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Building the Labour Party: The Politics of the Left in Early Twentieth-Century Britain

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In the early twentieth century, the Labour Party was a growing political force in Britain. Founded in 1900, as an amalgamation of a number of small socialist groups brought together by the Trade Union Congress, by the 1920s it had overtaken the Liberal Party in terms of general election success. It went on to form its first, albeit minority, governments in 1924 and 1929-1931 under the leadership of Ramsay MacDonald, who became the first ever Labour Prime Minister.

This book, by the acclaimed Labour historian, the late Duncan Tanner, looks at the early years of the Labour Party's history, from the 1906 election, in which the Labour Representative Committee won just 29 seats, to the 1929 election when Labour became the largest party in the House of Commons for the first time. He considers the reasons behind Labour's meteoric rise, together with an analysis of the political and social climate of the time and the impact of World War I and prominent left-wing intellectuals.

The catastrophic split of the Liberal Party at the height of World War I gave a large boost to the fledgling Labour Party, who provided a new ideological home for many disenchanted Liberal supporters. The first Labour government, of 1924, lasted a mere nine months, but managed to pass a number of key pieces of social legislation - including the Wheatley Housing Act which provided for the construction of 500,000 homes to be rented to working class families - which was to set the tone for Labour policy for the first of the century. By the time the Party came to power a second time in 1929 they had a stronger base of support, but were still reliant on the floundering Liberal Party in order to pass legislation.

This book provides an essential introduction to the early history of the Labour Party, written by one of most respected historians of his generation.

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