Studies in Lancashire and the North West of England, 1880s to 1930s
Chapter Five: Lib-Labism, Socialism and Labour in Burnley, c. 1890–1918
← 110 | 111 → CHAPTER FIVE
In the general election of December 1918 the Labour Party won the parliamentary seat of Burnley for the first time. Those people who had gathered in the Co-op Rooms to celebrate the victory were told by James Eastham, the President of the local Trades Council: ‘… a working-class constituency like Burnley ought to have been in their present position years ago. (Hear, hear)’.1 Eastham’s audience was well aware of Burnley’s anomalous place in Lancashire politics. Though one of the main centres of cotton weaving, with a well-organised trade unionism, Burnley had not figured in the landmark event of early Labour politics: the general election of 1906, when twenty-nine Labour Representation Committee (LRC) candidates were returned to Parliament, thirteen of them from constituencies in the North-West of England.2 In the region that formed the new Labour Party’s stronghold, Burnley went against the grain by returning a Lib-Lab who had been run close by a Conservative and a Socialist. In terms of the ‘forward march of labour’, therefore, Burnley seemed unpromising territory. This partly explains its neglect by historians of the pre-1914 ← 111 | 112 → Labour movement. Moreover, the active role played in Burnley by the Social-Democratic Federation (SDF), a body often regarded as inimical to Labour development and marginal in working-class politics, has further acted as a deterrent to the study of Burnley by ‘orthodox’ labour historians.3
The present essay seeks to reassess Burnley politics in the thirty or so years before 1918. It...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.
Do you have any questions? Contact us.Or login to access all content.