Wednesday, July 04, 2012

4th July? Keir Hardie Day!

"Today, Wednesday 4th July, it is not just the anniversary of the only successful British Revolution (American Declaration of Independence), it is also the 120th anniversary of the election of Keir Hardie, the first ever Independent Labour MP, for West Ham South on this day in 1892.

To mark the anniversary, members of the modern day West Ham Labour Party and Newham TULO are organising a walking commemoration tour around Stratford town centre (Newham - Home of London Olympics 2012).

We will meet 7pm outside the Old Town Hall in the Broadway, Stratford, E15, which was where the 1892 election count took place. It was from its open balcony, overlooking the High Street, that the result was read out to cheering crowds and Hardie made his first speech as a Labour Member of Parliament.

It is hoped that everyone in Newham, regardless of their political affiliations, will join us in celebrating the achievement of an ordinary, decent working man - born into abject poverty - who was still able to be elected as the first genuine independent working class MP. He is an example to us all".

Press release from West Ham CLP. (I was reminded last night at my School Governors meeting that this is also the 120th anniversary of the first ever Black UK MP Dadabhai Naoroji)


Anonymous said...

If he such a great MP, why was he office for one term in Newham?.

Keir Hardie, would be diasappointed with the Labour Party, especially in Newham.

John Gray said...

Hi anon

Because he did what he thought was right? By doing so he upset the Irish nationalists and the non conformists and refused the Liberal whip.

I think that Keir would be very proud of the modern Labour Party, national and local, but would be very demanding of us to always further the interests of working people.

Quite right too.

Anonymous said...

Local research showed that the Roman Catholic church in West Ham urged its members to vote against Keir Hardie and that was enough to lose him the election. All a bit tentative, but it is a convincing theory.

If Newham library service still have archives, then the paper was produced by the local history society in the 1970's.

Although pretty pointless to speculate, Hardie was a committed socialist and would not have recognised the modern Labour Party, no more than Lloyd George would recognise the modern Lib Dems.

John Gray said...

Hi anon
I thought it was the nonconformist minsters who advised their members to vote against him because of his lack of support for temperance? I’ve just joined the Newham local history society and will try to find out more.

I think you are right about the historical context. I’m not sure that in 1892 Keir thought himself a socialist (which he did certainly later) but as a radical?

Anonymous said...

It is quite sometime (30+ years) since I read the paper but I clearly remember the argument being that the RC priests strongly objected to the religios views of Hardie and urged the large Irish population to vote against him. The Irish population in Stratford had arrived as a result ofthe railway expansion n what is now the Olympic site, and the docks.

Working men had been given the vote in 1884, but there had been secret ballots since 1872 so with no exit polls in those days there is a fair amount of unproved speculation.

The fact is he lost, and the seat reverted to the Liberals, who held it for many years to come.

Gilberdyke said...

Any update on a possible statute for Hardie in Stratford John?

John Gray said...

Hi anon

I've lent what I think is the same pamphlet you refer to the CLP Political officer but I thought that he lost the Irish Vote in 1895because he was perceived not to have done enough for Irish Nationalism not religion?

Also his attacks on the Monarchy would have lost some support.

Hi Gilberdyke

The event on Wednesday was really successful. I will post later. Will see if we can make this an annual event and think about a statute.

Anonymous said...


I was thinking of paper by the ocal historical society, and it dfinitely says the RC church had an influence, but as I said in an earlier post, there is no real hard evidence one way or another.

As for a statue, I can think of local figures in the Labour Movement far more worthy of a statue, such as Will Crooks. Keir Hardie was an MP in West Ham for a short time, did little for the area and never came back after his defeat. Reminds me of quite a few carpet bagger MPs and Councillors across the country.

There is a tendency to popularise and romanticise the past, and a statue to Hardie would be doing exactly that. I mention Will Crooks as although born in Poplar, he was MP for Woolwich and did a lot for working people. There are others just as worthy.

It is a pity that we don't teach and celebrate our local history more. I was recently on an island in the Northern Isles with a population of 600 but that had a heritage centre that explored their history. Newham has a population of 300K+ but has no permanent museum or heritage space. We used to have a local museum but it was closed and it's exhibits put into storage.

John Gray said...

Hi anon

I think it is more than a bit unfair to accuse Hardie of being a carpetbagger. He was invited to be a MP by local trade unionists (including Will Crooks) and his life story is truely inspirational regardless of what you would now think of his politics. 25 people turned up at relatively short notice to our event.

I suspect that the island museum you mention is dependent on visitors to survive not the local community.

During the next few months the local history organisation Eastside is hiring the West Ham Labour Party rooms to run " A People's Museum" during the Olympics.

I wonder post 2012 if we can have a permanent site in Newham for such a place? A statute of Hardie (and other historic Labour leaders) would be a draw.

Anonymous said...


I never said he was a carpet bagger. I said he reminds me of quite a few carpet bagger MPs and Councillors across the country, in that after he was defeated he just turned his back on the area. However, I can see how I could be misinterpreted.

The island I mention certainly does rely on visitors, but Newham has a large enough community to sustain a heritage centre. The loss of the Passmore Edwards Museum, and other local collections and reference facilities was a huge blow to local heritage and historcal research.

Maybe the recent archaeological finds on the Olmpic site could be the hook needed to draw funding in for a new and permanent heritage centre telling the story of the area from the Iron Age through to the present time.

One venue that might be considered is the old Spotted Dog in Upton Lane. LBN could CPO it and renovate it with the help of Lottery and Olympic funding.

Anonymous said...

Why should Newham residents pay for a statue a Kier, when former Newham residents of a hundred years did not think he was worth re-electing. If he such an important figure to the Labour party, then why dont you get it paid via subscriptions. Kier resigned from the Labour party.

Anonymous said...

Anon 17:50 Newham Council has never been interested in local history and it probably seems of little relevance to people who have come from other countries to live in Newham.

Is there any point in keeping historical records. Looking the Newham Recorder, it is nothing but bias, and few issues of serious concerned are reported objectively.

John Gray said...

Hi anon 21.42/21.52

Enough of the racist twaddle please.