Editorial: Election Reflections
The General Election is over and, according to the spokesmen of each party, everybody is satisfied—even Lloyd George is reported to have said that the result is as he expected. Curiously enough, in the “Daily Chronicle (22/11/22) he contends that under proportional representation his group would have done better, and suggests that the question of representation is an important matter that should occupy the new Government. Strange he uttered no word of this in 1918 when a similar thing happened—he waited until it affected him adversely before he said anything on the subject.
The Coalition swept into victory with a large majority in 1918, and now with the swing of the pendulum the Coalition has been swept out of office.
It is the workers who have mainly accomplished this feat. They, have done so because they lack the particular knowledge that would enable them to see how hollow are the pretensions of every candidate who put up, and how futile it is, from a working-class standpoint, to change Tweedledum for Tweedledee. As a matter of fact, the same party (Conservative) that had a majority in the last Parliament has the majority in the new, but they have now knocked the word “Coalition” out of their title—that is the essential difference ! As we pointed out in our election manifesto, the change of Government was an excuse to make certain changes of policy more suitable to the Imperialists who control affairs. According to the returns over 13,000,000 people voted in this election ; that is, over 3,000,000 more than in 1918.
As in 1918, so now—the Liberals endeavour to cover their sweeping defeat by claiming that under proportional representation their figures would have been higher. There is no guarantee that such would be the case, as under proportional representation all parties would be represented in each constituency, which might alter the whole complexion of affairs in almost any direction. There was no Socialist candidate put forward in this election, but still, as in 1918, we can claim some consolation prizes.
For example: Dundee has given Winsome Winston the noble order of the boot. In 1919 C. B. Stanton was hoping for “the resumption of the pre-war Royal Garden Parties where their Majesties met members of the House of Commons.” Now, alas! his luck was out and so is he (although he ran as a Liberal against Labour)—no more Royal Garden Parties for him for awhile.
Havelock Wilson is another “failure,” as South Shields turned him down. Colonel Claude Lowther, some time Chairman of the Anti-Socialist Union, got less than a third of the votes at Carlisle and also failed to get in.
Lieut.-Col. John Ward and the Rt. Hon. G. H. Roberts have risen to the distinguished position of running as Liberals against their former Labour associates.
That celebrated strike seller, emigration and military tout, Ben Tillet, squeezed in by a majority of 19 (a minority of the total poll) at Salford. and a chip of the same block, Dan Irving, “worked the oracle” again at Burnley. Bill Thorne also turns up once more.
The voting in the elections was roughly as follows :—
Other Parties 400,000 odd
In other words, 13 1/2 million people voted against Socialism the other day in this country, and many hundred thousands were too indifferent and apathetic to vote at all ! And yet there are people who lately waited on the tiptoe of expectancy for revolution to stalk abroad in the land at any moment.
The Labour Party is jubilant over their large return of 142 members. How was it obtained? A glance at the list of members returned on the Labour programme reveals how very respectable the Labour Party has become. K.C.s, Rt. Hons., clergymen. Army officers, doctors, and other professional place hunters, together with landowners and successful business men, figure in the list.
The entrance of the lawyers is highly significant. They are usually found where there is a promise of plums, and their support of the Labour Party’s policy suggests that this policy promises to be fruitful— with a particular brand of plums !
It is worth noting, in passing, that over fifty Labour candidates were returned by a minority of the poll in three-cornered contests, so that the majority of their constituents are not in favour of such candidates. It is also worthy of note that Labour candidates received a considerable amount of Liberal support. The “Daily News” advised its supporters to vote Labour where there was no Independent Liberal, and backed in particular such candidates as H. Gosling, Emil Davies, and Holford Knight. A further point is that in this election the Labour Party put forward far more candidates than ever before.
When these points are weighed along with the increased vote at the election, and the nondescript nature of the Labour candidates, it takes some of the edge off “Labour’s Victory.”
The Liberals find such a similarity of outlook between themselves and the Labour Party that they can forget their own wounds in rejoicing over the “success” of Labour. For instance :—
“There will undoubtedly be a real Parliamentary Opposition in the new House, for both Labour and the Liberals have secured the return of many of those leaders \vhose exclusion robbed the last House of distinction.”—Daily News, 17/11/22.
These “leaders” who have returned to adorn the House of Commons include Ramsay Macdonald (who supported the War) and Philip Snowden (who justified the use of military in strikes).
The Labour Party were determined to have these “adornments” replaced, so they scoured the country for “safe” constituencies. Blackburn, Leicester, and Woolwich were cold-shouldered and Glamorgan and Colne Valley “honoured” by the choice. The “New Leader” (17/11/22) states : “My first day in Colne Valley convinced me that here Philip Snowden had found the right constituency.” Yet although Snowden and Macdonald were returned in each case, they only succeeded in obtaining a minority of the poll. Further down the author of the above quotation makes the following illuminating statement: “I had the relative satisfaction, in the absence of any Labour candidate, of voting for a Liberal woman who opposed two particularly unsympathetic Tories.” The dear, sympathetic fellow ! This further illustrates how short is the step between Labour and Liberal.
Finally the “Observer” (19/11/22) very shrewdly summed up the position as follows :—
“In summary, it may be said that the Labour Party has at last become national as distinct from class. And one may sleep comfortably in ones bed because the moderate reformers enormously outnumber those who would raze the social structure to its foundations.”
The “Observer” is quite correct. The capitalist class have little to fear and the working class little to gain by the return of the “Labour men” ; the past records of many of them are convincing enough on this point.
There is one important fact, however, to which we must draw attention in connection with the large “Labour” poll. The Labour Party put forward over 400 candidates, out of which 142 were elected. Of the number elected 72 were for seats gained. A glance over the list of places where seats have been gained would reveal the fact that they are just those places where a strong industrialist propaganda (propaganda against participation in Parliament) has been carried on, and where the disastrous effects of “direct action” have been experienced. For example: Aberavon, Merthyr Tydvil (2), Swansea, Neath, Abertillery —all in the South Wales coal area, the beloved “red” area of the Communists. In Durham, out of 11 constituencies the Labour Party gained 7, held 3, and lost 1! Accrington, Newcastle, Rutherglen (Lanark), Wallsend, and Whitehaven are other illustrations of Labour gains in coal areas.
Taking these facts along with the further fact that over 70 per cent. of those on the register voted, some idea will be obtained of how the pendulum is swung back from “direct action” to constitutional action.
In the case of W. Adamson, G. H. Hirst, G. Barker and T. W. Grundy, the other parties combined to make them a present of their seat. This is particularly significant in the case of G. Barker (a pet of the Communists and Plebs leaders), who played a part in the miners’ betrayal last year.
The Communists put up two candidates (W. Gallagher and J. T. Walton Newbold) officially, two others were put up in disguise (J. Vaughan and Walter Windsor), one was put up by the unemployed, of which they did not hear until afterwards (Geddes), and they backed another (S. Saklatvala), who was not a member of their Party. It will be interesting to observe the “State machinery smashing efforts” of their only successful candidate, Walton Newbold.
(Editorial, Socialist Standard, December 1922)