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George Lansbury

(1859—1940) leader of the Labour Party


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(b. 22 Feb. 1859, d. 7 May 1940).

British Labour leader 1931–5 Born near Lowestoft, Suffolk, Lansbury emigrated to Australia in 1884, but had an unsuccessful time there, and returned a year later. He immediately started a campaign against what he saw as misleading propaganda about the potentials of life as an emigrant. After initial work for the Liberal Party he joined the Labour Party. Together with Beatrice Webb, he wrote the 1909 Minority Report of the Royal Commission of the Poor Laws, which became instrumental in the eventual abolition of the Victorian Poor Law system.

 Lansbury was elected to parliament for Bow and Bromley in 1910, but resigned in 1912 over the harsh treatment of the suffragettes. He did not return to parliament until 1922, though he achieved new prominence as a defiant Mayor of Poplar (1919–20). In this post, he chose to be imprisoned rather than to reduce unemployment relief benefits. He was in the Cabinet as First Commissioner of Works from 1929 to 1931. When MacDonald formed the National Government, he refused to join. Following Labour's electoral disaster of 1931, he was, with Attlee, one of only two former Cabinet Ministers left on the Labour benches, and he was elected as leader of the Labour Party. When the Labour conference called for sanctions against Italy after the Abyssinian War he resigned, to be succeeded by Clement Attlee. He was a lifelong pacifist and Christian socialist.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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