Group Title: Parliamentary activity of trade union MP's, 1959-1964
Title: The Parliamentary activity of trade union MP's, 1959-1964
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Title: The Parliamentary activity of trade union MP's, 1959-1964
Physical Description: xi, 348 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Muller, William Dale, 1938-
Publication Date: 1966
Copyright Date: 1966
Subject: Labor unions -- Great Britain   ( lcsh )
Political Science thesis Ph. D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Political Science -- UF   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis - University of Florida.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 327-248.
Additional Physical Form: Also available on World Wide Web
General Note: Manuscript copy.
General Note: Vita.
Statement of Responsibility: by William Dale Muller.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00097869
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000561337
oclc - 13511413
notis - ACY7265


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OF TRADE UNION M1P's, 1959-1964




August, 1966

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.







TION . .



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

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


Political Recruitment of Trade Union Sponsored
Members of Parliament
The "Kept Men"
Parliamentary Privilege
Channels of Communication Between Member s of
Parliament and Their Union Headquarters
The Problem of Role Confusion

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


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

1959-1964 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 236

Legislative Specialization
Legislative Behavior and Personal Background

SU MMAR Y .. .. 288

APPENDICES .. .. 295




Table Page

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


Table Page

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,
1959-1964 219

17 Trade Unionists with Shadow Cabinet Responsibility,
1959-1964 222

18 Trade Union Sponsored Members of Parliament
Serving on the National Executive Committee,
1959-1964 229

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

Table Page

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
Parliament 284

33 Sample Composition by Party 319




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







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

contemporary example.

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

interest articulation.

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


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.




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







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),
pp. 28-35.

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 / / // /

r~-/ ///77//~////)


_ __


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



Bowe rman

Cr awford



Johnson, W.


Richards, T.



Thoma s



Wilson, J.

Wilson, J. H.

/ ///


~I i

I 1 1



;;; /;;



I'////// /

y 7,


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),
pp. 608-623.
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.



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),
p. 389.

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
of Parliament





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,
pp. 182-184.


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

diffe rent.

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,
p. 243.

"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 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
Cabinet Ministers.26

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,
p. 244.


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

Miners' Federation.

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

the miners.

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.
Appendix IV.

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,
p. 498.


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

Webbs wrote:


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.

1900 -1906

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
(32, 084)
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)
Typographical Association
(16, 000)

Builders' Labourers, United
(12, 000)
Labour, National Amalgamated
Union of (23, 000)
Plasterers (11, 000)
Postmen's Federation (24, 000)





353, 070

455, 450

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),
p. 375.

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)





847, 315

956, 025

855, 270c

904, 496






Bricklayers (37, 500)
Miners Fede ration,
shire and Cheshire
Plumbers (11, 500)

(37, 000)


Painters and Decorators
(10, 966)



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,
pp. 182-184.


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

prefe rred.

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.

64I bid.


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.







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


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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
in 1935.

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),
pp. 135-139.

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


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

union. 1

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

status. 1

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
outside body.

(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 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),
p. 64.


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-
being. "

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.

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