New Liberalism: The Labour Party


Labour Formation

  • Amalgamation of 3 socialist groups:
    • Social Democrat Federation, Fabians and the Independent Labour Party (some trade unions also joined)
  • Due to different groups they didn't all have the same aims or methods
  • The main aim was to represent the working class' interests in Parliament
  • Wanted to do the best to improve life for workers
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Socialist Groups that formed Labour

Social Democratic Federation

  • Included H. M. Hyndman, Tom Mann and John Burns
  • Advocated violent revolution to overthrow capitalist system
  • They gained publicity due to marches and demostrations
  • Example: Bloody Sunday in Trafalgar Square, 1887

Fabian Society

  • Middle class intellectuals such as Beatrice Webb
  • Believed land and industrial capital should be owned by community
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Causes of the Rise of the Labour Party

Poverty and Poor Social Conditions

  • 30% of working class were living close to starvation
  • Agricultural and industrial depressions had worsened
  • More unemployment with people in job having low wages
  • Henry George blamed poverty on greed of landowners, 1881
  • There was impatience among the radicals with Gladstone
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Labour after the 1906 Election

  • After the 1906 Election, 30 MPs of the LRC formed Labour
  • In 1900 LRC Conference agreed a 'distinct Labour Group in Parliament' not a set of policies
  • Policies would be made when Labour members got into parliament
  • There was no idea of what they stood for
  • 1906, not all Labour members wanted the same since half were socialists
  • It was seen as a sort of parliamentary extension of the trade unions working for Labourism
  • Labour represented the working class
  • Labour members: People who were born into it and most started as industrial labourers

Labour MPs struggle after the Labour Manifesto

  • Labour was strongly influenced by Nonconformist traditions
  • 18 out of 30 MPs were nonconformists
  • 12 supported teetotalism (not drinking)
  • A survey showed that MPs were more influenced by religious works than Marx
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Stages in Labour Party Development

  • Major priority after LRC formation was to get MPs elected
  • Immediate impact was disappointing
  • Only 10 trade unions decided to affiliate to Labour and membership was 200,000
  • October 1900 Election: LRC put up 15 candidates but only 2 were successful
  • Keir Hardie and Richard Bell: both from 2 member constituencies with Liberals winning the other seats
  • At the time Labour had a money shortage and little trade union support
  • Taff Vale changed the situation due to unfair treatment of workers
  • Ramsay MacDonald wrote to all trade unions about the need for large Labour representation
  • 1903: There were 168 further unions with Labour with 850,000 union members
  • 1904: had levy of 1 penny, it increased in 1907 to 2 penny
  • There was an improved financial situation due to Political Levy
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Stages in Labour Cont

  • The Electoral Pact between LRC and Liberals agreed in 1903 brought important boost in terms of seats in Parliament
  • MacDonald and Gladstone (the Liberal Whip) agreed Liberals wouldn't run against candidates in certain constituencies
  • Liberals did this pact so they wouldn't have to fight a 3 cornered contest
  • If Labour and Liberals ran it would split the anti-conservative vote = conservatives win
  • Liberals would also then save political expenses where they didn't filed Liberal candidates
  • It allowed Labour to make their first breakthrough
  • 1906 General Election, 50 Labour candidates stood and 30 were not opposed by Liberals
  • 29 were successful and formed the Labour Party
  • Trade Disputes Act, 1906, reversed Taff Vale decision
  • The Act was vbased on Labour's own Bill
  • Gave small improvements to workmen's compensation act
  • Helped introduce School Meals and Medical Inspections Act
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Support Labour Gained

  • Greater trade union support was vital to increase party strength
  • Miners Federation of Great Britain was to affiliate in 1908: it was a huge step forward
  • 1908: 45% of miners who voted were against joining Labour
  • 1910: 50% of trade unions were affiliated with Labour

Broader Picture

  • 1910 General Election Labour had few MPs
  • Labour broadly supported Liberal Government over the People's Budget and House of Lords reform
  • There was however varied views on the National Insurance Act, 1911
  • Labour increased councillors from 91 to 171 although it was still weaker than the Liberals and the Conservatives
  • Labour relied mainly on trades councils
  • Constituency Labour parties consisted of delegates from trade union and socialist societies
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  • Gained trades Dispute Act in 1906
  • Got measures on school meals
  • Trade Union Act 1913
  • Succeeded due to Liberal help
  • Mopst Labour elected due to no Liberal opposition, they had to pledge support to Liberals
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