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J. Keir Hardie
Chapter 5. Standing Alone—The Member for the Unemployed


HARDIE was as indefatigable outside of Parliament as inside, addressing propaganda meetings all over the country, writing encouraging letters to branch secretaries, and editing the “Labour Leader,” which on March 31st, 1894, became a weekly, and for the financing and management of which he made himself wholly responsible. The wages bill of the paper, exclusive of printing, he estimated at £y50 a year, which he hoped would be covered by income from sales and advertisements, an optimistic miscalculation which involved him in considerable worry later on, when he found it necessary to dispense with much of the paid service and rely to some extent upon voluntary work by enthusiasts in the cause, who, it should be said here, seldom failed him. The first weekly number contained Robert Smillie’s election address as Labour Candidate for Mid-Lanark, where a by-election in which Hardie took an active part was again being fought. In the “Leader,” Hardie had an article on the election, a leading article on Lord Rosebery as prospective Premier, and a page of intimate chat with his readers under the heading of “Entre Notts” afterwards changed to the plain English of “Between Ourselves,” and this quantity of journalistic output he continued for years, while shirking none of the other work that came to him as an agitator and public man. This number contained also an article by Cunninghame Graham, the I.L.P. Monthly Report by Tom Mann, “News of the Movement at Home and Abroad,” besides literary sketches and verses by various contributors. The paper was edited from London, but printed in Glasgow and distributed from there. There was a working staff at both ends. Of the London experiences, Councillor Ben Gardner of West Ham could doubtless give some interesting reminiscences, while George D. Hardie, Keir’s younger brother, could do the same for Glasgow. At the end of the first six months, David Lowe, a young enthusiast from Dundee, with literary tastes and Socialist beliefs, came in as sub-editor and to an appreciable extent relieved Hardie of some of the management worries, besides adding somewhat to the literary flavour of the paper.

With the re-assembling of Parliament, Hardie resumed his efforts to focus attention on the unemployment question, but on bringing forward his resolution, found himself up against a dead wall in the shape of a countout. By this time, also, his harassing of the Government had raised the ire of West Ham Liberals who had not bargained for quite so much militancy on the part of their representative. From them he received numerous letters of protest with threats of opposition at the next election. To these he made a reply which defined most explicitly at once his own personal attitude and the Parliamentary policy of the I.L.P.

“The I.L.P.,” he said, “starts from the assumption that the worker should be as free industrially and economically as he is supposed to be politically, that the land and the instruments of production should be owned by the community and should be used in producing the requisites to maintain a healthy and happy existence. The men who are to achieve these reforms must be under no obligation whatever to either the landlord or the capitalist, or to any party or organisation representing these interests. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that twenty members would be returned to Parliament who were nominally Labour Members but who owed their election to a compromise with the Liberals, what would the effect be upon their action in the House of Commons ? .When questions affecting the interest of property were at s.take, or when they desired to take action to compel social legislation of a drastic character, the threat would be always hanging over them that unless they were obedient to the party Whip and maintained party discipline they would be opposed. In my own case, this threat has been held out so often that it is beginning to lose its effect. I have no desire to hold the seat on sufferance and at the mercy of those who are not in agreement with me, and am quite prepared to be defeated when the election comes round. But I cannot agree to compromise my independence of action in even the slightest degree'. This plain speaking was not relished by his Liberal critics, and at one of his meetings in the constituency there was some rowdyism.

In the first month of this particular session, he had the satisfaction of speaking in support of the Miners’ Eight Hours’ Day Bill, which he himself had helped to draft years before, and of seeing the Second Reading carried by a majority of 81. This result did not, of course, ensure its immediately becoming law, for the obstructive resources of capitalism in Parliament and the opposition of two sections of the miners were strong enough to prevent that for many years to come.

At this time we also find him addressing meetings in South Wales, as a result of which the I.L.P. got a footing in the Principality which it has held ever since. He had probably no premonition of how close would yet be his own connection with Wales and the Welsh people. But he had made a good beginning towards winning their gratitude, for it was doubtless as the natural sequel to his Welsh visit that in June he blocked the Cardiff Dock 'Bill and forced thereby the withdrawal of a clause which imposed a tariff of twopence on each passenger landed at Cardiff and a charge for luggage.

And now, certain events happened in the world which produced for Hardie a more trying parliamentary ordeal than he had yet faced, and tested his moral courage to the full. Let us look at these events in the sequence in which they presented themselves to Hardie, and we shall be the better able to understand the feelings and motives which impelled him to act as he did.

On June 23rd a terrible explosion occurred at the Albion Colliery, Cilfynydd, South Wales, by which two hundred and sixty men and boys lost their lives. On the same day a child was born to the Duchess of York. On the following day, June 24th, M. Carnot, the President of the French Republic, was assassinated. On June 26th, 70,000 Scottish miners came out on strike against a reduction of wages.

Now turn to the House of Commons. On June 25th, Sir William Harcourt moved a vote of condolence with the French people. On June 28th, the same Cabinet Minister moved an address of congratulation to the Queen on the birth of the aforesaid royal infant. Never a word of sympathy for the relatives of the miners who had been killed : never a word of reference to the serious state of affairs in the Scottish coalfield. Only one man protested. That man was Keir Hardie.

The House of Commons’ situation developed in the following' manner. When Harcourt gave notice of his intention to move the vote of condolence with the French people, Hardie inquired whether a vote of sympathy would also be moved to the relatives of the two hundred and sixty victims of the Welsh colliery disaster. “Oh, no,” said Sir William, “I can dispose of that now by saying that the House does sympathise with these poor people.” Hardie put down a notice of an addition to the motion, in which the Queen was to be also asked to express sympathy with the Welsh miners’ friends, and the House to be asked to express its detestation of the system which made the periodic sacrifices of miners’ lives inevitable. His amendment was ruled out of order, but when the congratulatory motion came on he exercised his right to speak against it, as, he said, “in the interests of the dignity of the House, and in protest against the Leader of the House of Commons declining to take official cognisance of the terrible colliery accident in South Wales.” He stood alone, deserted by every other Member, including Labour’s representatives, and faced a scene of well-nigh unexampled intolerance. A writer in the “West Ham Herald,” describing it,, wrote: “I’ve been in a wild beast show at feeding time. I’ve been at a football match when a referee gave a wrong decision. I’ve been at rowdy meetings of the Shoreditch vestry and the West Ham Corporation, but in all my natural life I have never witnessed a scene like this. They howled and yelled and screamed, but he stood his ground.” Outside, sections of the press acted i;n much the same way as the House of Commons’ hooligans, and tried to represent his action as a vulgar" attack on Royalty. It was, primarily, not an attack on Royalty. He was certainly a Republican, but like most Socialists he regarded the Monarchy as simply an appanage of the political and social system, which would disappear aS a matter of course when the system disappeared, and had it not been that the juxtaposition of events threw up in such glaring contrast the sycophancy of society where Royalty was concerned, and its heartlessness where the common people were concerned, he would probably have allowed the vote of congratulation to go through without intervention from him. But he was in fact deeply stirred in a way which these people could not understand. £Ie had brought with him into Parliament a humanism which was greater than ceremony and deeper than formality. He was a miner, and to him the unnecessary death of one miner was of more concern than the birth of any number of royal princes. He regarded .these two hundred and sixty deaths as two hundred and sixty murders. He knew that this colliery had long before been reported on as specially dangerous, and that no preventive measures had been taken. He understood, only too well, the grief and desolation of the bereaved women and children. He had been through it all in his early Lanarkshire days, and he was righteously and passionately indignant. The jeers and hootings from Members of Parliament and abuse from the press did not matter to him at all. He took his stand because it was the only thing he could do, and the receipt of nearly a thousand letters of approval from people in all social grades convinced him that besides satisfying his own impulses, he had voiced a deep sentiment in the country.

Hardie was now nearly thirty-eight years of age, and a recognised outstanding figure in British political life. An unusual man, amenable neither to flatteries nor to threatenings—one who could not be ignored. An impression of him, contributed to the “Weekly Times and Echo” by John K. Kenworthy in this same month of June, 1894, is worth reproducing.

“Above all things a spiritual, and yet a simply practical man. Not tall, squarely built, hard-headed, well bodied, and well set up, he is obviously a bona fide working man. His head is of the ‘high moral’ type, with a finely developed forehead, denoting perception and reason of the kind called common sense. His brown hair is worn long and curling somewhat like the ‘glory5 round the head of a saint in a painted window, and he goes unshaved. However, most readers will have seen him for themselves on some platform or another, though one needs to be near him to perceive the particularly deep, straight and steady gaze of the clear hazel eyes, which is notable. Altogether, one judges him, by appearances only, to be a close-knit, kindly and resolute man, all which his performance in life bears out.”

A by-election at Attercliffe in July calls for mention if for no other reason than that it signalises J. Ramsay MacDonald’s entrance into the Independent Labour Party. The circumstances of the contest confirmed the I.L.P. belief that the interests behind Liberalism would not concede willingly a single inch to the claims of labour for representation. The local Trades Council had nominated their President, Mr. Charles Hobson, with the tacit understanding that he would be allowed a clear field to fight the Tory. Hobson was not what was called an extremist. He would probably have been obedient in Parliament to the Liberal Whip, but the Liberals were taking no risks, and Mr. Batty Langley, a local employer atid ex-mayor, who had, as a matter of fact, promised to support Hobson, was nominated as Liberal candidate. After some shilly-shallying Hobson withdrew, and the I.L.P., with little time for organisation, determined to fight with Mr. Frank Smith as their candidate. He was defeated, of course, but secured 1,249 votes as against 7,984 for the two reactionary candidates, a good enough foundation for the victory which was to come later. The immediate result achieved was the clear exposure of Liberalism’s hostility to labour.

The following letter from MacDonald is of historical interest to the members of the I.L.P., and is to some extent illustrative of the mental attitude of both the sender and the recipient:—

“20 Duncan Buildings,
“Baldwin Gardens, E.C.

“My dear Hardie,—I am now making personal application for membership of the I.L.P. I have stuck to the Liberals up to now, hoping that they might do something to justify the trust that we had put in them. Attercliffe came as a rude awakening, and I felt during that contest that it was quite impossible for me to maintain my position as a Liberal any longer. Calmer consideration has but strengthened that conviction, and if you now care to accept me amongst you I shall do what I can to support the I.L.P.

“Between you and me there never was any dispute as to objects. What I could not quite accept was your methods. I have changed my opinion. Liberalism, and more particularly local Liberal Associations, have definitely declared against Labour, and so I must accept the facts of the situation and candidly admit that the prophecies of ,the I.L.P. relating to Liberalism have been amply justified. The time for conciliation has gone by and those of us who are earnest in our professions must definitely declare ourselves. I may say that in the event of elections, I shall place part of my spare time at the disposal of the Party, to do what work may seem good to you.

“Yours very sincerely,

“J. R. MacDonald.”

In this manner came into the I.L.P. one whom Hardie afterwards characterised as its “greatest intellectual asset,” and whose influence on national and international politics has been very great and still continues.

Meanwhile, the industrial phase of the Labour conflict absorbed Hardie’s attention even more than the political. The great strike of Scottish miners continued for sixteen weeks, entailing much suffering throughout the mining community and ending in virtual defeat for the men. Still, though this was foreseen almost from the beginning, it was necessary that the stand should be made for the safeguarding of the sense of unity which had now evolved in Scotland. The strike was in some measure a consummation of Hardie’s early efforts on behalf of a national organisation. It was not a sectional strike, but national, embracing the whole of the Scottish mining industry, and in that respect constituted a notable step towards that all-British combination which to-day enables the miners from Scotland to Cornwall to present a united front for the advancement of their common interests. The West of Scotland leadership was now in the capable hands of Robert Smillie, but, naturally, when at home during the Parliamentary recess, Hardie gave all possible assistance and addressed many meetings of the men in Ayrshire and Lanarkshire, besides giving what counsel and support he could through the “Labour Leader.”

When it was all over he drove home the Socialist lesson in an article which, by reason of its date, October 20th, 1894, is a complete answer to those who now regard the claim for the nationalisation of the mines as a new revolutionary demand. Revolutionary it may be, but it is not new.

“Now, why,” he asked, “were the masters, the Government, the press and the pulpit all arrayed against you?

“There is but one answer. All these are controlled by the rich and you are the poor. Take the miners. The minerals are owned by the landlords, and they insist on having a royalty of from eightpence to one shilling per ton of coal brought to the surface. The pits are owned by the mineowners, and they and the landlords have the power to say that not one ton of coal shall be dug except on the terms they are willing to grant. Here are the people of Scotland—over four million of them, wanting coal to burn, and willing to pay for it. Here are you, the miners of Scotland, seventy thousand of you, willing to dig the coal in exchange for a living wage. But between you and the public stand the landlords and the mineowners, who say: ‘The coal is ours and we won’t allow the miners to work nor the public to be supplied unless on our terms.’ So long as the landlords and the mineowners own the mines they are within their rights when they act as they have been doing, and the cure lies not in cursing the mineowners nor in striking, but in making the mines public property”

It should be noted that it was only before or after a strike, not while it was taking place, that Hardie asked the men to listen to counsel of this kind. He knew that in the fight for wages, a strike, or the threat of a strike, was the only available weapon, and in the use of it he was with them every time. He knew that they must fight for wages, but he wanted them to have something bigger than wages to fight for, and a different weapon than the strike.

In September the Trades Union Congress was held >at Norwich, and Hardie attended practically for the last time as a delegate. He had some time previously relinquished all official positions in the Miners’ Association and was therefore disqualified by the new standing order passed this year which declared that a delegate must be either working! at his trade or be a paid official of a Trade Union. And so passed from the Trades Union Congress three men who had taken a prominent part in its deliberations—Keir Hardie, John Burns and Henry Broadhurst. Hardie especially had left his mark on the Congress. His connection with the Congress had only existed over a period of eight years, beginning in 1887, when the formation of the Ayrshire Miners5 Union gave him a standing as a delegate. In that time the outlook of the Congress towards the principle of Independent Labour Representation, and also towards Socialism, had almost completely changed. That Hardie’s personality had much to do with that change is beyond doubt.

As far back as 1869 the Congress had declared in favour of Labour Representation and had reaffirmed the principle on several subsequent occasions. But no steps had ever been taken to give practical effect to the logical electoral policy implied by such resolutions— unless the return of a few working men to Parliament as adherents of the Liberal Party could be so regarded. Most of the men who had been so returned were members of the Congress. Mr. Broadhurst, the Secretary of the Parliamentary Committee, had indeed accepted office in the Government as Under-Secretary of the Home Office, and he has himself stated in his autobiography that the Parliamentary Committee functioned as the Radical wing of the Liberal Party. He had voted in Parliament against the Miners’ Eight Hours’ Day Bill, and in all election campaigns he was the Liberal Party’s chief platform asset wherever working-class votes required to be influenced. Naturally, he and his Liberal-Labour colleagues resented vigorously the new policy of absolute political independence, of which Hardie made himself the spokesman. Doubtless they represented quite faithfully the general Trade Union-attitude on the question. To change that attitude was the purpose of Hardie and the new men who were pushing their way into the Labour movement.

At first Hardie’s position was that of almost complete isolation, as the votes of the Congress testify. At the 1888 Congress, his motion impeaching Broadhurst for having “in the name of the Congress” voted against the Miners’ Eight Hours’ Day Bill received only 15 votes against 80, while the following year at Dundee, when he made a frontal attack and moved that Broadhurst “was not a fit and proper person to hold the office of Secretary” and accused him of supporting employers of labour and holding shares in sweating companies (a charge which was not denied), he was defeated by 177 to 11.

The Congress and the Trade Union movement were evidently overwhelmingly against-him. A weaker man would have accepted defeat of this kind as final. It only made Hardie more stubborn and stimulated him to greater effort. Hardie’s Congress record is something of a paradox. He was being defeated all the time, and all the time he was winning. Even in 1891, when he got only eleven supporters to his proposal for a Trade Union Parliamentary Fund for securing Parliamentary representation that was a move forward, being an attempt to give practical effect to the decision which the Congress had just previously arrived at calling for a “strong and vigorous Labour Party” in Parliament. Hardie’s amendment was as follows: “and would suggest to the organised trades of this country so to alter their rules as to admit of their subscribing to a Parliamentary Fund to be placed at the disposal of the Congress to secure Labour Representation based upon the decision of this Congress.” We have here the germ of present day Labour Party finance. Yet, in 1891, it had only eleven supporters in the Trades Union Congress. Similarly, when, in 1892, on the motion of Ben Tillett, it was decided to recommend the formation of a Parliamentary Fund, and also to give no support to any candidates but those who stood for the “collective ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange,” Hardie was again to the fore with an amendment which placed him once more in the minority. His proposal was for the formation of an Independent Parliamentary group, but it was defeated by 119 votes to 96. Hardie’s minorities were always the heralds of future victory.

At that same Congress he had gathered together the elements out of which in the following year was evolved the Independent Labour Party, and now, this year, with the I.L.P. in being, and himself in Parliament as its representative, he could take leave of the Trades Union Congress assured that his eight years of struggle and pioneering had not been in vain.

It was probably on the occasion of this visit to Norwich that an incident occurred revealing to his Trade Union friends another aspect of his nature than that to which they were accustomed in the stress of industrial and political strife. The incident is related by Mr. S. G. Hobson. “Of my various pleasant memories of Norwich,” says Mr. Hobson, “perhaps the sweetest was one evening in the Cathedral grounds under an old Norman arch where we stood and watched the sun go down and darkness creep silently upon us. The greensward—smoothed by careful hands for centuries back— seemed to gradually recede from our view. By and by the lights twinkled from many windows, and we knew that worshippers were there to chant the evening service and sing their vesper hymns. Suddenly the voice of old Hardie rose through the stillness, giving vocal expression to the Twenty-third Psalm, and we all joined—Christians and agnostics—blending our voices, not so much in any devotional spirit as out of deference to the influence of the place.”

This inherent spiritual emotionalism—if it may be so called—was continually manifesting itself in various ways all through life, whether, as in the early Ayrshire days, in evangelising on the Ayrshire highways and byways, or, as in later days, preaching in Methodist pulpits or on Brotherhood platforms, or in association with the votaries of spiritualism and theosophy. He was imbued with an imaginative catholicity of spirit which rendered him responsive to every expression of religious feeling which seemed to him sincere. There is no need to try to explain it. It was involuntary, a part of his nature, and it never hindered, but rather intensified and idealised, his work for Socialism. His spiritual enthusiasm never led him out of touch with reality. In a very literal sense, “the poor he had always with him.” He was one of them. And to him their cause was a cause of the devotional spirit.

Just about this time he was penning his letter to the Scottish miners which was afterwards circulated in pamphlet form under the title of “Collier Laddies.” We find him also addressing propaganda meetings as far north as Arbroath, and across the channel speaking in Waterford and in the Rotunda at Dublin and reporting upon the Labour movement in Ireland with an optimism which can hardly have been based upon an accurate estimate of the all-absorbent character of the Nationalist movement in that country.

Towards the end of this year, the I.L.P. had an accession of a kind more valuable than it could then know. Philip Snowden, a man quite unknown to public life, joined the I.L.P. He had been living quietly in a remote village amongst the Yorkshire hills, recovering from a very serious illness, and in the period of convalescence had given his mind to a study of social problems, which ended in his becoming a convinced Socialist. The I.L.P. was steadily becoming equipped with capable leadership, and with men of experience in administrative r work. Keir Hardie, Ramsay MacDonald, Philip Snowden, Bruce Glasier, Fred Jowett, to name no others, constituted a group which for all-round ability on the platform or in the council chamber could not be surpassed by any of the other political parties.

In the Liberal camp there were evident signs of alarm at the activities of the new party. In July, following close upon the Attercliffe election, Joseph Burgess had polled a substantial vote in a by-election at Leicester, and all over the country the I.L.P. was busy selecting its candidates and choosing the constituencies in which it would fight, many of these being places where the Liberal hold was already somewhat precarious. Lord Rosebery, now Prime Minister, found it expedient to address a meeting in Hardie’s constituency at which he demonstrated to his own satisfaction that a united democracy was only possible through the Liberal Party. Hardie, characteristically, replied both by speech and pen, thereby focussing more than ever, national attention on himself as a political personality, and an article which he contributed to the January, 1895, “Nineteenth Century” explaining and vindicating the I.L.P. policy and tactics, attracted much attention.

Nor did his practical work in the House of Commons go entirely without recognition. On January 19th, for example, he was the guest of the Fawcett Association, at that time the one body ventilating the grievances of postal servants, and was presented with an illuminated address, “for the valuable services you have rendered us in the House of Commons on every occasion when you have found it possible to effectually advocate our cause.” The address concluded : “We thank you for your resolute adherence to the cause of truth and justice, and esteem you as a man whose promise may be relied on.” An extremely comforting assurance to a man who was at that very time being more virulently assailed by the party politicians than any other public man in the country.

Hardie was now preparing for his third Parliamentary session and was determined to go to Westminster this time fortified by an outside agitation which would compel the Government to act on behalf of the unemployed, or to resign, a formidable objective for an apparently solitary and friendless commoner. The distress throughout the country, instead of lessening, was becoming more acute and widespread. Well-intentioned local distress committees and soup kitchens only emphasised, without materially alleviating, the misery, and although the contending politicians might make platform play with Armenian atrocities and with their rival plans for pacifying Ireland, it was not possible to get hungry British electors to concentrate on either of these questions as an election issue. The difficulty was—and is—to get them to concentrate upon anything. That, in fact, is the trouble with which the Labour Party is still faced.

In the first week of January, he appealed through the “Labour Leader” for a small fund with which to begin a national unemployed agitation, and by the time Parliament met in February, with a comparatively trifling expenditure of money, big demonstrations had been held in many of the great industrial centres, Hardie himself taking a leading part in most of them. Many of the


J. Keir Hardie, 1893

Liberal Members, with a general election impending, were compelled to make promises to their constituents which it was necessary they should make at least some pretence of redeeming. It was, therefore, with some tremors that the Government faced the House of Commons, notwithstanding Harcourt’s jocular attempt to make light of the Opposition forces. “There was no ‘true blue’ now. They had instead the faded yellow of Birmingham, a little dash of green from Waterford, and a little splotch of red from West Ham. Thus—deliberately or not—reckoning the solitary Keir Hardie as of equal importance with the great Unionist Party. “A splotch of red” said one of the clever rhymers of the “Labour Leader” :—

“A splotch of red, Sir William V.,
Only a little splotch of red.
Your friends sit back and broadly smile
As you the weary hours beguile
With little jokes—but time will be
When you’ll not treat so jestin|gly
That tiny little splotch of red.
A hearty, healthy little splotch
And growing fast; full firmly bent
On turning out the fools that sport
With sample men and women’s woes,
Your office is your only thought,
Your friends but on their seats intent.
Think you it can be ever so?
Sir William V., we tell you, no;
And all your mocking Parliament.”

Hardie’s amendment to the address was in exactly the same terms as the one he had moved two years before on first taking his seat, but the circumstances were different. The unemployed agitation had assumed big proportions, the pressure from the constituencies was having considerable effect upon many of the Government supporters who would be compelled to vote with, Hardie unless their own leaders could provide them with a plausible alternative; and there was the Tory opposition, willing to use the unemployed question, or any other question, as a means of bringing about a Government defeat.

Mr. T. P. O’Connor, himself an experienced wire puller, described in the “Weekly Sun” the manoeuverings which took place. “Some shrewd friends of the Government knew what was in store for them if they were to receive the motion of Mr. Keir Hardie with a blank negative. The Government accordingly considered the situation, with the result that they went carefully through the suggestions that were made to them for meeting with this terrible difficulty which comes periodically athwart the opulence and comfort of this mighty nation and this vast city. The information was conveyed to the friends of the Government that they saw their way to propose a committee which would get a very practical bit of work to do, and which would be obliged to go into the question of the unemployed promptly as well as seriously. Friends of the Government, having considered the terms of what it was proposed to do, were able to announce in turn to the Government that in their opinion this was as much as could be expected, and so all danger of defections from the Liberal ranks disappeared. Whatever happened on other amendments, Ministers were safe on the amendment of Mr. Keir Hardie— safe, but considerably shaken. Hardie had proved himself a good parliamentary strategist; but he was more than a strategist. He was, in a good cause, perhaps the most stubborn man alive. He persisted with his motion notwithstanding the promised concession, in the value of which he had no faith at all. The scene which ensued was thus described by a Press correspondent:—

“As soon as it was known he was up, Members poured in from every part, until every bench had its full quota of Members, whilst a crowd stood below the bar and another crowd behind the Speaker’s chair. Both front benches were crowded with Ministers and ex-Ministers and the attention of the House was kept unbroken from start to finish.

“The speech was not of the fighting order; the concession just offered by the Government of a special committee having made that impossible, but the interest never flagged for a moment and the chorus of cheers from all parts at the close showed that a responsive chord had been struck. Sir Charles Dilke followed and congratulated Mr. Hardie on having gained the point which for two and a half years he had been constantly fighting for. He quoted Mr. Gladstone’s reply to a question put by the Member for West Ham in 1893, in which the Prime Minister refused to agree to the appointment of a committee because it was not the business of the Government to deal with such questions.”

Another contemporary impression, contributed to a Northern paper, preserves for us with remarkable vividness the nature of the ordeal through which Hardie had to pass when opposing the Government motion :— “When the Member for West Ham moved his second amendment, Sir William Harcourt appealed to him to withdraw it, an appeal which was backed by Sir John Gorst, Mr. J. W. Benn, and Sir Albert Rollit, whilst a number of Members tried their influence privately. ‘If the Government can find the committee and make an interim report, I will withdraw my amendment’; and the knit brow and the firm mouth showed that the words meant what they said. It was a strange and significant scene as the representatives of rank and titles tried to bend the shaggy pitman to their will. In the end he conquered, and the cheers with which Sir William Har-court’s capitulation was received were really a tribute to Keir Hardie’s firmness. It was a little incident, but of great significance.”

The “splotch of red” had made an indelible mark. He got the assurance that the committee would get to work immediately and bring in an interim report with all possible speed. He, for his own part, having little faith in a committee appointed reluctantly to save the Government from immediate downfall, refused to associate himself with it.

And now, finally, to complete the picture, take this other contemporary comment from the London “Echo.” “Possibly the new Parliament may see nothing of Keir Hardie, but the chronologist will at least do him the justice of recording how he threw the Government of the day into a blue funk, forced their hand, and then haughtily left the Chamber, disdaining with almost a refinement of cynicism to support their tardy concession, and at the same time deftly eluding the grasp of the clever intriguers who hoped to jockey into a follower the free lance whom their caste pride would not permit to lead them. Verily, the game of party politics is a truculent business, and the fact has never been more poignantly illustrated than in the incidents of a week in which, shocking as it is, the almost houseless poor have been the sport of the strategists in ‘high places.’

In this fashion did Keir Hardie earn the title of “Member for the Unemployed.”


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