Lansbury Labour Weekly

Lansbury Labour Weekly


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In 1912 the Labour MP George Lansbury had been one of the most important figures in the creation of the Daily Herald. Lansbury was unhappy with the way the newspaper became less radical after being taken over by the Labour Party and the TUC and so in 1925 he started another left-wing newspaper, the Lansbury's Labour Weekly. The newspaper rapidly reached a circulation of 172,000 and provided an important source of news during the 1926 General Strike. The newspaper lost a considerable amount of money and in 1927 Lansbury was forced to cease publication.


The Left in the 1930s: Labour, Lansbury, Cripps and Failure

If any era should have provided a fertile breeding ground for radical socialism, it should have been the ‘thirties. Unemployment peaked at just shy of three million in 1933 (it was certainly higher in reality, as that was the figure for insured workers only) in Outer Britain’s depressed areas there were whole communities, famously Jarrow after Palmer’s went broke in 1935, in which the majority of the workforce were unemployed. Poverty was real, as was the humiliation of the means test, with all its echoes of the old Poor Law. And then a government led by a former Labour leader, Ramsay MacDonald, cut unemployment benefit. For socialists it was all too easy to imagine the imminent collapse of capitalism. Socialism’s hour had come: and not the failed reformism of Ramsay MacDonald, but full-blooded socialism.

Moving left was Labour’s first instinct, after MacDonald’s National Government won their landslide in 1931, leaving a rump of just 52 Labour MPs in the commons. Among the wreckage, the veteran left-winger George Lansbury emerged as leader of the parliamentary party, then the party itself. I have written about Lansbury elsewhere, but his story is illustrative of the limited traction even the Labour left could command in the ‘thirties. Lansbury’s socialism was from the romantic radical tradition, the same tradition later co-opted by the likes of Michael Foot, Tony Benn and even Jeremy Corbyn. Lansbury, famously described by AJP Taylor as the natural leader of the ‘emotional left’, seemed even then like a figure from another time. This great clip, sees him lionising the great heroes of the trade union movement wand the emotional left of the 19th century, the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

What really aroused Lansbury’s passions, like many on the left of the party, was foreign policy. After losing his seat, MacDonald’s natural successor, Newcastle’s own Arthur Henderson, dedicated himself to peace activism and the League of Nations. Lansbury went further, being an out and out pacifist. As such, Lansbury was popular with much of the party, especially its constituency members and Labour won by-elections and, in 1934, control of London County Council.

It was Lansbury’s pacifism that destroyed him. In truth, his inadequacies as party leader were all too evident, perhaps even to the man himself who looked increasingly old, tired and even somewhat lost. At the 1935 Brighton conference Hugh Dalton introduced a motion in support of sanctions, backed by the potential use of force, against an Italian invasion of Abyssinia should it happen. Lansbury responded with a passionate speech:

I personally cannot see the difference between mass murder organised by the League of Nations, or mass murder organised between individual nations.

The delegates on the floor gave him a standing ovation and sung ‘for he’s a jolly good fellow’.

Well, most of them did. After the disaster of 1931, real power in the Labour movement was not concentrated in its parliamentary rump. Some very different types of socialists dominated its National Executive Committee now. Dalton was one of them. Likewise, the overwhelming vote in its party conference was held by the trade union bloc vote. Of those unions, none was more powerful, more important and more ruthless than Ernie Bevin.


When Bevin rose to his feet, he did not spare Lansbury:

It is placing the Executive and the Movement in an absolutely wrong position to be hawking your conscience around from body to body asking to be told what to do with it.

Bevin’s speech was heard with loud catcalls and even hatred in the hall the union bloc vote delivered Bevin a win by 2,168,000 to 102,000. Dalton recorded in his diary that Bevin had ‘hammered Lansbury to death.’ When accused of being somewhat rough on the old man, Bevin’s reply was brutal, if accurate:

Lansbury has been going about dressed up in saint’s clothes for years waiting for martyrdom. I set fire to the faggots.

Lansbury gave up the political ghost eight days later. Under the unlikely leadership of Clement Attlee, Labour would go on to abandon Lansbury’s pacifism, oppose appeasement and embrace rearmament, thus making it a natural partner in Churchill’s national government. The de facto leader of the left was now Sir Stafford Cripps.

Weeks before Lansbury’s resignation, the pacifist leader of the party in the Lords, Arthur Ponsonby, had resigned in opposition to the support given to sanctions by both the NEC and, in its annual conference in Margate, the TUC to sanctions against Italy. The following day Cripps had resigned from the NEC in opposition to ‘capitalists’ sanctions’.


If Bevin was brutal towards Lansbury at Brighton, he hardly spared Cripps either. Cripps was a wealthy lawyer. For Bevin, whose socialism was centered around ‘our people’, the sight of a wealthy London lawyer railing against the evils of capitalism and imperialism whilst Fascism and Nazism took away the rights of trade unions and threatened their British comrades was a sight too far:

People have been on this platform today talking about the destruction of capitalism. Lawyers and members of the professions have not done too badly… the thing that is being wiped out is the trade union movement. It is we who are being wiped out and who will be wiped out if fascism comes here.

That lay at the heart of Bevin’s socialism, and his opposition the party’s left: whether romantic, like Lansbury, or Marxist like the Cripps of the ‘thirties. Cripps had only joined the Labour party in 1929. However, by the time he had become chairman of the newly founded Socialist League in 1933, he had moved sharply to the left. For example, he argued that a future socialist government would probably need to prolong its own lifespan without a general election. At Brighton, he described the League of Nations as an ‘International Burglars Union’. Later, he was expelled from the Labour party in 1939 as a punishment for his earlier advocacy of a popular front in which the party would cooperate with the Communists and the ILP, which had disaffiliated from Labour in 1932.

In short, Labour’s far left had its moment in the sun under George Lansbury. It was short-lived. In truth, the wider Labour movement and, most of all, its voters, were always closer to the moderate socialism of Bevin and Attlee than the romantic socialism of its veteran leader, or the Marxism of Cripps. Under Attlee, Labour began the long road to 1945 in terms of economic and social policy, and in its decisive turn against appeasement and for rearmament. Labour’s far left was on the margins once more.


George Lansbury: At the Heart of Old Labour

John Shepherd. George Lansbury: At the Heart of Old Labour. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. xix + 407 pp. Illustrations, abbreviations, bibliography, index. $80.00 (cloth), ISBN 0-19-820164-8.

Reviewed by: Jonathan Schneer, School of History, Technology and Society, Georgia Tech.
Published by: H-Albion (August, 2005) St. George

George Lansbury (1859-1940) was one of Britain's socialist and Labour pioneers, a stalwart of the pantheon whose most prominent members included William Morris, Keir Hardie, Robert Hyndman, Ramsay MacDonald and Arthur Henderson. Late-nineteenth-century Radicalism provided his political schooling, but, like so many of his generation, Lansbury graduated into the socialist movement, beginning with Hyndman's Marxist Social Democratic Federation, for which he served a year-long stint as national organizer in 1895. He was active in East London politics as a Poor Law Guardian. Early in the twentieth century he joined the Independent Labour Party and in 1910 he entered the House of Commons as Labour Member for Bow and Bromley.

So far perhaps there was little to distinguish him from other early Labourites who had made politics their life's work and who had proven good at it, except that he was always friendly, never arrogant, truly believed in democratic procedures, and was ambitious for the causes he espoused, rather than for himself. But he had close relations with the Pankhursts and with Marion Coates Hansen, an extraordinary feminist whom historians have forgotten. Under their tuition, Lansbury became the most determined and visible male ally of the suffragette movement in Britain. He felt injustice deeply and sympathized with "bottom dogs" everywhere, most especially in 1912 with the suffragettes. He was thrown out of the House for shaking his fist at Prime Minister Henry Asquith and calling his anti-suffragette policies a disgrace in 1912 he himself resigned the parliamentary seat, so recently won, in order to force a by-election on "Votes for Women." (He was defeated by his Conservative opponent.) "Stand shoulder to shoulder with the militant women," Lansbury enjoined an Albert Hall filled to overflowing with supporters of the recently imprisoned Emmeline Pankhurst. "Let them burn and destroy property and do anything that they will." This proved too much for the authorities who successfully prosecuted him as "a disturber of the peace and an inciter of others to commit divers crimes and misdemeanours" (p. 131). Lansbury went to jail where he immediately began a hunger strike. Although he was released under the provisions of the notorious "Cat and Mouse Act," which allowed authorities to discharge prisoners until they had recovered their health, in fact he was not rearrested before August 1914, at which time the government decided it had more important matters to pursue.

From 1912 Lansbury also served as the chief proprietor and editor of the Daily Herald, organ for all "rebel" causes in prewar Britain. When war came, the Herald bravely continued to advocate socialist internationalism and peace. Most British Labourites and socialists supported the war, and those who did not usually kept quiet, but Lansbury broadcast his antiwar views in his newspaper nearly every week. He also began developing the Christian pacifist critique of all forms of violence for which he is best remembered. By the end of the war, he was one of Britain's best-known anti-warriors he was also best-loved or best-hated, depending on the point of view.

Lansbury remained devoted to the poor and unemployed of East London, especially the Poplar in which his Bow and Bromley constituency was located. (He was reelected to Parliament in the "Khaki Election" of 1918.) In 1921 he led Poplar's local government in a rates strike: they demanded that wealthier boroughs pay proportionally more to the London County Council, while they refuse to give over certain taxes (called precepts) so that they would have enough to pay for decent unemployment compensation. For this Lansbury went to jail again, along with a majority of the councilors. In that extraordinarily tumultuous era it seemed, for a time, that "Poplarism" would spread to other poor London boroughs and beyond, that it presaged further rebelliousness and maybe even rebellion.

Lansbury was too prickly and idiosyncratic, too independent really, for Labour's leaders, who passed him over when they formed the first Labour Government in 1924 but in 1929, MacDonald could not avoid appointing him to some office. He thought Lansbury would not cause too much trouble as Minister of the Board of Works. Truly Lansbury did not have much scope in that department, although he did introduce mixed bathing in London parks. But when the economic hurricane of 1929-31 hit Labour, and MacDonald accepted the King's invitation to form a "National" government composed primarily of Conservatives, Lansbury was a leading opponent. And when MacDonald went to the country asking for a "doctor's mandate" to govern, and scored a landslide victory so that nearly all Labour MPs lost their seats, as did nearly all former Labour Cabinet Ministers, George Lansbury, alone among the latter, returned to Parliament with a comfortable majority--so beloved had he become among his East London constituents.

The prewar rebel, militant suffragist, anti-warrior, and jailbird, now a septuagenarian, became leader of the Labour Party by default, there was no other qualified Labour Member. He was a mere tattered remnant, but he led with panache. Unfortunately these were the locust years: Mussolini in Italy, Hitler in Germany. Lansbury was a deft hand at rallying the troops to oppose Conservative domestic policy in the House, but less so when it came to foreign affairs. He did not merely oppose British rearmament, he wanted Britain to give up unilaterally its army and navy. He thought pacifism could answer jackbooted fascism. He advocated a world conference in which the "have" nations would satisfy the "have-nots." Even a majority of his own party thought this unrealistic, although many continued to cherish him for his idealism, sincerity and honesty. But the situation was anomalous and, as is well known, Ernest Bevin of the Transport Workers Union ended it with a brutal speech at the 1935 Labour Party annual conference. Lansbury resigned as leader and Clement Attlee took his place.

Lansbury, however, would not go quietly into retirement--in fact he had no thought of it. Relinquishing the leadership freed him to speak his mind and to act accordingly. He could see and feel the war clouds gathering and was determined to spend his all trying to disperse them. He traveled to the United States, where he met with President Franklin Roosevelt, whom he thought promised to convene the world meeting of "have" and "have-not" nations. Lansbury also traveled to Germany and met with Hitler, who indubitably promised to attend, if one took place next he traveled to Italy, and to half a dozen other countries, meeting with kings, prime ministers, and dictators. He was an old man in a hurry, but, of course, to no avail. When war came despite his best efforts he was shattered. He died in 1940. During the Battle of Britain the Germans bombed his East-End house.

Lansbury's is a familiar story, though perhaps not familiar enough, since the only previous full-length biography was written in 1951 by Raymond Postgate, Lansbury's son-in-law. John Shepherd has done a remarkable job researching this more up-to-date volume. He contacted Lansbury's granddaughter, the actress Angela Lansbury, and other descendents, many of whom shared reminiscences and gave Shepherd access to papers no historian had seen before. He tracked down the papers of practically everyone who left any and who had contact with the protagonist. He combed the secondary sources exceedingly well. To give a characteristic example: he quotes from the memoirs of the man who was Hitler's translator at the interview with Lansbury in Berlin in 1936. Shepherd knows the more important secondary literature as well, including the debates among historians about Edwardian feminism, and about the fall of the second Labour government, for example.

Shepherd's expert knowledge puts him in a position to cast light on little known aspects of Lansbury's career. He is able to illuminate, with well-chosen extracts from personal correspondence, Lansbury's uneasy relationship with Ramsay MacDonald he is excellent tracing the web of connections linking the Poplar councilors and he rightly reminds us of Lansbury's talents as a fundraiser and organizer more generally. His detailed research also enables him to write knowledgably about Lansbury's home life. Here he is primarily concerned to unravel the contradiction between Lansbury's feminism and his attitude towards his wife, Bessie Brine, who raised, fed, and clothed his twelve children, kept the house tidy, and managed the domestic economy, despite her husband's penchant for giving all his money away.

No doubt because he is so steeped in the literature and the sources, Shepherd occasionally takes his readers' knowledge for granted. One would have liked more context for understanding Lansbury's battle with John Burns and the Charity Organization Society over farm colonies for the East-End unemployed. One would have liked more about his relationship with another East-End MP and local councilor, Will Crooks. More on the American philanthropist Joseph Fels would have been welcome. And what ever happened to the extraordinary Marion Coates Hansen, who appears to have been a seminal influence on Lansbury? One would have been grateful too for more focused discussion of much broader issues: Lansbury's views on revolution, the parliamentary road to socialism, and the Communist Party, for example.

To review John Shepherd's biography is to remind oneself of a politics, a movement and a historical context that seem irretrievably lost, for George Lansbury was one of the great exponents of the "religion of socialism," which has little purchase today. But his socialism was infused specifically with Christianity, indeed he could not conceive of the one without the other. He did not wear his religion lightly, but neither did he use it as a cudgel. Tolerant, democratic, friendly, determined, honest, he was in his own times, and remains today, a model for anyone who believes that religion should inform politics. So there is a contemporary resonance after all.

Citation: Jonathan Schneer. "Review of John Shepherd, George Lansbury: At the Heart of Old Labour," H-Albion, H-Net Reviews, August, 2005. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.cgi?path=10561128699327.

Copyright (c) 2005 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For other uses contact the Reviews editorial staff: .


Lansbury Labour Weekly - History

by Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal

Labour might have spent most of 1934 duelling between the leadership and the Socialist League but it didn’t seem to cause too much harm at the ballot box. The party picked up two seats from the Conservatives in by-elections, they nicked one from the Liberals and they also beat the splitters of the ILP to win back Merthyr – a great boost to the party’s Scrabble score.

In a world without opinion polls, these by-election successes seemed to point the way to a Labour resurgence at the next election, expected sometime in late 1935.

The case for optimism was boosted in June 1935 when the ailing Prime Minister, Ramsay Macdonald retired, to be replaced by Tory Stanley Baldwin.

Although the Labour movement was agreed that Macdonald was Satan incarnate, the rest of the country couldn’t see the horns and pitchfork and he had remained popular as the head of the national government. With his resignation, the government’s fake moustache and glasses were removed and it suddenly looked like the Tory outfit it had been all along.

Everything was falling into place. The election would now be a clear choice between the Tories and Labour. Yes the Liberals were lurking around too, but everyone just assumed they’d support whoever won to form a majority government because, well, Liberals right?

But beneath the surface trouble was being stirred up for the party by, oddly enough, Benito Mussolini.

Benito Mussolini gazes into the future, fails to spot the meat-hooks

Over the past two years, fascism had spread across Europe. The prospect of international conflict topped the political agenda and Mussolini’s threats to forcibly plant spaghetti trees throughout Abyssinia brought matters to a head.

This was the defining issue of the day. And on it, Labour was conflicted.

The TUC was clear where it stood. In September 1935 at Margate they discussed what to do about Mussolini. They voted their support for sanctions backed by the threat of force by the League of Nations, which was a precursor body to the UN, in which all nations would meet to agree a course of action, and then go and do whatever they wanted anyway.

The TUC pledged, “its firm support of any action consistent with the principles and statutes of the League to restrain the Italian government.”

The wider Labour party generally agreed, but things were complicated by a small but influential anti-war lobby.

This was made up of a group of common-or-garden pacifists who opposed anything that looked like violence on principle and the socialist left who were fine with the concept of war and mayhem as long as it wasn’t capitalists doing it.

On the 17 th September Lord Ponsonby, Labour’s leader in the Lords, resigned on the grounds that the party’s position was incompatible with his pacifism.

Arthur Ponsonby, creator of the Ponsonby Rule which dictates “with a name like Ponsonby, you have to be really, really posh” or something

Not to be outdone, Sir Stafford Cripps resigned on the same day, in opposition to the “capitalists’ sanctions.” Although quite how the left’s fight against capitalism was furthered by allowing Italian fascists to drive tanks through Africa was never clarified.

This was all awkward, but nothing compared to the main problem confronting Labour.

That problem’s name was George Lansbury. He was the most prominent of the pacifists and, rather inconveniently for Labour, also the leader of the party.

The NEC convened a meeting on the 19 th September to work out how to square the party’s position with that of its leader.

Some of the union representatives saw a simple solution and wanted to apply Occam’s razor – across Lansbury’s throat. In the end though, the final resolution stopped short of kicking out the leader. Instead, it gave the quintessential chairman’s vote of confidence in a doomed football manager: “…the question of leadership is a matter for the parliamentary party, but that in the opinion of the NEC there is no reason that he [George Lansbury] should tender his resignation.”

As Hugh Dalton noted in his diary, “We don’t want the onus of pushing him out.”

With such a ringing NEC endorsement under his belt, George Lansbury approached Labour conference with understandable trepidation.

On 1st October 1935, in Brighton, Hugh Dalton introduced a joint statement by the TUC and the National Council of Labour (on which the TUC, the NEC and the PLP were represented, previously called the Joint Council but changed to sound less like a club for smoking weed). It supported sanctions backed up by force against Mussolini if he was to invade Abyssinia.

Dalton asked the movement to stand firm against Mussolini’s “barbarous and long premeditated assault on Abyssinia,” and his ‘stupid hat’.

Then Cripps had his turn. He railed against the capitalists and imperialists as was his habit.

Next, the floor passed to the Labour leader. George Lansbury gave his most memorable speech, speaking passionately for pacifism and entreating conference to heed his pleas. He was greeted with a standing ovation from the floor, excepting some of the union delegations, and two rousing choruses of “for he’s a jolly good fellow”.

Who could possibly follow such a performance from a party favourite? Who could oppose such a lovely and well-meaning chap?

Ernest Bevin. He could. And he did, without mercy.

Ernest Bevin showcases the warm nature that led to his speech about George Lansbury

First, he mocked Cripps, the wealthy lawyer, “People have been on this platform today talking about the destruction of capitalism. Lawyers and members of the professions have not done too badly… the thing that is being wiped out is the trade union movement. It is we who are being wiped out and who will be wiped out if fascism comes here.”

And then he destroyed Lansbury, most memorably declaring, “It is placing the Executive and the Movement in an absolutely wrong position to be hawking your conscience around from body to body asking to be told what to do with it.”

The force of Bevin’s rebuke was shocking. Boos and catcalls echoed through the hall as he spoke but the final vote was overwhelming: the anti-war cause was rejected, 2,168,000 to 102,000.

Yet Ernie Bevin’s speech was to have a far wider impact than the vote alone. Dalton wrote in his diary that Bevin had “hammered Lansbury to death.”

And so he had. Days later, on the 9 th October, Lansbury resigned.

For many of the NEC, the obvious choice to replace Lansbury was the unions’ main man in the PLP: Arthur Greenwood. But following Bevin’s political GBH on Lansbury, there was a reluctance to hand power to Lansbury’s chief opponent.

Faced with the tricky choice on succession, in true decisive PLP fashion, they voted by 38 to 7 to pretend there wasn’t a problem after all and ask Lansbury to come back. But Lansbury had had enough. And who could blame him? He refused to return and, worse, nominations for a new leader were not forthcoming.

Just when it seemed Labour might be forced to be a leaderless Green party style collective, it was decided that Attlee could take over as interim leader for the rest of the parliamentary session, as he had done previously.

More than the crushing defeat for the pacifists at Labour conference, which had always been inevitable because of the union block vote, this was the real legacy of Bevin’s intervention: the failure of the unions to secure the leadership for Arthur Greenwood and the ascension of Clement Attlee to the top job.

The News Chronicle summed up the tremendous enthusiasm which greeted Attlee’s appointment, “…in the end Major Attlee was asked to carry on as the least embarrassing way out of a bad mess.”


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Early life Edit

Raymond Postgate was born in Cambridge, the eldest son of John Percival Postgate and Edith Allen, Postgate was educated at St John's College, Oxford, where, despite being sent down for a period because of his pacifism, he gained a First in Honour Moderations in 1917.

Postgate sought exemption from World War I military service as a conscientious objector on socialist grounds, but was allowed only non-combatant service in the army, which he refused to accept. Arrested by the civil police, he was brought before Oxford Magistrates' Court, which handed him over to the Army. Transferred to Cowley Barracks, Oxford, [1] for forcible enlistment in the Non-Combatant Corps, he was within five days found medically unfit for service and discharged. [2] Fearful of a possible further attempt at conscription, he went "on the run" for a period. While he was in Army hands, his sister Margaret campaigned on his behalf, in the process meeting the socialist writer and economist G. D. H. Cole, whom she subsequently married. In 1918 Postgate married Daisy Lansbury, daughter of the journalist and Labour Party politician George Lansbury, and was barred from the family home by his Tory father. [3]

Communist period Edit

From 1918 Postgate worked as a journalist on the Daily Herald, then edited by his father-in-law, Lansbury. In 1920 he published Bolshevik Theory, a book brought to Lenin’s attention by HG Wells. Impressed with the analysis therein, Lenin sent a signed photograph to Postgate, which he kept for the rest of his life. [4] A founding member of the British Communist Party in 1920, Postgate left the Herald to join his colleague Francis Meynell on the staff of the CP's first weekly, The Communist. Postgate soon became its editor and was briefly a major propagandist for the communist cause but he left the party after falling out with its leadership in 1922, when the Communist International insisted that British communists follow the Moscow line. As such, he was one of Britain's first left-wing former communists, and the party came to treat him as an archetypal bourgeois intellectual renegade. He remained a key player in left journalism, however, returning to the Herald, then joining Lansbury on Lansbury's Labour Weekly in 1925–1927. [5]

Later career Edit

In the late 1920s and early 1930s he published biographies of John Wilkes and Robert Emmet and his first novel, No Epitaph (1932), and worked as an editor for the Encyclopædia Britannica. [6] In 1932 he visited the Soviet Union with a Fabian delegation and contributed to the collection Twelve Studies in Soviet Russia. [7] Later in the 1930s he co-authored with his brother-in-law G. D. H. Cole The Common People, a social history of Britain from the mid-18th century. Postgate edited the left-wing monthly Fact from 1937 to 1939, which featured a monograph on a different subject in each issue. [8] Fact published material by several well-known left-wing writers, including Ernest Hemingway's reports on the Spanish Civil War, [9] C. L. R. James' "A History of Negro Revolt" [8] and Storm Jameson's essay "Documents". [10] Postgate then edited the socialist weekly Tribune from early 1940 until the end of 1941. [11] Tribune had previously been a pro-Soviet publication: however, the Soviet fellow travellers at Tribune were either dismissed, or, in Postgate's words "left soon after in dislike of me". [12] Under Postgate's editorship, Tribune would express "critical support" for the Churchill government and condemn the Communist Party. [13]

Postgate's anti-fascism led him to move away from his earlier pacifism. Postgate supported World War II and joined the Home Guard near his home in Finchley, London. [1] [14] In 1942 he obtained a post as a temporary civil servant in the wartime Board of Trade, concerned with the control of rationed supplies, and he remained in the Service for eight years. [15] He continued his left-wing writings, and his question-and-answer pamphlet "Why you Should Be A Socialist", widely distributed among the returning military as the war ended, probably contributed significantly to the Labour Party's post-war landslide victory.

In the postwar period, Postgate continued to be critical of Russia under Stalin, viewing its direction as an abandonment of socialist ideals. [16] [17]

Always interested in food and wine, after World War II, Postgate wrote a regular column on the poor state of British gastronomy for the pocket magazine Lilliput. In these, inspired by the example of a French travel guide called Le Club des Sans Club, he invited readers to send him reports on eating places throughout the UK, which he would collate and publish. The response was overwhelming, and Postgate's notional "Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Food", as he had called it, developed into the Good Food Guide, becoming independent of Lilliput and its successor, The Leader. The Guide's first issue came out in 1951 it accepted no advertisements and still relied on volunteers to visit and report on UK restaurants. [18] As well as democratising ordinary eating out, Postgate sought to demystify the aura surrounding wine, and the flowery language widely used to describe wine flavours. His "A Plain Man's Guide To Wine" undoubtedly did much to make Britain more of a wine-drinking nation. [19] In 1965, Postgate wrote an article in Holiday magazine in which he warned readers against Babycham, which "looks like champagne and is served in champagne glasses [but] is made of pears". The company sued for libel, but Postgate was acquitted, and awarded costs. Postgate's distinctly amateur writings on both food and wine, though highly influential in Britain in their time, did not endear him to professionals in the catering and wine trades, who avoided referring to him however his activities were much appreciated in France, where in 1951 he had been made the first British "Peer of the Jurade of St Emilion". [20]

He continued to work as a journalist, mainly on the Co-operative movement's Sunday paper Reynolds' News, and during the 1950s and 1960s published several historical works and a biography of his father-in-law, The Life of George Lansbury.

Postgate wrote several mystery novels that drew on his socialist beliefs to set crime, detection and punishment in a broader social and economic context. His most famous novel is Verdict of Twelve (1940), his other novels include Somebody at the Door (1943) and The Ledger Is Kept (1953). (His sister and brother-in-law, the Coles, also became a successful mystery-writing duo.) After the death of H. G. Wells, Postgate edited some revisions of the two-volume Outline of History that Wells had first published in 1920.

Death and legacy Edit

Raymond Postgate died on 29 March 1971 his wife Daisy committed suicide a month later. [21]

Postgate's younger son, Oliver Postgate, also a conscientious objector though in World War II, became a leading creator of children's television programmes in the UK including Bagpuss, Ivor the Engine and The Clangers. Oliver's brother was the microbiologist and writer John Postgate FRS.


Today in parliamentary history: George Lansbury protests torture of jailed suffragettes & gets suspended from Parliament, 1912.

George Lansbury, Labour MP for Bow and Bromley, peace activist, opponent of the Boer War and World War 1, and probably the most leftwing leader the Labour Party ever had (without exception), was also a passionate supporter of the campaign for women to be win the right to vote.

His support sometimes got him into trouble…

Suffrage activists from the Women’s Social & Political Union had engaged in a campaign of direct action to press for votes for women. Smashing windows, attacking the odd politician… Their tactics had escalated to arson. In response to the increased fury of the movement the Liberal government had been jailing suffragettes, and force-feeding them when they went on hunger strike. Force-feeding was a brutal and dangerous procedure which left many women permanently injured.

On 25 June 1912 the Speaker suspended him from Parliament. The pacifist Lansbury, white with rage over the forcible feeding of imprisoned suffragettes, had shaken his fist in the Prime Minister, H. H. Asquith’s face, shouting “You will go down to history as a man who tortured innocent women.”

In response to an appeal to release imprisoned suffragettes, Prime Minister Herbert Asquith had replied they could leave prison that day of they would give an undertaking not to repeat their offences.

This enraged Lansbury, who shouted: “You know the women cannot give such an undertaking! It is ridiculous to ask them to give an undertaking!”

Shouts of “Order, Order cam from all over the house, but Lansbury continued, and came forward towards the prime minster… He “immediately launched himself at the Treasury Bench shaking his fist in the faces of Premier Asquith and the other ministers. With his face only a few inches from that of Mr Asquith, Mr Lansbury screamed:’ Why, you’re beneath contempt. You call yourself a gentleman, and you forcibly feed and murder women in this fashion. You ought to be driven out of office.”

Described as ‘almost choking with emotion and passion’, Lansbury carried on, despite the speaker telling him to leave, and other MPs shouting their disapproval.

“It is the most disgraceful thing that has happened in England. You are going to go down to history as the man who tortured innocent women. The government have tortured women. It is disgraceful, disgusting, contemptible. You are murdering these poor women. You cannot tell them they they have the opportunity of walking out of prison. You know they can’t do it.”

The house was quickly consumed in disorder. The Speaker finally secured quiet and “ordered Mr Lansbury to leave. He replied, ‘I am not going out while these contemptible thugs are torturing and murdering women.’ He yelled this in a loud voice and appeared to be much overwrought, but when the Speaker warned him that he would be forcibly thrown out unless he went of his own accord the Labour members gathered about their colleague and induced him to quit.”

Lansbury found little support in his fight for women’s suffrage from his parliamentary Labour colleagues, whom he dismissed as “a weak, flabby lot”. In parliament, he denounced the prime minister, H. H. Asquith, for the cruelties being inflicted on imprisoned suffragists: “You are beneath contempt … you ought to be driven from public life”. He was temporarily suspended from the House for “disorderly conduct”.

He was ordered to leave the chamber by the Speaker, or he’d be ejected.

Lansbury’s passion on the issue came not only from his fierce sense of principle. A number of the suffragists facing force-feeding were his friends and comrades.

Later that year, Lansbury resigned his seat, to re-stand as a ‘Votes for Women’ candidate, but lost. Support for women’s suffrage among Labour voters was mixed – many of Lansbury’s previous supporters refused to support his position.

Campaigning on the same issue in 1913, he refused to be bound over to ‘keep the peace’ and was sentenced to six months imprisonment, part of which was remitted after he went on hunger strike.

An entry in the 2016 London Rebel History Calendar – check it out online


George Lansbury

George Lansbury, PC (22 February 1859 – 7 May 1940) was a British politician and social reformer who led the Labour Party from 1932 to 1935. Apart from a brief period of ministerial office during the Labour government of 1929–31, he spent his political life campaigning against established authority and vested interests, his main causes being the promotion of social justice, women&aposs rights and world disarmament. Originally a radical Liberal, Lansbury converted to socialism in the early 1890s, and thereafter served his local community in the East End of London in numerous elective offices. His activities were underpinned by his Christian beliefs which, except for a short period of doubt, sustained him through his life. Elected to parliament in 1910, he resigned his seat in 1912 to campaign for women&aposs suffrage, and was briefly imprisoned after publicly supporting militant action.

In 1912 Lansbury helped to establish the Daily Herald newspaper, and became its editor. Throughout the First W&hellipmore

[close] George Lansbury, PC (22 February 1859 – 7 May 1940) was a British politician and social reformer who led the Labour Party from 1932 to 1935. Apart from a brief period of ministerial office during the Labour government of 1929–31, he spent his political life campaigning against established authority and vested interests, his main causes being the promotion of social justice, women's rights and world disarmament. Originally a radical Liberal, Lansbury converted to socialism in the early 1890s, and thereafter served his local community in the East End of London in numerous elective offices. His activities were underpinned by his Christian beliefs which, except for a short period of doubt, sustained him through his life. Elected to parliament in 1910, he resigned his seat in 1912 to campaign for women's suffrage, and was briefly imprisoned after publicly supporting militant action.

In 1912 Lansbury helped to establish the Daily Herald newspaper, and became its editor. Throughout the First World War the paper maintained a strongly pacifist stance, and supported the October 1917 Russian Revolution. These positions contributed to Lansbury's failure to be elected to parliament in 1918. He devoted himself to local politics in his home borough of Poplar, and went to prison with 30 fellow-councillors for his part in the Poplar "rates revolt" of 1921.

After his return to parliament in 1922, Lansbury was denied office in the brief Labour government of 1924, although he served as First Commissioner of Works in the Labour government of 1929–31. After the political and economic crisis of August 1931 Lansbury did not follow his leader, Ramsay MacDonald, into the National Government, but stayed with the Labour Party. As the most senior of the small contingent of Labour MPs that survived the 1931 general election, Lansbury became the party's leader. His pacifism and his opposition to rearmament in the face of rising European fascism put him at odds with his party, and when his position was rejected at the 1935 party conference he resigned the leadership. He spent his final years travelling through the United States and Europe in the cause of peace and disarmament.


George Lansbury

Mr. George Lansbury, Labour M.P. for the Bow and Bromley Division of Poplar since 1922 and Leader of the Opposition from 1932 to 1935, who had been ill for some time in Manor House Hospital, died last night at the age of 81.

For nearly 50 years he was prominently associated with the Labour movement and was widely known as an ardent propagandist, but his pronounced 'Left Wing' sympathies kept him in his position of a detached critic among the movement's official representatives until his inclusion in the second Labour Government as First Commissioner of Works. After the fall of the second Labour Government he became, as the only member of the Cabinet to survive the General Election, the chairman of the much reduced party in Parliament, and was elected as the party's leader when Mr. Henderson resigned that position in 1932. The appointment, although dictated by circumstances, was cordially accepted by the movement at large.

After some years as a Liberal agent Lansbury joined in 1892 the Social Democratic Federation, which later became affiliated to the Labour Party. Under his leadership the Labour Party in Poplar gained widespread notoriety. The policy he followed, which came to be known as 'Poplarism,' was severely criticised, and in 1921 he and other councillors went to prison for refusing to collect rates. He entered national politics in 1895, when he contested Walworth as an S.D.F. candidate for Parliament. He polled only 207 votes. At the General Election of December, 1910, he won Bow and Bromley, holding the seat until 1912. In that year he challenged re-election by resigning his seat, without consultation with the leaders of the Labour Party, in order to test the policy of refusing to allow Parliamentary business to go on until the question of woman suffrage had been settled satisfactorily.

For the next 10 years Lansbury was out of Parliament and devoted himself to Labour journalism and platform activities as chief spokesman of Labour's 'Left Wing'. He helped to found, and for a short time edited, the Daily Herald, which was launched as an unofficial journal in opposition to the Labour Party's organ, the Citizen. During the War Lansbury converted his paper into a weekly, but in 1919 he succeeded in restarting it as a daily newspaper, and edited it as 'Left Wing' journal until 1923, when it was taken over by the Labour Party and the Trades Union Congress, Lansbury remaining as general manager but resigning the editorship. He was always a vigorous advocate of friendship with Soviet Russia. He regained the representation of Bow and Bromley in the House of Commons in 1922. He was passed over in the selection of Ministers in the first Labour Government in 1924, but in the second Cabinet formed by Mr. MacDonald in 1929 he held a position as First Commissioner of Works. He was a member of the Central Unemployed Body for London, and served for a number of years on the L.C.C. When he became a Minister in 1929 he was sworn a Privy Councillor.

In 1880 he married Elizabeth, daughter of Isaac Brine. She died in 1933. He left two sons and six daughters.

George Lansbury (1859 - 1940) was a British politician, socialist, Christian pacifist and newspaper editor. He was a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1910 to 1912 and from 1922 to 1940, and leader of the Labour Party from 1932 to 1935.

He was a campaigner for social justice and improved living and employment conditions for the working class, especially in London's East End.

George Lansbury was born 21 February 1859 in a tollhouse located between the towns of Lowestoft and Halesworth in Suffolk, England. His father, George Lansbury, Sr., was a migrant laborer employed at the time for a contractor engaged in the construction of railroads throughout the eastern part of England. The family lived in a series of hastily-constructed temporary dwellings abandoned as soon as construction in an area was completed. His mother, Anne Lansbury, was of Welsh heritage, married at an early age. Both of his parents drank fairly heavily, a fact which Lansbury's son-in-law and biographer indicates may have influenced George Junior's lifelong abstinence from alcohol.

Lansbury's maternal grandmother and mother were both religiously nonconformist — being strict Sabbatarians — and politically radical. George was brought into politics at a young age, being taught to read with the pages of a newspaper. Lansbury was formally educated in the rural one-room schoolhouses of the day, with the family never staying in one place for long — Sydenham and Greenwich were among the towns which the family called home.

Late in 1868 the Lansbury family moved again, this time to Bethnal Green and later Whitechapel in London's East End.

His earliest political involvement was with the Liberal Party, which he joined in 1886. He acted as electoral agent for Samuel Montagu in Whitechapel at the General Election of 1886, and for Jane Cobden, who stood for election to the London County Council as a Liberal candidate in 1889. That year Lansbury took up the issue of pressing for a legal eight-hour day, but after failing to secure the support of the National Liberal Federation at their 1889 conference he became increasingly disillusioned by the Liberals. He came into contact with the Social Democratic Federation and, in support of the famous 1889 Dock Strike, joined the recently formed Gas Workers' and General Labourers' Union.

Lansbury left the Liberal Party in 1892 and, with friends, formed the Bow and Bromley branch of the Social Democratic Front (SDF). He became a prominent member of that organisation, standing twice as a parliamentary candidate for the SDF in the 1890s, before leaving to join the Independent Labour Party around 1903. In 1910, he became MP for Bow and Bromley, when the sitting Conservative MP retired and the Liberals supported his candidature. Two years later he clashed with Asquith in the House of Commons over the issue of women's suffrage and resigned his seat in order to stand in a by-election in support of the Suffragette movement. However he was unsuccessful, and did not return to the House of Commons for ten years. Continuing to support the campaign for women's suffrage, Lansbury was charged with sedition in 1913 and jailed in Pentonville, during which time he hunger-struck and was temporarily released under the Cat and Mouse Act. In Parliament, he defended authors of a "Don't Shoot" leaflet addressed to soldiers called to deal with militant strikers.

Lansbury helped found, in 1912, the Daily Herald, a socialist newspaper. He became editor just prior to World War I and used the paper to oppose the war, publishing a headline "War Is Hell" at the outbreak of fighting. In 1922 the Herald was desperately short of funds and Lansbury reluctantly handed over the paper to the Trades Union Congress and the Labour Party.

He was instrumental in opening the first training school for destitute Poplar children in 1905, called Hutton Poplars and situated near Hutton in the Essex countryside, the model for subsequent children's homes.

As Labour Mayor of Poplar, one of London's poorest boroughs, Lansbury led the Poplar Rates Rebellion in 1921, opposing not only the Government and the London County Council, but leaders of his own party. The borough council, instead of forwarding the precept of collected tax monies to LCC, dispersed the money as aid to the needy. Thirty councillors, including six women, were jailed by the High Court for six weeks. Council meetings during this time were held in Brixton Prison, until the government grew uneasy about the imprisonment and LCC asked the High Court to release the prisoners. A rates revision was achieved and Lansbury returned to Parliament at the 1922 general election, when he regained his old seat of Bromley and Bow.

Between 1925 and 1927 he edited Lansbury's Labour Weekly, which included columns by Ellen Wilkinson and Raymond Postgate and artwork by Reginald Brill.

Lansbury's standing within the Labour party grew and in 1927 he was elected Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party for 1927-28. In 1929 Lansbury became First Commissioner of Works in the second Labour government under Ramsay MacDonald. In this capacity, he was associated with the construction, amongst numerous other public works, of a large open air swimming pool on the Serpentine in Hyde Park, popularly known as 'Lansbury's Lido'. This led to him gaining the popular title "First Commissioner for Good Works".

He was sworn into the Privy Council of the United Kingdom in 1929, allowing him the use of the title The Right Honourable for Life.

Leader of the Labour Party

Two years later the government fell, MacDonald deserted the Labour Party to form the National Government and the party went to a massive defeat in the 1931 General Election. The party's new leader Arthur Henderson and nearly every other leading Labour figure were defeated. Lansbury was the one exception and became Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party in 1931. The following year Henderson stood down from the leadership of the overall party and Lansbury succeeded him.

The Fulham East by-election in June 1933 was dominated by the issue of re-armament against Nazi Germany, following Germany's withdrawal from the League of Nations. Lansbury, a lifelong Christian pacifist, sent a message to the constituency in his position as Labour Leader:

I would close every recruiting station, disband the Army and disarm the Air Force. I would abolish the whole dreadful equipment of war and say to the world: "Do your worst."

As a pacifist Lansbury found himself increasingly at odds with the official foreign policy of the party he led. On several occasions he offered to resign the leadership but his parliamentary colleagues dissuaded him, not least because there was no clear alternative leader. However in late 1935 the disagreements became more severe and public. Many in the Labour Party, particularly the Trade Union wing led by Ernest Bevin, were pushing for the party to support sanctions against Italy for its aggression against Abyssinia. Lansbury fundamentally disagreed with this. In the weeks leading up to the Labour Party Conference Lansbury's position was weakened when both Lord Ponsonby, the Labour leader in the House of Lords, and the Labour frontbencher and National Executive member Sir Stafford Cripps, widely seen as Lansbury's political heir, resigned from their positions because they too opposed sanctions and felt it would be impossible to lead a party when they were in disagreement with it on the major political issue of the day.

Many wondered how Lansbury's leadership could survive, even though he retained an immense personal popularity. At the Conference this was publicly displayed by delegates, but then during a debate on foreign policy Ernest Bevin launched a withering attack on Lansbury. Heavily defeated in the vote, Lansbury determined to resign as leader. At a meeting of Labour MPs called shortly afterwards there was a great reluctance to accept his resignation, partially out of continued support but also because many Labour MPs feared that the next leader would be Arthur Greenwood, widely seen as heavily aligned to trade unionists like Bevin. In a vote the MPs voted by 38 to 7 with five abstentions to not accept Lansbury's resignation, but he insisted on stepping down. When it came to selecting a successor (initially envisaged as a temporary position), Greenwood's name was not considered and the party instead unanimously elected Lansbury's deputy, Clement Attlee.

Lansbury was chair of the No More War Movement, chair of the War Resisters' International, 1936�, and President of the Peace Pledge Union, 1937-1940. He was a critic of British policy towards the Spanish Civil War and worked with Spanish pacifist José Brocca.

His efforts to prevent World War II led him, under the banner Embassies of Reconciliation, to visit most of the heads of government in Europe, including Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. He also visited U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

He died of cancer on 7 May 1940, aged 81, in Manor House Hospital in North London.

George Lansbury married his schoolfriend Elisabeth (Bessie) Jane Brine in 1880. They had twelve children, including Edgar and Daisy Lansbury and he was the father-in-law of suffragette Minnie Lansbury, Belfast-born actress Moyna MacGill, and historian and novelist Raymond Postgate. George Lansbury was grandfather of actress Angela Lansbury, producers Bruce and Edgar Lansbury, and animator and puppeteer Oliver Postgate.

George Lansbury lived at 39 Bow Road, Tower Hamlets, which was destroyed by German bombing a few months after his death in 1940. The site is now occupied by a block of flats that bears Lansbury's name and carries a memorial plaque. Outside the flats, at the corner of Bow Road and Harley Grove, there is a stone memorial to George Lansbury with an inscription that includes the words "A great servant of the people."

George Lansbury's name and memory live on in the Lansbury Estate and Lansbury Gardens, East London, numerous street names both in London and Halesworth, Suffolk where he was born, and the aforementioned Lansbury's Lido that he founded on the Serpentine in London's Hyde Park.


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