• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

How significant was The First World War in the Labour Party's rise to second-party status?

Extracts from this document...


How significant was The First World War in the Labour Party's rise to second-party status? The formation of the Labour Party was a conglomeration of labour interests in various Trade Unions, and socialist societies of the 19th century at a time when Britain was at the height of its industrial expansion. The prevailing struggle for labour representation in Parliament saw, in the first quarter of the 20th century, the unprecedented growth of parliamentary representation for the British workforce in the form of the Labour Representation Committee, or as it later became known, The Labour Party. The First World War acted as a catalyst transforming Labour from third-party insignificance to the leading opposition in the House of Commons as well as a rapidly growing force in local politics. Although it is clear that Labours transformation to second party status advanced as a result of the 1914-1918 War, it is equally clear that there were other forces at work determining Labours replacement of the Liberal Party as the leading opposition in British Politics indefinitely. The effects of The Great War upon the British political landscape were substantial and provide a significant explanation for the changing face of British politics after 1918. The Great War was a turning point for British society and the rest of the world in as much as it was the first instance in modern times whereby the concept of 'total war' was experienced. Total War in the context of the First World War in Britain brought with it compulsory military service in 1916, which pushed the final number of men serving in the army in 1918 up to 4.5 million. ...read more.


wished such control to continue, and were drawn to the Labour Party as the champion of nationalization."11 Phillips argument is reasonable, however it was the Wartime government, comprised mainly of Conservatives and Liberals, which took control of the five major production industries and this factor could alternatively account for the sweeping majority in favour of the Conservative coalition in 1918 albeit the Conservatives had no desire to continue public ownership after the War. Before 1931 James Ramsey MacDonald demonstrated the importance of personalities in history by contributing to the rise of Labour after 1918 and arguably transforming Labour from a party of protest to into a party of politics before and after the War. The illegitimate son of a female house servant, Macdonald became leader of the Labour Party and later the first Labour Prime Minister in 1923, but after 1931 came to be hated and reviled in the party he allegedly sold out. Regardless of his popularity, Macdonald conducted himself and his party in a moderate manner after the war in a successful attempt to ease concern and dissolve suspicions that the party had radical and revolutionary potential. C.J. Collier discusses how "Macdonald realised that he had to make Labour appear respectable and non-threatening if he was to win over middle as well as working class votes."12 Macdonald needed to dispel Tory Propaganda if Labour were to establish themselves as moderate and although he faced set backs like the Zinoviev letter in 1924, his first office with Labour had demonstrated their competence in handling the day to day responsibilities of governing without pursuing radical policies that some backbench MPs had hope he would. ...read more.


in the Conservative Party may have indirectly helped Labour achieve second party status after 1918, it would be safe to say that even without this element Labour would still have made the gains it did, and Moore admits in his conclusion that "Labour would have advanced in these years whatever the Conservatives decided to do".28 There are many factors involved in accounting for the rise of Labour between 1914 and 1923 but the question of significance still remains unresolved. The rise of Labour was rapid after 1918 and we can safely conclude that it was due to many factors that this occurred. Growing social tensions, unemployment, The Representation of the People Act, Labour ministers war time experience, important personalities in the Labour Party, Trade Union growth, the Liberal split, Clause IV, the list goes on. One important event underlies each of these factors, that being the War. "But for the First World War, [enfranchisement] would have been worth much less to Labour"29 as Michael Hart points out; "The War caused the Liberal Party to break up intellectually"30 state Clarke and Tanner. Without the war Henderson would not have gained experience working in a cabinet, Trade Unions would not have grown on the same scale and state intervention would not have evolved as it did, let alone display its unprecedented success. The First World War produced the perfect conditions for Labour to grow and with good leadership, sound policy and perhaps a bit of good fortune, the Party successfully established itself as one of the premiers of the two-party British electoral system. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Politics section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Politics essays

  1. Assess the Impact of the First World War on British Politics by 1918.

    It did not help that Asquith disagreed with conscription as it interfered with personal liberty. Lloyd George suggested the formation of a small war time cabinet comprised of himself, Bonar Law and a few others. Eventually after much intrigue and double dealing Asquith and Liberal ministers who followed him resigned, and never found themselves back in government again.

  2. Did the Labour Party show that it could govern Britain competently in the years ...

    Some historians have argued that the cabinet of the first Labour government was chosen poorly, with many of the ministers knowing little or nothing about their departments. For example, J.H Thomas, the former railwaymen's leader, became Colonial Secretary despite knowing very little about the Empire.

  1. How successful were the Labour governments of 1924 and of 1929-31?

    Firstly the economics; the government chose to pursue an orthodox approach, typical under Snowdon, despite the fact the economy was still in depression and unemployment was at record highs. Snowdon chose a liberal budget by returning to the gold standard, reducing government expenditure, reducing direct and indirect taxes and moving Britain back to a free-trade economy.

  2. "The first World War killed the Liberal Party" how far do you agree with ...

    The DORA act was more of a problem in destroying the Liberal party than the original entry to the war, because entry to the war would have caused resentment towards any party eventually because of soldier's death, but DORA specifically went against liberal ideology and helped to cause tensions both inside and outside the party.

  1. Is Britain a two-party or a multi party system, or something else?

    party in power must still retain the 'middle-ground' ideology that lead to the election in the first place. However, it's a popular opinion that these arguments can only explain the political system up until the 1970s. Post-1970 there is a shared consensus that there is a shift toward a multi-party system.

  2. The Impact of Electoral Design on the Legislature.

    STV counting program How the System Works: Each constituency would elect between 3 and 5 MPs depending on its size. Voters rank the candidates, putting a '1' for their favourite, a '2' for the next, and so on. If the voter's first choice candidate does not need their vote, either

  1. Free essay

    Women's contribution to the war

    This was another huge breakthrough as it appeared that women were being seen as human beings and for once being valued. Some women coped extremely well with the workload and the new demands of the job, so the Government introduced an Extended Employment of Women agreement.

  2. Free essay

    Consider the view that the liberal government reforms 1906-1914 were more concerned with the ...

    All throughout the country Labour Exchanges were set up. The plan actually intended an unemployment insurance alongside the Labour Exchanges but Churchill did not complete the scheme as he was promoted to Home Office in 1910. Instead Lloyd George took over and the scheme was to become one half of the National Insurance Act(1911).16 The National Insurance Act (1911)

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work