen, Trade Unions and the Government (London:
Longmnans, Green, 1960), pp. 17-19.
Secondly, the legislative effectiveness of the early trade union
supported Members of Parliament was lessened by their role confusion,
by their inability to agree on which clientele they should re spond to.
The differences in behavior which resulted from this confusion meant
that the trade union spokesmen frequently seemed more interested in
looking out for the interests of their particular unions rather than the
interests of the working class as a whole. 70 This parochialism was
reflected in the struggle over the eight hour day and in their failure to
create any sort of organization within the House of Commons until the
very end of the nineteenth century. Only in the late 1890's did the
trade union supported Members organize a subcommittee to deal with
labor questions that came before the House of Commons and appoint
a group Whip. 71
The parochialism of the individual unions remained a major
factor in labor politics until the entire movement was engulfed in the
rising tide of British Socialism which Beer has called the "Socialist
generation. "72 The gradual adoption of a common ideology by the
7Clegg, Fox and Thompson, p. 488; Pelling, Origins of the
Labour Party, 1880 -1900, p. 205. The conflict or potential conflict
between individual union expectations and class expectations is one
that is frequently overlooked when writing about the trade unions and
the labor movement. Failure to recognize these differences can lead
to a false impression of the unity of the early labor movement. For
example, see Martin Harrison, Trade Unions and the Labour Party
Since 1945 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1960), p. 292.
7Clegg, Fox and Thompson, p. 267.
Beer, pp. 126-187.
labor movement meant that the trade union spokesmen in the House of
Commons were confronted by a somewhat different set of expectations
concerning their role as legislators. Instead of the earlier parochial
positions of unions such as the miners or textile workers who saw no
particular need for intra-class co-operation, 73 the parliamentary
representatives of the trade unions were increasingly confronted by
a new set of expectations calling for co-operation with the Labor Party
as it grew during the first two decades of the twentieth century. While
it would be incorrect to say that the interests of individual unions came
to be ignored because of this ideological and institutional development,
the unions did have to adjust their expectations of their legislative
representatives' role to fit with the newer and broader frame of
reference offered by the Labor Party. 74
A third factor to which attention must be given was the continual
dependence of the trade union supported Members on middle class allies
both in terms of votes and in terms of other parliamentary skills such
as the drafting of legislation and debate on the floor of the House of
Commons. Here the working class characteristics of the trade union
representatives put them at the greatest disadvantage. The experience
of these early trade union spokesmen is highly suggestive that the quali-
ties which made for adequate and even great union leadership were not
7Clegg, Fox and Thompson, pp. 271, 488; Pelling, The Origins
of the Labour Party, pp. 205-206.
7Beer, p. 112.
7See especially Webb, Industrial Democracy, pp. 65-71, for a
discussion of the qualifications of a "professional representative. Cf.
Webb, A History of Trade Unionism, pp. 701-702. W. L. Guttsman,
The British Political Elite (London: Macgibbon and Kee, 1963), p. 230.
always the same qualities which contributed to parliamentary success. 75
The trade union leaders who dominated the union representation up until
about World War I offered no examples of real or even potential
Parliamentary effectiveness. The dependence of the early trade union
supported Members on their Radical allies was transformed by the rise
of the Labor Party into an alliance of working class votes and money
and middle class intellectual power. The conflicts in this alliance have
continued to bedevil the Labor Party down to the present.
CHANGING PATTERNS IN PERSONNEL RECRUITMENT
AND PARLIAMENTARY PERFORMANCE OF TRADE
UNION SPONSORED MEMBERS
THE PASSING OF THE GENERAL SECRETARIES
The success of the Labor Party in the elections of 1906 and 1910,
World War I, and the elections of the 1920's which resulted in the creation
of the first two Labor governments contributed to a separation of the
industrial and political functions of the labor movement. The changed
emphasis can be identified with the creation of the Trades Union Con-
gress General Council in 1921 and the disappearance of the old Parlia-
mentary Committee. Trade union leaders, confronted with the choice
of membership on the new General Council or the Labor Party's
National Executive Committee, began to opt for the General Council. 1
1Henry Pelling, A History of British Trade Unionism (London:
Penguin Books, 1963), p. 48. Party rules now forbid simultaneous
membership on the Party's National Executive Committee and the
Congress' General Council. Labour Party, Constitution and Standing
Orders, Standing Order No. 4, paragraph 3d.
The National Executive Committee became the home of the union leaders
of second rank or the heirs to the top position. At the same time, the
union leaders began to stop entering Parliament. This pattern has con-
tinued down to the present.
Even if the decade and a half between 1915 and 1930 had not seen
the actual withdrawal of the General Secretaries and other top union
leaders from Parliament, the impact of these people would have been
lessened by their relative decline in the face of gains by other segments
of the Party. In Table 4, we show the growth of the Labor Party since
1900. Of particular importance is the column showing the percentage
of trade union sponsored or supported Members in the Parliamentary
Labor Party. While almost all of the members of the Parliamentary
Party had received direct financial support from one or another of the
trade unions in the earliest years, by the 1920's the proportion had fallen
to about 50%J. Allowing for the exception of 1931, this figure fell to
about one-third of the Parliamentary Party after World War II. The
trade union element in the party tended to decrease in relative impor-
tance as the Party became a truly national party in the 1920's and
1930's. Note also the relatively constant number of trade union candidates
since the 1920's (Column 3).
Had the top union leaders remained in the House of Commons,
they would have been surrounded by increasing numbers of trade union
rank and filers and by increasing numbers of middle class labor repre-
sentatives. This change in the pattern of labor representation is
dl;r~6 ~oq~~? ~'I~~
JO a8~?rxa~3a6 ~
~i"~Z-;_Y+Yu"-;;-'i+ ~=b-961~XO~L~C1-6Z Ilf~ ~--~t96 C- ;U~-~-~-~flLZ;~YU:
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~9E '8P6 '~~
262 '266 'rr
092 '~ZE '8
r9~' 298 '9
6LE '8PE 'P
~P6 'PPZ '2
s aoh 1~70 ~1;
P96~-006T. 'H;LMO~t~f3 ~;L~t~~Td ~t~09~71
and 7 is taken from The Times Guide to the House of Commons (London: The Times Publish-
ing Company, 1964), pp. 244-246.
Columns 3 and 5 for the years 1929-1955 are taken from Martin Harrison, The Trade
Unions and the Labour Party Since 1945 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1960), pp.
265-267. For the years 1959 and 1964, the material in these two columns is taken from the
Labour Party Conference Report (1964), p. 4. For the years 1900 through 1924, the material
is taken from the following sources:
a. H. A. Clegg, Alan Fox, and A. F. Thompson, A History of British rITrade Unions
Since 1889, Vol. I: 1889-1910 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), pp. 384, 387. By 1910,
prior to the first General Election of that year, the number of trade union supported Members
of Parliament was up to 38. This was partly due to the affiliation of the Miners' Federation
of Great Britain to the Labor Party in 1909.
b. F. Williams, Fifty Years March (London: Odham Press, 1950), pp. 23-25.
c. R. T. MacKenzie, British Political Parties (Second edition; New York: Praeger,
1963), pp. 347-348.
d. Clegg, Fox and Thompson, pp. 421-422.
e. G. D. H. Cole, British Working Class Politics, 1832-1914 (London: Routledge,
1941), pp. 201-202. Other authors give the figure as 38. See Clegg, Fox and Thompson, p. 420.
f. Pelling, A Short History .., p. 56. Harrison gives this figure as 97. See
Harrison, p. 264.
g. G. D. H. Cole, A History of the Labour Party Since 1914 (London: Routledge and
Kegan Paul, 1948), pp. 87, 171.
Disagreement with certain of the above statistics are to be found in the following:
h. Cole, A History . ., pp. 155, 223, 265, 313, 441. Cole's figures are as follows:
For 1923, 98 trade union Members of Parliament. For 1929, 136 candidates. For 1931, 32
trade union Members of Parliament. For 1935 and 1945, his figures are: 1935: 128 trade union
candidates and 79 trade union supported Members of Parliament; 1945: 126 trade union candidates
and 121 trade union supported Members of Parliament.
i. Harrison, p. 267. Harrison states that there were only 92 trade union sponsored
Members in 1959.
j. Pelling, A Short History ,. pp. 64, 80. Pelling claims 115 trade union Members
The precise reasons for these disagreements is not clear, but it is at least partially due
to the lack of any definitive means of identifying those Labor candidates and Members of Parlia-
ment receiving union support of one sort or another. None of the above differences would signi-
ficantly alter the discussion that follows.
described by Guttsman as follows:
From then [1918) onwards, however, the character of Labour
representation changes and widens. It becomes a national party and
contests a growing number of seats. No longer exclusively active
in constituencies predominantly working-class in character, it works
through local party organizations open to individual members of all
classes of the community. Accordingly, it begins to draw its
parliamentary candidates from outside the working class. While
'safe seats' still tend to be held by trade union candidates, and
while their chances of success are thus great, the expansion in
the number of Labour M. P. s is largely accounted for by candidates
with other backgrounds. The total number of seats fought by trade
union sponsored candidates fluctuated within comparatively narrow
limits throughout the period from 1918 to 1955 and the trade union
bloc found its strength within the P. L. P. almost inversely related
to the magnitude of the Labour Party's victory. Not all T. U.
sponsored candidates were union officials. Some were rank-and-
file members while others had been active members, but had left
manual work altogether while keeping their Union Membership card.
But on the whole, the trade union sponsored M. P. s tended to be men
of working-class origin, even if some had moved away from the
working-class occupationally and possibly socially, even before they
entered the House of Commons. 2
A number of different reasons can be advanced for the gradual
withdrawal of the union leaders from the House of Commons. A major
reason was the increasing pressure of union duties. In a number of
instances, it was discovered that the union suffered if the leaders were
always occupied with political duties. The historian of the Nottingham
Miners, for example, comments: "If this period [1900-1920's] teaches
anything, it teaches the unwisdom of allowing full time Union leaders to
enter Parliament. ',3 The absence of the union leaders from their
2W. L. Guttsman, The British Political Elite (London: MacGibbon
and Kee, 1963), pp. 236-237.
3Alan R. Griffin, The M~iners of Nottinghamshire, 1914-1944
(London: George Allen and Unwin, 1962), p. 239.
organizations' headquarters frequently meant that subordinate officials
were forced to make decisions that were not rightly their's. This was
not a new situation, of course. As early as 1906 when John Hodges of
the Steel Smelters' Union was elected to Parliament, his union had found
it necessary to employ an assistant secretary and to move their head-
quarters to London. 4 The footplatemen had similar difficulties in the
1920's. J. Bromley, their General Secretary from 1914 until 1936,
served as a Member of Parliament between 1924 and 1931. The official
historian of the union says: '1With Mr. Bromley constantly in attendance
at the House of Commons, a great deal of the work must of necessity
have fallen upon the shoulders of his assistant, and it is evident from
the minutes of the Executive Committee that Dick Squance was doing
more than his share of the work. ',5
A second major reason for the gradual withdrawal of the union
leaders was the fact that starting with World War I, they began to
secure direct access to the various departments of the Government.
4John Hodge, Workman's Cottage to Windsor Castle (London:
Sampson Low and Co. 1931), pp. 151-152; Sir Arthur Pugh, Men of
Steel (London: The Iron and Steel Trades Confederation, 1951),
SNorman McKillop, The Lighted Flame (London: Thomas Nelson,
1950), p. 187. For other references to the conflict between parliamentary
and union duties, see Philip Snowden, An Autobiography (Two volumes;
London: Ivor Nicholson and Watson, Ltd. 1934), Vol. I, pp. 161-162;
J. R. Clynes, Memoirs (Two volumes; London: Hutchinson and Co.,
1937), Vol. I, p. 112; Ben Turner, About Myself (London: Humphrey
Toulmin, 1930), p. 242; Sir James Sexton, Agitator: The Life of the
Dockers' M. P. (London: Faber and Faber, 1936), p. 269.
See A. V. S. Lockhead, "The Uses of Advisory Bodies by the
Industrial Relations Department of the Ministry of Labour, in
Able to further their interests through these behind-the-scenes consulta-
tions, the union leaders saw less necessity to personally represent
their unions in the House of Commons. The increased stature of the
trade unions in the eyes of the Government was symbolized by the crea-
tion of the Ministry of Labor in 1916 and the appointment of a trade
unionist, John Hodge, as the first Minister and a former trade union
parliamentary representative, David J. Shackleton, as the first
Permanent Secretary. The unions began to move from the third or
electoral -parliamentary phase of interest representation to the fourth
or consultative phase.
As a result, the 1920's marked a transition period in the nature
of trade union parliamentary representation. Gradually, the top
ranking union leaders were less and less to be seen in the role of a
Member of Parliament. 7 Not all unions went along with this develop-
ment. The National Union of General and Municipal Workers, for
example, continued to allow its leaders to serve in the House of Commons
until after World War II. As a result, the union's leadership was
weakened during the 1930's. 8 It was not until 1950 that the Municipal
R. V. Vernon and N. Mansergh (eds. ), Advisory Bodies: A Study of
Their Uses in Relation to Central Government, 1919-1939 (London:
George Allen and Unwin, 1940), p. 303.
7For example, in 1922 the Boot and Shoe Operatives decided to
ban their officers from serving in Parliament. A. Fox, A History of
the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, 1874-1957 (Oxford:
Blackwell, 1958), p. 462.
H. A. Clegg, General Union (Oxford: Blackwell, 1954), p. 99.
Workers finally decided to forbid such combinations of political and
industrial jobs. 9
Despite exceptions such as this, there can be little argument
that the major union leaders were no longer to be found on the political
side of the labor movement in Parliament or even on the Party's
National Executive Committee.
Ernest Bevines view of the role of the politician is worthy of note
in this regard. Bevin was a reluctant candidate for Parliament in 1918
and 1931. He was under pressure from the Labor Party to stand for
9H. A. Clegg, General Union in a Changing Society (Oxford:
Blackwell, 1964), pp. 202-203.
Another exception was to be found in the Union of Postoffice Workers
who defended the practice of having their officers serve in the House of
Commons as late as the 1940's. One memo from their files puts it this
"Many of the advantages of having Union officers in Parliament
are obvious. Trying to utilize other M. P. s (even ex-officers of the
Union) is less advantageous. For one thing, these M. P. s naturally
have many other matters that occupy them and the Union cannot tres -
pass on their time excessively. It cannot maintain daily contact with
them as it can with its own officers who are M. P. s.
"Again the M. P. who is not actually working for the Union
is at a disadvantage. It is essential that he should be right up to date
with his information and know in detail what problems are pressing,
and the way in which the staffs are affected. The P. M. G. (Post
Master General) is briefed with the latest information, and can always
score off a critic who is not fully informed of all the details.
"One small but important illustration is the asking of questions.
We can brief a friendly M. P. to ask a question of the P. M. G., but
often the real value of questions is in the supplementary question
put in directly the P. M. G. answers the original question. The P. M. G.
may give a misleading or evasive answer, and only the Union officer
who is an M. P. can be well enough informed to expose this at once.
If the opportunity is missed it may not come again. "
Union of Postoffice Workers, Research Department, "Advantages
of Direct Parliamentary Representation. 'r (Typed) (July 2, 1943).
Parliament at other times, but he refused until the crisis of World
War II finally brought him into the Cabinet and then Parliament. Until
1940, Bevin had generally placed major emphasis on industrial action
as a means of securing trade union demands. "He looked upon the
political activity as necessary, but subordinate to and dependent upon
the industrial strength of the Labor movement organized in the trade
unins."10But this did not stop him from urging direct parliamentary
representation for the union on traditional grounds: "Employing
interests--the railway interests, the docking interests--are powerfully
represented in the House .. the Trade Union HAS to come in or the
workers' interests go by the board. "11
THE NEW MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT
From the 1920's until World War II, the personnel representing
the trade unions in Parliament assumed a different form from the earlier
period. The Union officials such as J. R. Clynes or J. H. Thomas who
continued to serve became increasingly separated from their union's
industrial activity. The replacements for the leaders were either rank
1Allen Bullock, The Life and Time s of E rne st Bevin, Vol. I:
Trade Union Leader, 1881-1940 (London: Heineman, 1960), pp. 234-235.
Bevin resented the ability of union leaders like J. R. Clynes to secure
industrial concessions through political means. See Francis Williams,
Ernest Bevin. (London: Hutchinson, 1952), pp. 89-90.
Bullock, p. 416, quoting the Transport and General Workers'
Union Record (November, 1927), pp. 104-105. Compare these remarks
with the type of Members which Bevin's union actually sent into the House
of Commons. Below, p. 107.
and file members of the unions or lower ranking officials within the
union to whom the parliamentary seats were often offered as a sort
of consolation prize. 12 Officials who still had ambitions of reaching
the top within their union were deterred from taking time out for a
parliamentary career because this frequently meant that they had to give
up many of their privileges and positions in the union without any guar-
antee of getting them back at a later date. Under such conditions, able
young union officials were less likely to switch from the industrial to
the political side of the movement.
Sometimes the change to the new type of personnel representing
the unions in Parliament was aggravated by events in the unions them-
selves. For example, the creation of the Transport and General Workers'
Union in 1922 resulted in the redundancy of a number of officials
occupying top positions in the unions being merged, but who had no
place in the new organization. In its simplest terms, the question
revolved around what Ernest Bevin was going to do with men such as
Ben Tillett, Harry Gosling, and James Sexton. Bevin found it convenient
to encourage them to enter the House of Commons which he used as a
retiring ground for those former officials who did not fit into the new
12Austin Ranney, Pathways to Parliament (Madison and Milwaukee:
The University of Wisconsin Press, 1965), pp. 224, 245. Cf. Martin
Harrison, Trade Unions and the Labour Party Since 1945 (Detroit:
Wayne State University Press, 1960), pp. 285-292.
Bullock, p. 204. Sometimes, as in the case of Ben Tillett,
it took more than simple encouragement.
It might be argued, of course, that an element of this practice
of retiring officials to the House of Commons existed earlier. The
General Secretaries and other union leaders who represented the unions
in the House of Commons up until the First World War were usually not
sent to the House of Commons until after they had held their union
positions for sometime. And after they had retired from active work
in the unions, they frequently continued to serve in Parliament. 14
In the 1920's and later, this practice was developed into a high art.
By the late 1930's, it was a commonplace among students of Parliament
that the unions were using it as a, retirement home. 15 The miners,
who decided early in the 1920's to forbid members of the union's Exe-
cutive Committee to enter Parliament, 16came in for the harshest
criticism on this score.
The symbolic phase of parliamentary representation which began
after World War II saw no immediate change in this practice. Writing with
regard to the 1945 general election, the first in ten years, McCallum
and Readman could say:
Against the Labour Party it has been alleged that too often a
senior and undistinguished Trade Union official has been chosen to
Above, p. 19, Figure 1.
1W. Ivor Jennings, Parliament (is dto;Cmrde
University Press, 1939), p. 49. Cf. Patricia Strauss, Bevin and
Company (New York: G. P. Putham's Sons, 1941), pp. 82-83.
16RPaeAnt A History of the Miners' Federation of Great
Britain (Three volumes; London: George Allen and Unwin, 1949-1961),
Vol. I, p. 219.
the neglect of the younger and more active trade unionists, that,
as the critics put it, the unions retire their officials to the House
of Commons. 17
We will have occasion to examine the continued validity of this criticism
when we undertake our detailed analysis of the 1959-1964 Parliament.
In a sense, the trade union sponsored Members of Parliament since
World War I, and especially after World War II, might be viewed pri-
marily as an outward and visible sign of something going on within the
structure of the government. The transition from the electoral-parlia-
mentary phase of interest representation to the consultative phase and
the slow, but continual, growth of the process of consultation between
unions and the Government meant that the trade unions no longer had
much need for direct political representation in the House of Commons
except as a guarantee against some future loss of their consultative
But the trade unions did not immediately alter their expectations
of the sponsored Members of Parliament. It took time for the unions
to adjust to their consultative status. As a result, the union sponsored
Members, during the years between World War I and World War II,
continued to be expected to work on behalf of the sponsoring unions.
17R. B. McCallum and A. Readman, The British General Election
of 1945 (London: Oxford University Press, 1947), p. 74.
18A. H. Birch, Representative and Responsible Government
(London: George Allen and Unwin, 1964), pp. 205-206.
And the expectations held by the sponsoring unions continued to con-
flict at times with expectations from other groups such as constituency,
class, party, and even the House of Commons which had to be reconciled
with the personal judgment of the Member himself.
The class orientation of some of the trade union sponsored
Members of Parliament is reflected in J. R. Clynes' comments on
his initial parliamentary candidacy,
It was in 1904, that I was first invited to contest a Parlia-
menta ry by election. Already it had become obvious to me that
the only effective way in which Labour could control and improve
conditions for the working classes was by going to Westminster,
but I had not expected that I should so speedily be given an oppor-
tunity to go there myself. 19
The expectation of the unions that the sponsored Members should
give special attention to working class or general trade union questions
was recognized throughout the Party. For example, in the years
immediately following World War I, when the Parliamentary Labor Party
was seeking to become the recognized Opposition, the National
Executive Committee sought to help the Members of Parliament
in whatever way it could. Acting on behalf of the Executive Com-
mittee, Sidney Webb sought to make arrangements to provide material
19Clynes, Vol. I, p. 99. Cf. Ibid. Vol. II, p. 214. One Member
of the 1959-1964 Parliament, Ellis Smith, echoed Clynes by saying: "We
came here so that we could secure a better life for the working classes
in particular and for the people in general. Great Britain, House of
Commons, Debates (1959-1960), Vol. 612, col. 118 (October 27, 1959).
Some unions were quite explicit about the class orientation. For
example, the Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers' leaders in 1930 had
to remind the rank and file members of the union that their sponsored
Members of Parliament represented the whole working class and not
just the woodworkers. T. J. Connelly, The Woodworkers, 1860-1960
on various questions "not connected with trade unionism" to the
Parliamentary Party. 20 Trade union affairs, obviously, were outside
the competence of the non-trade union wing of the party.
On the other hand, a particular union orientation was expressed
by J. H. Thomas when he wrote, "Throughout the whole of my life I
had never done anything but work on the railways for the railwaymen.
My life was dedicated to their inter tests ." Perhaps in contrast, a
constituency orientation was suggested by Aneurin Bevan when he wrote:
I do not represent the F. B. I. CFederation of British Industires7
or the T.U. C. ~rades Union Congress3 I happen to represent
constituents in Ebbw Vale. When I go back to my constituents I
expect them to hold me to account for what I have done, and I do
not expect if they disagree with anything I have done to be able
to explain it away by saying that I did it on the instruction of some
(London: Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers, 1960), p. 82. Cf.
J. E. Williams, The Derbyshire Miners (London: George Allen and
Unwin, 1962), p. 488.
20Mvargaret I. Cole (ed. ), Beatrice Webb's Diaries, 1912-1924
(London: Longmans, Green, 1952), pp. 142-143. Entry for January 14,
J. H. Thomas, My Story (London: Hutchinson, 1937) pp. 196-
197. Cf. "'What I am pointing out in this, said Walter Smith, who had
lost his seat at the 1931 election, to the 1932 Union Conference, 'the
fundamental basis upon which any political movement can be built up in
this country is the Trade Union movement, and the man who does not
recognize his responsibility to his trade organization does not under-
stand his Labour movement. It is the first fundamental expression of
working class opinion towards the interest of themselves and their
class. "' Walter Smith speaking to the 1932 conference of the National
Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives and quoted in Fox, p. 472. Note here
the casual identification of the interests of a particular union and the
entire working class as the same thing. Cf. Harrison, p. 292.
Quoted in Michael Foot, Aneurin Bevan: AL Biography (London:
Macgibbon and Kee, 1962), pp. 415-416. The congruence of class,
The tendency of the trade unions to look on their sponsored
Members of Parliament as representatives of the sponsoring unions'
interests will be discussed further in the following two chapters when
we give further attention to the behavioral problems which resulted from
this role confusion on the part of the trade union sponsored Members in
the House of Commons. Even within the common ideological and
institutional framework of the Labor Party, they were not freed from
conflicting expectations with regard to the proper legislative role that
they should follow. The resulting conflict occasionally saw particular
unions doing their utmost to insure that the sponsored Members acted
in accord with their sponsoring unions' position. Only with the passage
of considerable time and the increased acceptance of the processes of
consultation, were the trade union sponsored Members of Parliament
started on the road toward freedom from such union pressures. This
increased freedom became more evident in the years after 1945 as the
unions entered the symbolic phase of interest representation.
THE SPONSORED MEMBERS AND THE HOUSE OF COMMONS:
THE PARLIAMENTARY LABOR PARTY
The change in the nature of the trade union representation in the
Parliamentary Labor Party was accompanied by other changes in the
Labor Party both within and without the House of Commons. Some Labor
constituency, and union pressures in mining constituencies should, of
course, be kept in mind when reading Bevan's comment. Bevan also
had a high degree of purely personal support in his constituency. See
Arthur Horner, Incorrigible Rebel (London: Macgibbon and Kee, 1960),
Party intellectuals felt an increased need to enter Parliament to help
the Parliamentary Party now that the top union leaders were no longer
found there. It was this factor, for example, which led Sydney Webb
to agree to stand for Parliament in 1920. 23 The increase in middle
class strength within the party which this represented was supplemented
by the decline of the Liberal Party in the years after World War I.
Many former Liberals, cast adrift by the decline of their party, found
it easier to support the new Labor Party rather than their traditional
opponents, the Conservatives. 24 If the Labor Party was to keep this
new support, it would have to make some effort to tone down those
aspects of its program which disturbed the middle class, 25and it would
have to make some effort to integrate the new members into the overall
structure of the Party. The way had been opened for this integration by
the reform of the Party constitution in 1918 and the opening of the Party
to individual membership. The prominence given to some of the Liberal
3Cole (ed.), Beatrice Webb's Diaries, 1912-1924, p. 176. Entry
for February 18, 1920.
See Catherine Ann Cline, Recruits to Labour: The British
Labour Party, 1914-1931 (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1963);
R. E. Dowse, "The Entry of Liberals into the Labour Party, 1914-1920, "
Yorkshire Bulletin of Economic and Social Research, XIII, No. 2
(November, 1961), pp. 78-87.
Guttsman, p. 236. Beatrice Webb was led to comment on this
adherence of the middle classes to the Labor Party as inverse "permeation"
--"the permeation of the Socialist party by the philosophy of the philistine
citizen. Margaret I. Cole (ed.), Beatrice Webb's Diaries, 1924-1932
(London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1956), p. 23. Entry for April 12,
converts in the first two Labor governments suggested that they might
be filling the role occupied by the Radicals in the nineteenth century
with relation to the early Lib-Lab trade union supported Members.
The enlarged middle class support for the Labor Party and the
political success that went with it contributed to conflict within the
party. The trade unions tended to look on the party as nothing more than
a device for furthering the industrial goals of the unions. This was,
after all, the major reason which led them to create the party. The
middle class supporters of the party frequently had a somewhat larger
view of its role in the British political scene. Increasingly, they came
to see the party as a means for transforming the nation according to
some sort of blueprint. Even when this view was shared by the union
leaders, the trade union representatives tended to emphasize those
things which favored their own organizations and members.
The middle class supporters of the party found their home in the
constituency parties which had been opened to individual membership in
1918. The trade unions, generally representing the working class ele-
ments within the party, made their major on the annual party conference
where their bloc votes were usually dominant. The differences between
these two groups regarding the goal of the party were thrown into sharp
focus when the Labor Party first came into power in 1924. The formal
responsibility of the Parliamentary Party to the annual party conference
suggested in the party constitution26 was challenged by the idea that the
2Labour Party, Constitution and Standing Orders, "Constitution, "
Clause IV, paragraph 2; Clause V and Clause VI.
Parliamentary Party was directly answerable to the country via a
general election. 27 The conflict thus engendered has continued down
to the present, 28 but the only time that the extra-parliamentary leader-
ship of the party tended to dominate it came in the early 1930's after
the decimation of the parliamentary leadership in the 1931 general
election. 29 During this period, the Trades Union Congress General
Council led by Ernest Bevin played a major role in directing the party.
Aside from this, however, the party leadership has usually accepted the
broader concept of responsibility to the nation as a whole rather than to
the party conference or some other extra-parliamentary agency.
Within the Parliamentary Labor Party, the union sponsored
Members were organized in the Trade Union Group whose membership
after 1924 was restricted to "persons whose candidatures were pro-
moted by Trades Unions. "30 The Group seemed to give a central focus
and organization to the trade union element, and there seemed little argu-
ment that this was an element of the party which had to be listened to with
patience. "It was necessary, in forming Labour Governments, or even
27A. L. Williams, "Labour: Today and Tomorrow--2: Who Should
Decide Policy, Labour Organizer, XL (1961), p. 125.
8For examples of this conflict, see Colin Cooke, The Life of
Richard Stafford Cripps (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1957), pp.
136-139; Ronald Blythe, The Age of Illusion (London: Penguin Books,
1964), p. 273; Bullock, p. 245; Victor Feather, "Out in the Cold, Cold
Snow, Labour Organizer, XXXIII (July, 1954), pp. 123-124.
2Henry Pelling, A Short History of the Labour Party (London:
Macmillan, 1962), pp. 71-87.
Robert T. McKenzie, British Political Parties (Second edition;
New York: Praeger, 1963), p. 417.
Party Committees, to keep a proper balance between sections, and, in
particular, to insure a reasonable representation of trade unionists. If
this was not done, there might be a sudden and quite justifiable, outburst
of resentment. "31
The Trade Union Group seldom acted as a pressure group within
the Parliamentary Party, but groups of trade union sponsored Members
frequently played key roles in the inner workings of the Party. In one
instance, in 1922, the preoccupation of some of the trade union represen-
tatives with union affairs was one of the factors leading to the election of
J. Ramsay MacDonald as Leader and Chairman of the Parliamentary
Labor Party. There was a contest for the post between MacDonald and
J. R. Clynes, a trade unionist and official of the National Union of
General and Municipal Workers. Until 1921, the Chairman of the
Parliamentary Party had been elected at the start of each session of
Parliament. In 1921, the Party changed its rules to provide that the
Chairman should be elected at the end of the session to serve during the
next session. Operating under these rules, the Parliamentary Party,
acting at the end of the 1921 session of Parliament, elected J. R. Clynes
as Chairman for the parliamentary session starting in 1922. The
general election of 1922 upset this scheme by almost tripling the number
of Labor Members of Parliament. Many of these new Labor Members
wanted a voice in deciding who would lead the Party.
3Hugh Dalton, Memoirs, (Three volumes; London: M/uller, 1953),
Vol. I, p. 195.
Of the two candidates for the position of Chairman of the Parlia-
mentary Labor Party, MacDonald's association with the Independent
Labor Party (which had included the bulk of the middle class members
of the Party prior to 1918) and his anti-war position during World War I
was expected to alienate many of the trade union sponsored Members who
still comprised half of the Parliamentary Party. Clynes, on the other
hand, had the advantage of being the incumbent and a union sponsored
Member. This combination was felt to insure his support by the other
trade unionists in the Parliamentary Party and that he would have no
difficulty retaining the post of Chairman. 32 When the Parliamentary
Party voted, however, it was MacDonald who received a majority of the
votes. He became Chairman and the potential Prime Minister by a
majority of under six votes. Clynes was defeated, not necessarily by
a lack of a majority within the Party, but by the fact that over twenty
union representatives who might have been expected to give the bulk of
their votes to him were unable to attend the meeting of the Parliamentary
Party because of union duties. 33 The importance of this failure of these
Members to participate fully in the affairs of the Parliamantary Party
becomes even more noticeable if it is remembered that it was this
Francis Williams, Fifty Years March (London: Odhams Press,
1950), p. 298. Reginald Bassett, Nineteen Thirty-One, Political Crisis
(London: Macmillan, 1958), p. 14.
In the leadership contest to select a successor to George Lansbury
after the 1935 election, Clement Attlee is reported to have substantial trade
union support on the second ballot after Arthur Greenwood withdrew from
the race. Roy Jenkins, Mr. Attlee (London: Heinemann, 1948), p. 167.
McKenzie, pp. 351-352.
election in 1922 which opened the way for MacDonald to become the
Prime Minister in the first two Labor governments and then to split
with the Party in 1931 when he became head of the National Government.
In 1922 the trade union sponsored Members were important for
what they failed to do, for their failure to attend the meeting of the
Parliamentary Party which elected MacDonald. An example of how
trade union activity (rather than lack of activity) could also be crucial
came in the 1930's. In a dispute over the Party's attitude toward
military rearmament, Hugh Dalton led an attempt to stop the Parlia-
mentary Labor Party from voting against the Service Estimates in 1937.
Concerned with the rise of fascism in Europe and the threat that it was
thought to have for Britain, Dalton felt that reliance on a pacific approach
was insufficient. When the party met to decide its position on this
issue, the trade union sponsored Members provided the bulk of Dalton's
support. 34 The Members sponsored by the railwaymen and some of
the Members sponsored by the miners favored Dalton's proposal, but
other Members sponsored by the miners opposed it. 35 In describing the
attempt by his opponents to reverse the decision, Dalton writes:
After the vote there was very violent feeling among the minority.
Some of the South Wales Miners, led by Jim Griffiths and Arthur
Jenkins, pushed about trying to convene a special miners' meeting and
34Bullock, p. 593. Cf. Williams, ErnestBevin, p. 203.
35Datn o.Ip.1314 Dalton notes that some of the
railway Members who supported him were unable to attend the meeting
of the Parliamentary Party where the question was decided because of
union business. This is but another example of the role confusion
affecting the union sponsored Members of Parliament.
to commit its vote in a block against the majority decision. Gordon
Macdonald of Lancashire, the secretary of the Miners' Group, who
was on my side, refused, saying, quite correctly, that the decision
had been taken by the only body competent to take it. The South
Wales Miners then signed a requisition to him asking him to call a
meeting. Thereupon he incited other miners, chiefly from Lancan-
shire and Durham, in the total more numerous than the South Wales
group, to sign a counterrequisition against such a meeting, and none
was held. 3
Had the union sponsored Members given Dalton less steadfast support
on this question, the Labor Party might have been stigmatized as the
opponent of British rearmament on the eve of World War II.
The First Two Labor Governments and the Crisis of 1931
Trade union sponsored Members played a secondary role in the
first two Labor governments. In the 1924 Government, they had only
seven out of the twenty seats in the Cabinet, although they comprised
over half of the Parliamentary Party. The trade union sponsored
Members of Parliament did somewhat better in positions below the
Cabinet, but they were still unhappy with their lack of representation. 37
Ibid. p. 136.
Snowden, Vol. II, pp. 606-608. With regard to this alleged
resentment, Lyman says: .. their journals give little evidence of
it. It was rather when they felt that one of their own men were behaving
snobbishly--J. H. Thomas and Frank Hodges, Civil Lord of the Admiralty
and former Miners' Federation Secretary, were the leading examples --
that the unions became annoyed. R. W. Lyman, The First Labour
Government, 1924 (London: Chapman and Hall, 1957), p. 104.
On the other hand, in agreement with Snowden, Beatrice Webb
wrote in her diary that Henderson had complained to Sidney Webb that
"the trade unions were being too much ignored. Cole (ed. ), Beatrice
Webb's Diaries, 1912-24, p. 261. Entry for January 15, 1924.
For a list of all trade union sponsored Members in the 1924 Labor
Government, see Appendix II.
The reasons for the relatively low representation of trade union
representatives in the 1924 Government were varied. It could be laid
to MacDonald's well known dislike for the trade unions. 38 It could have
been due to the refusal of trade union leaders to quit their unions to
serve in the Government. 39 Or it could be associated with the gen-
erally poor quality of the trade unionists available for service. 40 I
is difficult to give any definitive answer to this question, but the weight
of opinion must be given to the last reason stated. "No one of the trade
unionists made a distinguished record as Minister .. ,,41 And even
3Williams, Fifty Years March, pp. 304, 321-322. MacDonald's
dislike of most of his colleagues is well known. The political implications
of MacDonald's attitude is suggested by Stanley Baldwin's biographer who
points out that "MacDonald regularly sent Foreign Office papers of
consequence to Baldwin, with whom he was at greater ease than he was
with many of his colleagues. G. M. Young, Stanley Baldwin (London:
Rubert Hart-Davis, 1952), p. 152. Cf. Dalton, Vol. I, p. 288; L. S.
Amery, My Political Life (Three volumes; London: Hutchinson, 1953),
Vol. III, p. 54.
3Lyman, p. 104.
"O,,n the whole, the trade-union representation was comparatively
small--but it was true that there were few suitable trade-union candidates
for office. Pelling, A Short History of the Labour Party, p. 56.
Lyman, p. 230. The difficulties of the trade union representatives
in the first Labour Government is suggested in a story reported by
Beatrice Webb. Stephen Walsh, an ex-miner, had been appointed Minister
of War. The night before they were to receive their Seals of office,
Lord Haldane, .. carried off Walsh, the ex-miner and present War
Minister, to dine with him in order to instruct him how to behave with
his Generals, also to see whether he could fit him with a frock coat for
the ceremony at B. B. P. next day,. . Cole (ed. ), Beatrice Webb's
Diaries, 1924-32, p. 1. Entry for January 8, 1924. At least part of
Labor's difficulty derived from the fact that they had such limited
experience in creating a Government. This applied to trade unionist and
middle class Members alike. Clynes comments that the Party leaders
were forced to consult Whitaker's Almanack to discover what positions
they had to fill. See Clynes, Vol. II, p. 21; Thomas, p. 75.
at the lower levels, Beatrice Webb could make critical comments about
"the dull-headed miners" in the Whips' office. 42
After the first Labor Government left office at the end of 1924,
there was a reassertion of the importance of industrial action within the
trade union movement. 43In part, this was a reaction to what the unions
considered unfair treatment from the Labor Government. 44This
increased attention to industrial action led first to "Red Friday"
(July 31, 1925) when the miners were able to secure substantial con-
cessions from the Government through the threat of a general strike.
This in turn led to the General Strike of 1926 which was attempted as a
means to force the Government to accept the miners' proposals for the
coal industry through the threat of joint action by the country's major
unions. The details of the strike and its immediate aftermath need not con-
ce rn us here. But we are concerned with the place of the Parliamentary
Party (and especially its trade union supported Members) in the events
of 1925 and 1926.
The events of these years provide an interesting study of the role
confusion of the trade union sponsored Members of Parliament. During
this period, neither the unions nor the Members could decide exactly
42Cole (ed. ), Beatrice Webb's Diaries, 1924-32, p. 13. Entry for
March 15, 1924. Cf. James Johnston, A Hundred Commoners (London:
Herbert Joseph, 1931), p. 97.
Bassett, p. 22.
44W. Citrine, Men and Work (London: Hutchinson, 1964), p. 79;
V. L. Allen, "The Re-Organization of the Trades Union Congress, "
British Journal of Sociology, XI (1960), pp. 35-36, 41.
what should be the role of the legislator. The unions apparently ex-
pected little help from the Members of Parliament. For example, in
the negotiations leading to "Red Friday" in 192545 and during the course
of the Gene ral Strike it self 46 the mine rs union e ithe r ma de no attempt
to enlist the aid of its parliamentary representatives or it specifically
requested them to do nothing in the dispute. When the trade union
sponsored Members of Parliament did speak up about the strike and
disagree with the union leaders, they were attacked by men such as
Ernest Bevin who .. made it perfectly clear that this was a trade
union show and that the politicians had better keep out. t4
The only Labor Members of Parliament to play any important role
in the events of 1925 and 1926 were the four leaders of the Parliamentary
Labor Party: J. Ramsay MacDonald, Arthur Henderson, J. R. Clynes,
and J. H. Thomas. Henderson, Clynes, and Thomas were union
sponsored representatives with the latter two still moderately active
in their unions, the National Union of General and Municipal Workers
and the National Union of Railwaymen, respectively. For both men,
it was their union position which led to their involvement rather than
their place in the House of Commons. 48 This was especially true in
Julian Symons, The General Strike (London: The Cresset Press,
1957), p. 19.
Cole (ed.), Beatrice Webb's Diaries, 1924-1932, p. 114. Entry
for September 1, 1926.
Bullock, p. 349; Cf. Williams, Ernest Bevin, pp. 132-133.
48Clynes, Vol. II, p. 85.
the case of J. H. Thomas. 49 Since it was increasingly uncommon for
active union officials to sit in the House of Commons, there was little
opportunity for the bulk of the trade union parliamentary representatives
to become actively involved in settling the dispute.
It was fairly clear that the union leaders looked on the sponsored
legislators as delegates who should only raise questions when asked to
do so by the unions. The fact that the trade unions were divided among
themselves simply meant that the Members of Parliament, when trying
to serve one master were liable to be criticized by another. This was
indicated in the exchange between Bevin and Thomas at a meeting of
union officials on April 29, 1926. The meeting
...heard Ernest Bevin make a savage attack on the Parliamentary
Labour Party for its cowardice in failing to make a statement in the
House of Commons about miners' wages. .. Thomas defended
the Parliamentary Party on the ground that they had been specifi-
cally asked by the miners not to interfere in an industrial dispute. 50
Even if the trade union sponsored Members had been trying to do what
the unions wanted, there would have been serious questions about which
union or unions they should follow. Thus, the lack of agreement among
the unions on what they expected the trade union parliamentary represen-
tatives to do was one possible source of confusion.
Equally important, if not more so, were the trade union spon-
sored Members' perception of their clientele's expectations. Some of the
49Citrine, pp. 149-204.
Symons, pp. 41-42; Cf. Williams, Ernest Bevin, pp. 132-133.
Members sought to represent their own unions or other unions during
the dispute. J. H. Thomas, for example, sought to raise the question
of working conditions in the mines at the time of Red Friday in 1925. 51
Joshua Ritson, Member of Parliament of the Durham miners, was very
bitter following the General Strike by the failure of the miners' union
to make use of their parliamentary representatives. 52 And when they
did seek to speak out in behalf of their union, some of the Members
sponsored by the miners found obstacle s placed in their way by parlia -
mentary maneuvering. When the House of Commons debated a Soviet
offer of aid to the miners during the strike, for example, not one of
the miners' sponsored Members was able to "catch the Speaker's eye"
despite what seemed like a very considerable commotion in favor of
allowing a miners' union sponsored Member to speak. 53
On the other hand, some of the trade union sponsored Members
implicitly disagreed with their unions by disapproving of the General
Strike. This was true of both Thomas and Clynes among others. 54
Clynes was quite explicit in recognizing a responsibility to the nation
as a whole when he wrote, .. Labour M. P. s did all they could to
5Citrine, p. 139.
Cole (ed.), Beatrice Webb's Diaries, 1924-1932, p. 139. Entry
for April 23, 1927.
53Arnot, Vol. II, p. 465.
Clynes, Vol. II, pp. 75-76; Thomas, pp. 103-105. Citrine,
however, reports that Thomas wanted to expand the strike after it
began. Citrine, pp. 179-180.
counsel moderation, and not only keep the men within the law, but
advise them to have a care for public convenience and national well-
During the General Strike, there arose a clear distinction between
the industrial wing of the labor movement represented by the trade
unions and the Trades Union Congress and the political wing of the move-
ment represented by the Labor Party and including the trade union
sponsored parliamentary repre sentative s. By and large, the political
wing was on the side lines throughout the dispute. The fact that many
Members opposed the strike merely helped to increase the differences
between the two wings of the movement. 56 Throughout the strike, the
industrial wing of the labor movement took the lead. "The centre
of power in the Labour movement moved during the strike to the TUC
headquarters in Eccleston Square, and what was being said in the House
of Commons bore little relation to what was going on in the country. "57
Since the trade union leaders such as Ernest Bevin preferred direct
consultation with the Government and did not wish the question brought
up in the House of Commons, Parliament led a placid existence during
the crisis. As one trade union sponsored Member described it, "In the
Commons, we faced an abnormal state of affairs without much excitement. "58
5Clynes, Vol. II, p. 93.
56(John Allsebrook) Viscount Simon, Retrospect (London:
Hutchinson, 1952), p. 139. Cf. Dalton, Vol. I, p. 163.
Symons, p. 115.
Clynes, Vol. II, p. 83.
The failure of the General Strike caused the labor movement to
once more recognize the importance of normal constitutional pro-
cedures. 59The renewed recognition of the interdependence of the two
wings of the labor movement was given added impetus by the harsh
treatment handed out to the unions by the Government after the strike.
Especially galling to the unions was the Trade Disputes Act of 1927
which had been drawn up without any consultation with union leaders. 60
The Act attempted to outlaw political strikes, forbid Civil Service
Unions to affiliate to any outside bodies such as the Trades Union
Congress or the Labor Party, and to generally weaken the unions'
political power. Instead of the customary practice of forcing union
members who did not want to support the unions' political activity to
take the first step to implement their right not to have to pay this
political levy ("contracting out"), the Act provided that union members
would automatically not have to pay the unions' political levy unless they
signified otherwise ("contracting in"). While "contracting out" had meant
that the union usually continued to receive the support of the apathetic,
"contracting in" meant that they were denied it.
The threat to the trade unions represented by the Trade Disputes
Act of 1927 led to an increased political effort on their part and this
contributed to the Labor success in the 1929 General Election. Once
more the Labor Party was called upon to form a Government, albeit a
5Ibid. Vol. II, pp. 95 -96.
0Bullock, pp. 377 -378. Cf. Clyne s, Vol. II, p. 92.