Blaazer, Popular front, 54.
WMT, â€˜The pro pig-tail partyâ€™, RN, 22 Jan. 1905, 1 and the cartoon â€˜The Toryâ€“Jingo
policyâ€™, RN, 21 May 1905, 5.
B. Porter, The refugee question in mid-Victorian politics (1979); S. Howe, Ireland and the
empire economical legacies in Irish history and culture (2000), 46.
See â€˜The Dreyfus trial: his innocence clearer every dayâ€™, LW, 3 Sep. 1899, 5 and l.a.,
â€˜Dreyfus again condemnedâ€™, LW, 10 Sep. 1899, 1. For the Nonconformist dimension
see W. D. Rubinstein, â€˜The anti-Jewish riots of 1911 in South Wales: a re-examinationâ€™,
Welsh History Review, 18 (1996â€“7), 673â€“4. For reactions elsewhere in Europe see
B. Croce, Storia dâ€™Italia dal 1871 al 1915 (1991), 272; Guazzaloca, Fine secolo, 100;
R. Bellamy, Liberalism and modern society (1992), 88â€“9; Newton, British Labour,
European socialism, 129.
Thompson, Socialists, 20.
348 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism
propaganda for the benefit of the Tory candidate, although the latter was
himself a Jew who had adopted the English name of Lawson. The Liberal
candidate was also a Jew, but one who had retained his family name of
Straus. â€˜[W]hat a sight,â€™ commented Reynoldsâ€™s. â€˜A naturalized Jew bark-
ing at Jews not yet naturalized! A Jew defending the importation of
Chinese in South Africa by the Jewish mine owners and denouncing the
importation of Jewish tailors by Jewish employers of labour in East
London!â€™ Perceptively, it concluded that the real issue was not
Jewishness, but class exploitation and access to the empireâ€™s labour
market, inviting its readers to â€˜V O T E F O R S T R A U S , C H E A P F O O D , A N D
N O A L I E N L A B O U R I N S O U T H A F R I C A !â€™
The episode reinforced Reynoldsâ€™s alliance with the Liberal left, which
was pursuing a similar rhetorical strategy, based both on the primacy of
class over race and on distinction between wealthy and poor Jews. Such
collaboration was further strengthened by the struggle against the 1905
Aliens Bill. Vigorously opposed by the Liberals, including Winston
Churchill,396 the Bill was first withdrawn, then reintroduced in a revised
form. Although at this stage most Liberals adopted a less confrontational
strategy, because they realized the popularity of the government measure,
the latter continued to be staunchly opposed by a group of Radicals,
including C. P. Trevelyan and Sir Charles Dilke (who was close to the
NDL),397 as well as by Reynoldsâ€™s.398 Denouncing â€˜[t]he aliens questionâ€™
as â€˜an impudent bogey and a political red herringâ€™, it appropriated the
high moral ground of patriotism and the defence of English liberty by
advocating the maintenance of â€˜the noble traditions of this nation as the
hosts of public-spirited men who have had to flee from their own coun-
tries for lifting up their voice against the tyrannies practised on the poor by
foreign rulers and Governmentsâ€™.399 Having established its patriotic cre-
dentials, the editors felt free to champion other and more controversial
forms of imperial devolution: in a throwback to its bold stance during the
Indian Mutiny of 1857â€“8, Reynoldsâ€™s praised Indian nationalism and
called for the formation of â€˜the United States of Indiaâ€™.400
On both the Chinese and Jewish issues the Liberals and some
Nationalists (Michael Davitt in particular) had been in the forefront of
the anti-government campaign, while the LRC had kept a low profile.
L.a., â€˜The Jews in Englandâ€™, RN, 1 Jan. 1905, 2; eventually â€˜Leviâ€™ Lawson won. For the
context of these inter-Jewish, class-based clashes between the existing community and
the new East End immigrants see G. Alderman, Modern British Jewry (1998), 117â€“33.
R. Jenkins, Churchill (2002), 108.
Clarke, Lancashire, 259; Alderman, British Jewry, 137. 398 L.a., 2 July 1905, 4.
â€˜The Mile End fightâ€™, RN, 8 Jan. 1905, 7.
Editorial by A. E. F.[letcher], RN, 1 Jan. 1905, 4.
Social radicalism and the â€˜popular frontâ€™ 349
This further contributed to Reynoldsâ€™s scepticism about the claims of the
proponents of independent Labour politics, whose party appeared pusil-
lanimous on issues of civil liberty, sectarian in terms of electoral strategy,
and directionless in terms of programmes. The expulsion of Richard Bell
from the LRC for his refusal to sign the partyâ€™s constitution in 1904â€“5 and
the reprimanding of both Shackleton and Arthur Henderson401 signalled
the beginning of a new phase in this campaign. Reynoldsâ€™s now targeted
the LRC as an unrepresentative â€˜caucusâ€™ which took into account the
views of â€˜[o]nly a mere fraction of the workersâ€™, that is, â€˜Trade Unionists,
who personally choose to subscribe to the funds, and a few Socialistsâ€™.
Like the caucus, the LRC was undemocratic, because of the â€˜sinister
secret influenceâ€™ disproportionately wielded by small socialist societies
of â€˜middle-class peopleâ€™ on the partyâ€™s committee.402 Unlike the NDL,
the LRC had no programme and demanded a â€˜blank chequeâ€™ from its
supporters â€“ surely a course of action incompatible with the democratic
expectation that citizens would vote for measures, not men. Later the
editors expressed their dismay at the election of Keir Hardie as chairman
of the group because of his â€˜bitter antagonism to Liberalismâ€™. His policy
amounted to mere sectarianism in view of the fact that it was difficult to
detect any distinctiveness in either the aims of the LRC or those â€˜which
the Radical-Democrats have been advocating for years before the forma-
tion of the new partyâ€™. A contemporary cartoon showed Campbell-
Bannerman as the foreman on a building site and â€˜Honest Johnâ€™ as his
worker: the former notes â€˜we shall want a lot of Labour on this jobâ€™, to
which the worker replies â€˜I think we can manage it between us.â€™403
At the same time Reynoldsâ€™s stressed its own independence from the
Liberals and its commitment to â€˜Radical Democracyâ€™. It argued that the
latter should â€˜useâ€™ the Liberal party as its vehicle for as long as it worked,
but should always be on the outlook for the â€˜tricks of Whiggeryâ€™ which the
landowning faction within the party was likely to employ.404 The
Leagueâ€™s most popular politicians were John Burns and John Ward,
who, by the end of 1905, was the new NDL chairman. Ward was enthu-
siastically described as â€˜a peopleâ€™s candidate; a Democratic candidate; a
C. Wrigley, Arthur Henderson (1990), 37â€“8; Pelling, Origins of the Labour party, 225.
L.a., â€˜Labour representationâ€™, RN, 15 Jan. 1905, 1.
L.a., â€˜The Socialist-Labour groupâ€™, 18 Feb. 1906, 4; the cartoon â€˜Tackling the wreck-
ageâ€™, ibid., 9.
See the leaders â€˜The decline and fall of Socialismâ€™, 24 Sep. 1905, 1 and â€˜Radical
democracy and Liberalismâ€™, 1 Oct. 1905, 1.
L.a., 31 Dec. 1905, 1.
350 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism
Largely thanks to Chamberlain, the NDLâ€™s strategy of a popular
front was now succeeding. The election turned into a crusade: â€˜If we
are beaten . . . the clock will be set back fifty years.â€™ A Unionist victory
would be â€˜[t]he triumph everywhere of insolent privilege, rapacious
Capitalism, insidious priestism, truculent militarism, and profligate
extravaganceâ€™.406 As in 1880, the Liberal government should be given a
popular mandate to reverse â€˜folly and wickednessâ€™. It was a holy war
against â€˜Dear Food, Heavy Taxation, More Wars, Bad Times at Home,
and the Merciless Exploitation of Labour for the benefit of Capitalâ€™.
Although the Weekly Times by then had shed much of its old militancy,
in 1906, like Reynoldsâ€™s, it appealed to its readers as if they represented a
distinct and self-contained component of â€˜the Democracyâ€™ on the march.
In particular, it named a long list of Liberal and Labour candidates for
constituencies throughout Britain, recommending them to its readers
and issuing the general instruction that â€˜[w]here no names are given,
readers will, of course, vote for the Liberal candidate, except in a very
few instances, where private information is given to abstainâ€™.407 However,
bearing in mind the newspaperâ€™s long-standing Unionism, the most
extraordinary recommendation was directed to the Irish: â€˜In Ireland
we have comparatively little influence, few agents, and not much local
information. It goes without saying that if we were Irish we would vote
solidly Nationalist always.â€™ Furthermore, the editor continued, â€˜[i]f we
were living in Ireland, and entitled to a vote, [as Englishmen] we should
do the same, believing that the Irish people know their interest bestâ€™.408
W. M. Thompsonâ€™s emphasis on a comprehensive and united demo-
cratic party chimed in with Herbert Gladstoneâ€™s strategy, and the two
men also agreed in their distaste for those partisan sectionalists who
â€˜[looked] too much to adjectives and namesâ€™.409 In the aftermath of the
election Thompson claimed that the NDL had secured the return of
twenty of its members to Parliament.410 Its success enabled him confi-
dently to assert that â€˜[t]he new Liberal party is a Radical and Labour
party, or it is nothing. The word â€˜â€˜Liberalâ€™â€™ is a convenient nickname to
describe the various shades of Radicalism and Labour.â€™411
L.a., â€˜Why we must winâ€™, WT&E, 7 Jan. 1906, 8.
â€˜General election 1906: Special recommended candidatesâ€™, WT&E, 7 Jan. 1906, 12
(emphasis in the original).
Gladstone in May 1903, cited in Clarke, Lancashire, 314.
â€˜National Democratic Leagueâ€™, Ti, 26 Feb. 1906, 3.
L.a., â€˜The Radical-Labour Programmeâ€™, RN, 28 Jan. 1906, 1. Paul Thompson has used
this quotation as if it lends itself to illustrating the extent to which radicalism â€˜was
Social radicalism and the â€˜popular frontâ€™ 351
Although there were no direct references to Home Rule, Reynoldsâ€™s had
never disclaimed its support for Irish self-government, but now hoped
that, in the spirit of the newly established popular front, the â€˜Orangemenâ€™ â€“
as â€˜good Democratsâ€™ â€“ would at last see the light and convert to
Gladstonianism.412 The newspaper demanded the liberation of â€˜politicalâ€™
prisoners and the repeal of coercion. Moreover, in its campaign against the
â€˜sectionalismâ€™ of the left, it missed no opportunity to insinuate that â€˜the
Labour Socialist membersâ€™ were both anti-Home Rule and â€˜anti-Catholicâ€™
and argued that that they would be completely isolated in a future â€˜Radical
Parliamentâ€™, also because the Irish Nationalists were hostile to the whole
ideology of socialism.413 In the end, ethical and Gladstonian issues such as
that of Chinese labour and free trade played a crucial role in the Liberal
victory of 1906.414 Moreover, they â€˜had the effect of reconciling
Gladstonians, collectivists and organised labourâ€™,415 creating a coalition
which was as much backward- as forward-looking, but which provided an
effective vehicle for the New Liberalism. Would it be the harbinger of the
democratic utopia? The veteran Christian socialist Morrison Davidson
thought so: â€˜the Masses may safely repose a hitherto inexperienced and
unknown measure of confidence that their just interests will not be over-
looked in the future as in the past . . . [I] am naturally disposed, Anarchism
apart, to look to the new Government for a reasonable installment of the
millennium before long.â€™416
The NDL remained active until the end of the decade: perhaps its last
success came in December 1909, when it organized a demonstration in
Trafalgar Square to support Lloyd Georgeâ€™s â€˜Peopleâ€™s Budgetâ€™ against the
Lordsâ€™ veto. The Times â€“ hardly a sympathetic observer â€“ reported that the
square â€˜was filled with an immense crowd of people. A large number of
speakers addressed the gathering from six platforms.â€™417 By then the
increasingly an outdated conceptâ€™ in 1906 (Socialists, 179) â€“ an appraisal which later
generations of scholars may perceive as reflecting the ideological concerns of the late
1960s more than the political reality of the 1900s.
WMT, â€˜Home Rule inevitableâ€™, RN, 26 May 1905, 1.
L.a., â€˜Victory!â€™, RN, 26 May 1905, 1; l.a, â€˜Ireland in the new Parliamentâ€™, RN, 11 Feb.
E.g. The Clarion, 29 Apr. 1904, 14; J. Ramsay MacDonald, â€˜The Labour party and its
policyâ€™, The Independent Review, 6, 23 (1905), 268; Ti, 17 Jan. 1906, 9; H. Samuel,
Memoirs (1945), 45; L. Masterman, C. F. G. Masterman: a biography (1968), 61â€“4. For
two scholarly analyses see A. K. Russell, Liberal landslide: the general election of 1906
(1973), 196â€“200 and M. M. Kimâ€™s unpublished work, â€˜The Chinese labour question
and the British labour movement, 1903â€“1906â€™, M.Phil. dissertation, University of
Clarke, Lancashire, 151.
J. Morrison Davidson, â€˜The Liberal Pentecostâ€™, RN, 21 Jan. 1906, 1.
Rep., â€˜Demonstration against the House of Lordsâ€™, Ti, 6 Dec. 1909, 11; see rep.,
â€˜Londonâ€™s great meeting of protestâ€™, RN, 5 Dec. 1909, 1.
352 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism
League was led by C. F. G. Masterman, but had lost none of the original
Reynoldsâ€™s idealism â€“ standing as it did for â€˜adult suffrageâ€™, free trade and
Indian self-government among other causes.418 The paper campaigned
on unemployment legislation and strongly supported Asquith and Lloyd
George in their confrontation with the Lords. Lloyd George in particular
â€˜[had] established a claim to rank in the apostolic succession of great
Liberal finance statesmenâ€™, together with Gladstone.419 But in the new
context, it also found a way to praise the new Labour as a stalwart of
â€˜humanitarianismâ€™. The latter was, in the last analysis, what Reynoldsâ€™s
had effectively always advocated, and would continue to champion,
irrespective of party politics, until the newspaper ceased publication
Rep., â€˜Political engagementsâ€™, Ti, 19 Mar. 1909, 13.
See the editorials â€˜The tragedy of unemploymentâ€™, RN, 3 Jan. 1909, 2 and â€˜A democratic
Budgetâ€™, RN, 2 May 1909, 1.
L.a., â€˜Labour in conferenceâ€™, RN, 18 Apr. 1909, 1. The Reynolds tradition of left-wing
Sunday papers continued through the Reynoldsâ€™s Illustrated News (1924â€“36), Reynolds
News (1936â€“44) and Reynolds News and Sunday Citizen (1944â€“62).
7 Democracy and the politics
[Tories and Whigs] are full of class prejudice, blind and selfish, and do
not appear to understand what Christ came into the World for. It was to
destroy selfishness and unite the whole human race in one holy brother-
hood. Priests, Pashas, Sultans, Emperors and the privileged classes
generally in all lands do not yet appear to comprehend this, but the
people do or will very shortly.1
[T]he Irish controversy . . . affects much more even than the relations
between England and Ireland; it touches those great difficulties for
which Socialism is endeavouring to suggest a remedy; it is but one of
the many phases of the conflict between privileged classes and the