Labour history

Some mouse

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP  |  19 May 2015

This year will mark the 80th anniversary of the Labour party leadership election of 1935. Its long-term historical significance is not in doubt, for its winning candidate went on to become the 20th century’s most successful prime minister, leading the great postwar Labour government of 1945 to 1951. At home, there were nationalisations of industry, …

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Remembering Ellen Wilkinson

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP  |  16 January 2015

Ellen Wilkinson was born in a working-class area, Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester, on 8 October 1891. One of four children, her father was a Methodist minister, and she attended the Ardwick Higher Elementary School, and later studied history at Manchester University, to which she won a scholarship. Before the first world war, she found employment in the …

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Uniting a nation amid turbulent waters

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP  |  26 November 2014

Forty years ago, the nation’s political waters were particularly turbulent. In response to western support for Israel in the Yom Kippur War in October 1973, Opec had introduced an oil embargo, which was led to the quadrupling in the price of a barrel of oil. This in turn led not only to an energy crisis, …

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Nye: The Political Life of Aneurin Bevan

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP  |  30 October 2014

On 4 July 1948, the day before the introduction of the National Health Service, the Labour party held a rally in Manchester. The main speaker, Labour’s minister of health and housing, Aneurin Bevan, captured the significance of the moment: ‘The eyes of the world are turning to Great Britain. We now have the moral leadership …

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A fearless advocate

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP  |  8 October 2014

Barbara Castle could have been Britain’s first female prime minister. Born Barbara Betts in 1910 in Pontefract, her mother was a Labour councillor, her father a tax inspector. She later moved to Bradford, where she attended the girls’ grammar school, before attending St Hugh’s College, Oxford. In the late 1930s, with deep leftwing roots, she …

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George Lansbury’s principled stand should not be forgotten

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP  |  5 September 2014

George Lansbury is probably best known as the Christian pacifist who led the Labour party from 1932 to 1935. As one of only three government ministers who kept their seats in Labour’s 1931 general election defeat (the other two were Clement Attlee and Stafford Cripps), great responsibility fell on Lansbury’s shoulders at a difficult time. …

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The landslide Labour victory of 1945

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP  |  5 August 2014

Recent weeks have marked the anniversary of Labour’s landslide general election victory of 1945. Though the election itself was held on 5 July, the logistical exercise of collecting and counting votes from service personnel all around the globe meant that the results were not formally declared until 26 July. The Labour party took 47.8 per …

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Making change from the backbenches

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP  |  23 July 2014

Leo Abse was arguably the 20th century’s most influential backbench member of parliament. Born in Cardiff on 22 April 1917, he read law at the London School of Economics. During the second world war, he served in the RAF, and was in Egypt when the ‘Forces Parliament’ met in 1944 to debate what the postwar …

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Remembering Jim Griffiths

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP  |  12 June 2014

This year, 2014, marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Welsh Office. The first secretary of state for Wales, appointed by Labour prime minister Harold Wilson in October 1964, was James Griffiths. James (‘Jim’) Griffiths, a deeply committed campaigner for devolution, is one of the most under-rated of Welsh politicians. As minister for …

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The legacy of 1931

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP  |  19 May 2014

Eighty-five years ago this month, on 30 May 1929, the Labour party became the largest single party at a general election for the first time in its history. Labour won 288 seats to the Conservatives’ 260, and the Liberals trailed in with 59. Stanley Baldwin’s uninspiring ‘safety first’ election slogan had fallen flat, and Ramsay …

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