From the January 1919 issue of the Socialist Standard
Capital’s Coalition has swept the country at the election. According to reports the Coalition Unionists number 334, Co. Liberals 135 and Co. Labour 10—a total of 479 out of 706 members. The rest consists of 28 Liberals, 62 Labourites, 50 Unionists, 73 Sinn Feiners, 7 Nationalists, and, about 7 Independents. The Sinn Feiners are pledged not to take their seats, so they can be deducted, while 50 Independent Unionists may be counted on to support the Government on most occasions. By adding these to the Coalition and deducting the Sinn Feiners from the Opposition, we get 529 Coalitionists against a total combination of 104.
Even this does not complete the tale, for several "official” Labour men like Hodge, Clynes, and O'Grady, are strong supporters of the war and the Coalition. The Coalition thus has the largest majority ever returned to Parliament.
The most striking feature of the Election is the almost complete destruction of the Liberal Party as represented by the followers of Asquith. Leader and lieutenants alike have been swept aside by the Coalition flood. To cover up this crushing defeat Liberal newspapers are claiming that the Coalition possess seats far in excess of the proportion of votes cast for their men, and that in numerous instances candidates have been elected by a minority of the votes cast. True, but when has a Liberal resigned his seat because he (as in several cases) did not obtain a majority of the votes polled?
On behalf of the Labour Party Philip Snowden and Ramsay Macdonald point jubilantly to the great increase in the votes cast for Labour Party candidates, forgetting to mention that the number of voters on the new register is more than double that at the previous election, and secondly that a much larger number of Labour Party candidates were put forward than ever before. When allowance is made for these facts the figures lose much of their seeming significance. Nor is this all. A large number of the “Labour" votes were given by opponents of the Labour Party’s programme. During the brief campaign the “Daily News" repeatedly urged the Liberals to vote for the Labour man where the fight was between a Labourite and Coalitionist, and in constituencies where a Liberal and a Labourite were opposing a Coalitionist, to vote for the best man, irrespective of label. In some cases Liberal and Tory combined to make the Labour man a present of the seat, as in the case of Crooks, O’Grady, Clynes, Wardle, and others who were returned unopposed. “Colonel’' Will Thorne had the support of the official Liberal and Tory parties, and only had an “Independent” to fight. Hodge at Gorton, Walsh at Ince, Tyson at Westhoughton, and Wilkie at Dundee were free from official Liberal or Tory opposition. J. Jones, C. W. Bowerman, J. Sexton, F. Roberts, R. Young, J. Guest, J. Davison, W. Bromfield, A. Onions, and W. Adamson had no Liberal opposition to face, while Capt. Smith, G. Spencer, R. Richardson, W. Carter, T. Grundy, G. Hirst, J. Williams, F. Rose, C. Edwards, and W. Graham had no official Unionist candidate run against them. This absence of a straight fight against the other parties shows how little the votes cast for these candidates can be claimed, with any justification, as Labour votes.
Neil Maclean, one time Secretary of the S.L.P., now a member of the I.L.P., owes his seat far more to his position as organiser to the Scottish Wholesale Society than to any “Labour” principles he may have professed.
To show it had no “class bias” Holland with Boston returned a “Labour” man—W. S. Royce— who twice previously had contested Spalding as a Unionist and who is a wealthy landowner in the district, though at the moment of writing it is not clear whether he had the official endorsement of the National Labour Party. Anglesey returned the first titled “Labour” man to the House in the person of Brig. Gen. Sir Owen Thomas. We are getting on! We shall have “Labour” Lords next if the “widening process” of the Labour Party succeeds.
To have secured 62 seats out of 368 contests, and that only with all this arrangement and assistance from the capitalist parties, shows how small is the influence and power of the Labour Party.
Despite its affiliation with the Labour Party the I.L.P. has done even worse, for out of 50 candidates that it claims only three were elected. Like its pal the Liberal Party it has lost all its leaders—Snowden, Macdonald, Jowett, Anderson. This shows how much the leaders depended upon Liberal votes for the seats they held.
The intense disappointment felt by them at this is shown when Macdonald declares—
Unfortunately the Labour Party lacks in men . . who would enable it to perform the functions of an official Parliamentary Opposition.—'Manchester Guardian.’
That is adepts in Parliamentary trickery and bargaining like himself, Snowden says of the new men:
There are amongst them some of the most reactionary of the Trade Union leaders. There are amongst them men who have been most prominent amongst the Trade Union leaders in supporting every reactionary proposal the Government put forward.—“Labour Leader,” 2.1 19.
And as the I.L.P., by its alliance with the Labour Party, has supported these men in their actions, it is clear that the real trouble is not the reactionary character of these men, but the fact that they are “in” while Snowden & Co. are “out.”
The National Socialist Party—the Hyndman-Lee section that broke away from the B.S.P. on the question of the war—claims eleven candidates, of whom six were returned. But with the exception of Dan Irving, these successful candidates were run by the official Labour parties. They are J. O’Grady, W. Thorne, J. Jones, Ben Tillett, and A. Hayday. All are prominent T.U. officials, ran as “Labour” men, and the N.S.P. had no influence whatever on their return. Irving’s long career of trickery and bargaining in Burnley has at last been rewarded. He will, of course, obey the orders of his political masters, the capitalists.
Both Liberals and I.L.P. are stating that Lloyd George did not desire so overwhelming a majority as it places him completely in the hands of the Unionists. Our Ejection Manifesto had already pointed out that he was the tool of the Imperialists and was completely in their hands before the Election, and therefore he will be only continuing in the same position in the new Parliament. The “Daily Mail” admits this when it says (31.12 18):—
Sir George Younger Lord Downham (Mr. Hayes Fisher) and Mr. Bonar Law have manoeuvred our gallant little Welsh wizard into a position in which he is almost entirely dependent upon the votes of those whom he so vigorously denounced at Limehouse a few years ago.
No one knows this better than LI. George himself, but he hopes to persuade some people that he is independent, and repeats the trick he played in 1906 of threatening to resign if 'the "great” measures promised, are not carried through. Speaking at Carnavon on Jan. 1st he said
If the Government did not do their best to fulfill the promises made he would no longer be head of the Government, but would go back to the people and ask for a renewal of their confidence. -“Daily News," 2.1.19.
This is just as much cant and humbug as his similar statements in 1906. The last Government broke all its pledges, but it had the vigorous support of LI. George in all its dastardly actions. The same will be true in the future. Whatever his paymasters order him to do he will carry out, no matter what promises are broken or what crimes are contemplated.
This Election has been a great victory for the Imperialists. Riding the wave of relief and excitement consequent upon the signing of the Armistice, they have regained political power with a largely increased majority, and will be able to carry out their schemes practically unhampered. The workers will presently see their new position is worse than the old one, that the masters are more strongly entrenched than ever, and that the struggle to retain the old standard of living will be intensified and more bitter than before.,
When they apply this knowledge they will set to work to return a majority of their own representatives to Parliament for the purpose of wresting power from the master class and using that power to establish the common ownership of the means of life, whereby all will be able to enjoy life in the fullest sense of the word.