A Short History of the Labour Party by Henry Pelling (auth.)

By Henry Pelling (auth.)

This textual content offers an introductory account of the Labour social gathering from its starting place. It not just covers the interval as much as and together with the election of Neil Kinnock because the chief of the Labour social gathering but in addition concentrates at the difficulties of the parliamentary leadership.

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MacDonald himself, so far as one can tell, sincerely believed in the principles of Lloyd George's Insurance Act, and not least in the contributory principle, which many Socialists felt to be contrary to their faith. As he said in his Second Reading speech, 'I am in favour of insurance and not of free gift'. 7 On the other hand, Snowden and the Webbs, together with Lansbury who had served with Mrs. Webb on the Poor Law Commission, were united in opposition to this view. Their aim was a National Health Service undertaking preventive measures for the benefit of the whole community.

To prevent this happening, Henderson underwent a new political baptism, if not a conversion. Hardie was now ageing rapidly and it became obvious that the two most important figures in the party were MacDonald and Henderson. MacDonald was successful in his aim of turning the chairmanship of the parliamentary party into an effective leadership (the use of the word 'leader', however, was still not accepted); but inevitably he lost his close links with the organisation in the con- 32 A Pressure-group under Pressure ( I 906- I 4) stituencies.

What was significant, however, was the change of attitude of the trade-union rank and file, which was also reflected in the official leadership of the Labour Party itself. At the suggestion of Lloyd George, who wanted to keep Russia in the war, Henderson was sent to visit Russia; and on his return he announced himself of the opinion that the best way to keep the Russians in line with the Western Allies was to explore in conjunction with them the basis for a negotiated peace. Henderson also favoured the despatch of delegates from Britain to a proposed International Socialist Congress at Stockholm, which it was expected that German Socialists would attend.

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