1930s >> 1933 >> no-344-april-1933

Book Review: ‘The Decline and Fall of The Labour Party’

‘Lest We Forget’

‘The Decline and Fall of The Labour Party.’ John Scanlon.

Mr. John Scanlon, an ex-shipyard worker, parliamentary journalist, secretary to a Cabinet Minister in the late Labour Governments, has written a book called “The Decline and Fall of The Labour Party.” It deals with the Labour Governments of 1924 and 1929-31.

Here is shown the Labour Governments in action. Compromising on every issue, bargaining with their opponents, dropping nearly every principle for which they professed to have stood rather than be thrown out of office. Here are set out the full details of their shameful record. We are shown how easily they succumbed to the flattery of the wealthy. Trade Union M.P.s—ex-workers from the docks, railways, mines, etc.—took lessons in deportment, affected white spats, and touted for invitations to Mayfair parties. Attendance at social functions became more important than attendance at the House of Commons—except when a bill was introduced to legalise Sunday Cinemas, then they turned up in full strength in order to stop such a revolution. It is an account of demagogues turned autocrats, and reformers who became reactionaries; of “lefts” who were transformed into “rights” by the simple expedient of appointing them to ministerial positions. Flabby and ignorant sentimentalists, confused at what had happened to them, thought they saw a remedy in removing MacDonald from the leadership. That gentleman, however, when faced by hostile criticism, could, with a little pompous eloquence, bring his critics to their feet in applause and reduce some of them to tears. What a mob!

Mr. Scanlon disposes emphatically of the view that the failure of the Labour Party was due merely to the leadership of MacDonald, Thomas, and others. On the question of the cuts in unemployment pay, which was the issue on which the Labour Government fell, only seven members of the Cabinet, out of twenty or more, voted against the cuts. Moreover, after the fall of the Government, many Labour ministers hung around 10 Downing Street, hoping to get jobs in the National Cabinet. They were unlucky—hence the hostility towards MacDonald.

As a record of broken pledges, incompetence, petty jealousies, and intrigue among the leaders, this book is well worth reading. Members and supporters of the Labour Party, whose memories are so notoriously short, should buy it and keep it for reference.

H. W.

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