The Bye Elections
With the assistance of ”Labour” the seats at Cleveland and Mid-Derby were “saved” for the capitalist Government, and it would be interesting to know just how that assistance was obtained. While it has often been said that Labour supported the Liberal in one place in exchange for Liberal support in another, on this occasion it would rather seem as if Labour had supported Liberalism in Cleveland in order that Labour might support Liberalism in Mid-Derby—a sort of political heads I win, tails you lose process, and certainly the Liberals have every reason to be pleased with the results. In both instances an independent Labour candidate was threatened, but in neither case was he allowed to come forward while in each place the Liberal nominee was supported. And could the whole history be written of the means employed to secure this end, a further and splendid vindication of our attituds of hostility to the so-called Labour parties would be obtained.
In Cleveland Mr. J. B. Stubbs, who had consented to be the “Labour” candidate for the constituency, was not run (according to the Manchester Guardian, 3.7.09) because “the Election is to be fought on Free Trade and the Budget, two issues upon which the Government and the Labour Party are united” (sic). The way was thus so far cleared for the workers being led to support Mr. Samuel, the Liberal. This gentleman officiated as the chief speaker at the annual demonstration of the Cleveland Miners, and it would appear said nothing to offend either master or man, for says the Morning Leader (6.7.09) “An interesting feature of Mr. Samuel’s nomination paper is the fact that the proposer is Sir Hugh Bell, Lord Lieutenant of the county and chairman of the Mine-Owners Federation, while the seconder is Mr. Joseph Toyn, agent of the Cleveland Miners Association.” (Italics ours.) Thus was Labour insulted and the seal set upoh its degradation.
In Mid-Derby, however, instead of a superior, aristocratic intellectual of the Samuel type a “Liberal-Labourer” was returned. Nevertheless from the Socialist working-class point of view, the result is the same : the enemy of the working class has been strengthened by an addition to the ranks of those “doing odd jobs in the Liberal workshop.” The fact that some 4,000 members of the Nottingham Miners Association were on the Parliamentary register for the district was not lost upon the Liberal wire-pullers, and finding in Mr. Hancock (Miners’ Agent) a Liberal after their own heart, they readily adopted him. He appeared before the Liberal Association by invitation and explicitly assured them that “he stood before them as a Liberal, although because the Miners’ Association were affiliated to the Labour Representation Committee he was obliged to stand as a Labour candidate also. That would not, however, alter his principles.” (!) He was a Free Trader, a Temperance advocate, a local preacher, and would love to have the bible read in the schools. (Manchester Guardian, 1.7.09.) He next signed the constitution of the Labour Party, and appearing before the I.L.P. assured them he was a Labour man, after which they decided with unanimity to support him. (Manchester Guardian, 9.7.09.)
As in Cleveland, however, the election was fought on capitalist Free Trade and the capitalist Budget, and although working-class funds and votes were exploited on behalf of Mr. Hancock, the appearance of such a motley crew of supporters, including Asquith, Lloyd George down to “Mr. J. Keir Hardie, who wore the yellow favour of Liberalism,” (Daily New,13.7.09.) amply proves it was but another victory for confusion. .