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National Revival in Wales between 1880 and 1914 - Essay Example

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Some might find it ironic that a Scotsman would play a dramatic role in the Welsh awakening around the turn of the twentieth century. However, Keir Hardie, who would end up serving as an MP from Wales, and who would also end up embroiled in one of the longest labor disputes in the history of Great Britain, started his involvement in labour movements long before he came to Wales…
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National Revival in Wales between 1880 and 1914
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Perhaps Keir Hardie's greatest contribution, however, was in the genesis of the Labour Party in Britain. Hardie had been an ardent member of the Liberal Party, but he felt that the policies put in place by William Gladstone fell far short of representing the interests of the working classes. While the Liberal Party would make big promises in exchange for the votes of workers, it would never carry out meaningful policy changes that would help the workers' condition, and so in April 1888, Hardie ran as an independent labour candidate in West Lanark. While he came in last, he was encouraged about the future. In August of that year, the Scottish Labour Party was formed. Hardie won a seat in Parliament in 1892. Interestingly, for his first session, he did not wear the same outfit that other working-class MP's wore; instead, he wore only a plain tweed suit, red tie, and deerstalker hat. He was in favor of such progressive policies as free education, pensions, the abolition of the House of Lords, suffrage for women, and a progressive income tax (Wrigley 2002, p. 203).
In 1893, Hardie was one of the founding members of the Independent Labour Party. However, two years later, Hardie found himself out of Parliament. An explosion at a Pontypridd colliery had killed 251 miners, and Hardie asked that a message of condolence be added to a Parliamentary address giving congratulations for the birth of a royal heir (the future King Edward VIII). After this was refused, Hardie made a speech attacking the monarchy and lost his seat in 1895 (Wrigley 2002, p. 205).
However, Hardie was not out of politics for long. He spent the next five years making speeches and, in 1900, put together a meeting of trade unions and socialist groups, which agreed to form the Labour Representation Committee, which was the precursor of the Labour Party. In that same year, Hardie was elected as the junior MP for Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare in the South Wales Valleys, and he would represent this region until his death in 1915 (Wrigley 2002, p. 207).
The election in which Hardie returned to Parliament became notorious in history for another reason as well. The British military was involved in the Second Boer War, and this war became the primary issue in the 1900 British general election. The Conservative government of Lord Salisbury was reelected, with an enlarged majority over the Liberal Party. There were a couple of reasons for this enlarged majority: not only did the British public want to rally behind its government and support the war effort, but the emergence of the Labour Party created the possibility of vote-splitting among the opposition, as some might vote Liberal and others Labour, which would assist the Conservative cause. Because of this, and because of some funding shortages encountered by the Liberal Party, over 100 races did not have a Liberal Party opposition candidate. The election became known as the "khaki election," because of the new khaki uniforms that the British Army was wearing at war. This became a popular term in British politics for an election that is decisively influenced by wartime or postwar emotion. Other elections in British ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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