James Maxton

(1885—1946) politician

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(b. Glasgow, 22 June 1885; d. Largs, Ayrshire, 23 July 1946)

British; chairman of the Independent Labour Party 1926–31 and 1934–9 The son of a teacher, Maxton was educated at Hutcheson's Grammar School and the University of Glasgow, before becoming a teacher. After conscientious objection and imprisonment during the First World War, he was elected MP for Glasgow, Bridgeton, in 1922. At Westminster he was one of a group of ‘Clydeside Reds’ whose uncompromising socialism often led to disorderly behaviour.

Maxton was a persistent critic of the ‘gradualist’ policies of the Labour governments of 1924 and 1929–31. Under his chairmanship the ILP drifted apart from the Labour Party. Its candidates were refused official endorsement in the 1931 general election and after it ILP members sat separately and Maxton declined an invitation to sit on the Labour front bench. The ILP disaffiliated from Labour in 1932 and rapidly atrophied. Maxton contested the 1945 election as a Labour candidate.

Maxton had a far higher public profile than a career on the back benches and leadership of a minute party might suggest. He was an eloquent and witty speaker and the attractiveness to cartoonists of his gaunt appearance made him widely recognized.

Subjects: British History.

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