1950s >> 1955 >> no-613-september-1955

50 Years Ago: Mr. Keir Hardie’s Election Address

MR. KEIR HARDIE’S ELECTION ADDRESS MERTHYR BOROUGHS PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION, 1900
To the Electors

Gentlemen,

It is with pleasure that I accept the hearty invitation of the TRADE UNIONISTS OF THE MERTHYR BOROUGHS to come forward in the Labour interest as a Candidate for the representation of the constituency in the House of Commons.

The confidence and friendship shown by this invitation is an honour which I value as being far above riches.

WE ARE NO STRANGERS TO ONE ANOTHER.

I was among you endeavouring to cheer, encourage and strengthen you in the dark days of your recent great Industrial struggle. Not many years ago, when during the Hauliers’ Strike, the Government sent soldiers into your District, it was MY VOICE THAT PROTESTED against this in Parliament, when others upon whom you had more claims were silent

 My Programme is the Programme of Labour. My Cause is Labour’s Cause—the cause of Humanity—the Cause of God.

For twenty-four years I have been before my fellow-men as a Trade-Union Official and a Political Leader.

MY RECORD FOR THESE YEARS is the best pledge I can give of what my future course of action will be. Whether in Parliament, or out of it, I always have been, and always shall be found on the side of the Workers. I know everything that is to be known about the life and work of a Miner.

Born and reared in a collier’s cottage, and afterwards working for FOURTEEN YEARS IN THE PIT, I know only too well what such a life means, and I am not willing that any human being should continue in the life, without further essential reforms.

I am a Democrat in Politics, and a Socialist in Economics. I first learned my Socialism in the New Testament, where I still find my chief inspiration.

Our claim for one representative is moderate and reasonable enough. In a constituency where we are in an overwhelming majority, we ask but for half the representation. Workers! in being true to me, you will be TRUE TO YOURSELVES! Let us, then, work hard for a great Labour Victory at the Polls on Tuesday next.

I am. Gentlemen, respectfully yours,

J. KEIR HARDIE,
Lochnorris, Cumnock, Scotland. September, 1900.

 

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It will be observed that Keir Hardie made a point of reminding the electors that he was claiming only half the representation of Merthyr. Merthyr was a two-member constituency, and hitherto it had been represented by two Liberals. D. A. Thomas and Pritchard Morgan. The I.L.P.’s electoral tactic was to put up only one Labour candidate and to attack only one of the Liberal candidates and not the other, hoping in this way to get Keir Hardie returned along with one Liberal and with Liberal votes. They therefore attacked Pritchard Morgan, who supported- the Boer War, but supported D. A. Thomas who opposed it The tactic was successful, the votes being:—

D. A. Thomas         8,508
J. Keir Hardie         5,745
W. Pritchard Morgan 4,004

Commenting on this, William Stewart, in his Life of Keir Hardie (“J. Keir Hardie,” I.L.P. Publication Department, 1925, Page 175) wrote:—

“Their energies were directed wholly against Pritchard Morgan, characterised by Hardie as a dangerous type. They did not expect, and, indeed did not desire, to defeat D. A. Thomas, the senior member (known in later years as Lord Rhondda), who was one of the few Liberals definitely opposed to the war. . . . ” (p. 170).

Stewart says that Hardie had suggested for the general election, that “all the anti-imperialist forces should work in unison with each other.” and among those he particularly mentioned were “some Socialists like Dr. Clark and Lloyd George.”
Even Stewart found it difficult to stomach the description of Lloyd George as a Socialist:—

  “The latter name classified as Socialist, sounds strange today, but was certainly justified by some of the Welsh politician’s utterances publicly and privately on social questions at the time.”

It is characteristic of the kind of opportunist tactics followed by Keir Hardie and the I.L.P. that before many years had passed they were discovering that the “good” Liberals they had supported in 1900 were just as odious as the “bad” Liberals they had opposed. They supported Lloyd George and D. A. Thomas in 1900 for being anti-imperialistic and in 1914 were opposing them for supporting an “Imperialist war.”
Editorial Committee
Keir Hardie’s election address was from the September 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard.