How Important Was the First World War in the Growth of the Labour Party in the Period from 1918 to 1924
Although the First World War played quite a large role in the growth of the labour party there were many other factors that contributed to their rise in popularity. Such as, the split of the coalition, the representation of the peoples act, and finally Clause IV. During the war the party was led by Arthur Henderson who was the first Labour MP to get into parliament and he played a great role in the War-time coalition.
After a disagreement with Lloyd George in 1917, Henderson resigned from the War Cabinet. This benefited the Labour party because Henderson was able to focus of reorganising the party.
This included being more efficient, more organised, the funding of the party was split efficiently and they drafted the Labour Constitution. This helped their growth because it gave them a lot of time to plan how they was going to work about gaining more support over the other parties and to be able to be and efficient stable party. However, the split of the coalition led to the unpopularity of other parties because the British public felt that the Liberals and Conservatives were unreliable and not strong enough to run the country.
The split of this coalition resulted mainly because of U-turns, failures and tension between both the parties. One of the examples of a U-turn was the breaking of pledges that the powers of the House of Lords would be strengthened. The last straw for the coalition was the ‘Chanak Crisis’ which seemed likely to end up in a war with Turkey, and by this time many stable conservatives including backbench MP’s say Lloyd George as a liability and the coalition was failing in its basic purpose; preventing the rise of the Labour party.
As a result of their unpopularity, they were actually helping the Labour Party because the electorate was looking for a stable government that wouldn’t go back on their policies and almost cause another war because they didn’t want that. The Representation of the Peoples act of 1918, gave the vote to more working-class people, including women over 40 who owned property, who looked for a ‘worker’s party’ to represent them. This was the Labour party helping them gain more voters because before you had to be a member of the overnment register or pay to vote, money which many working class people didn’t have. So when this act was brought in by Labour the workers saw they were there to help them and they obviously voted them so they had a better chance of improving their lives. The fact that the representation of the peoples act came about, meant that the electorate was a wider range of classes and they were more likely to gain votes from the Working-classes. Clause IV indicated a sense of direction and offered the electorate a doctrine that made them obviously different from other parties.
The main difference between Liberals and Labour was the ‘socialist’ nature of this clause. However, because the party was made up of Trade unionists and the socialists, the vagueness of the clause worked to unite all the members of the party which disagreed on some things. This helped them grow in the sense that it showed they were committed to what they said they was going to do. it also showed the party was stable, due to no disagreements and everyone in the party was taken into consideration, showing a strength, unlike Liberals which were split into two because of different opinions.
Overall, although the War gave Labour plenty of time to reorganise itself and stabilise itself, it didn’t increase its growth or popularity because everyone’s focus was on winning the war and that was why the War-time coalition was made. However the mixture of the Labour Constitution, mainly Clause IV, the Representation of the peoples act and the failure of the Post-War coalition were very large factors in the growth of the Labour party, proving their stability and their aims to help a wider range of people, especially working class.