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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Labour Party

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In Great Britain, the name given to the party in parliament composed of working-class representatives. As the result of the Reform Act of 1884, extending the franchise to a larger new working-class electorate, the votes of "labour" became more and more a matter of importance for politicians; and the Liberal party, seeking for the support of organized labour in the trade unions, found room for a few working-class representatives, who, however, acted and voted as Liberals. It was not till 1893 that the Independent Labour party, splitting off under Mr J. Keir Hardie (b. 1856) from the socialist organization known as the Social Democratic Federation (founded 1881), was formed at Bradford, with the object of getting independent candidates returned to parliament on a socialist programme. In 1900 Mr Keir Hardie, who as secretary of the Lanarkshire Miners' Union had stood unsuccessfully as a labour candidate for Mid-Lanark in 1888, and sat as M.P. for West Ham in 1892-1895, was elected to parliament for Merthyr-Tydvil by its efforts, and in 1906 it obtained the return of 30 members, Mr Keir Hardie being chairman of the group. Meanwhile in 1899 the Trade Union Congress instructed its parliamentary committee to call a conference on the question of labour representation; and in February 1900 this was attended by trade union delegates and also by representatives of the Independent Labour party, the Social Democratic Federation and the Fabian Society. A resolution was carried "to establish a distinct labour group in parliament, who shall have their own whips, and agree upon their own policy, which must embrace a readiness to co-operate with any party which for the time being may be engaged in promoting legislation in the direct interest of labour," and the committee (the Labour Representation Committee) was elected for the purpose. Under their auspices 29 out of 51 candidates were returned at the election of 1906. These groups were distinct from the Labour members ("Lib.-Labs") who obeyed the Liberal whips and acted with the Liberals. In 1908 the attempts to unite the parliamentary representatives of the Independent Labour party with the Trades Union members were successful. In June of that year the Miners' Federation, returning 15 members, joined the Independent Labour party, now known for parliamentary purposes as the "Labour Party"; other Trades Unions, such as the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, took the same step. This arrangement came into force at the general election of 1910, when the bulk of the miners' representatives signed the constitution of the Labour party, which after the election numbered 4 o members of parliament.

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Labour Party'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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