'Suicide During a Fit of Insanity' or the Defence of Socialism?

The secession of the Independent Labour Party from the Labour Party at the special conference at Bradford, July 1932

Keith Laybourn

(First published in 1991 in volume 5, pp. 41-53, of the third series of The Bradford Antiquary, the journal of the Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society.)

On the 30th July 1932, at Jowett Hall in Bradford, which stood on the site of the present Bradford Playhouse, the Independent Labour Party made its momentous decision to leave the Labour Party. It did so in the context of a major debate, usually referred to as the 'Disaffiliation Crisis', which deeply divided many members of the ILP, some of whom had worked together for forty years. Following its decision to disaffiliate, there was the hideous chimera of the ILP going into rapid decline and, as one politician predicted, 'the total sterility of a once great and influential party seemed assured'.1 Historians and politicians have often asked why the ILP took this course of action. R.E. Dowse considered it to be the product of a clash of personalities and policies whilst R.K. Middlemass concluded that it was 'suicide during a fit of insanity'.2 Certainly, Fenner Brockway, a leading advocate of disaffiliation, later considered his action to be the most foolish one of his political career.3 Quite rightly, most historians have noted the foolhardy nature of the ILP's action and this article largely supports such a view. But it is important to understand the atmosphere in which this irrational decision was taken and the political tensions and personal emotions which encouraged a small party to push forward with high aspirations which, in the cold light of day, it could never possibly achieve. Whilst disaffiliation was irrational it was also highly predictable, given the history of the ILP in the 1920s and the events which followed Ramsay MacDonald's desertion of the second Labour government in 1931. The fact is that the commitment to the development of socialist princip1es and actions led the ILP to follow a course of action which could only lead it into political obscurity.


The immediate context of this crisis was the decision of the Parliamentary Labour Party to ensure that all Labour MPs pledged themselves to obey the Standing Orders of the party. This followed MacDonald's defection to the National Government and was clearly an attempt to ensure party unity within Parliament amongst the small group of 52 Labour MPs who remained after the disastrous general election of 1931. It was a natural feeling within the Labour Party that some type of unity was required if any effective political challenge was to be made to the National Government, which commanded almost eleven times as many MPs as did Labour.

Jimmy Maxton and the ILP leadership saw the matter in an entirely different light, regarding it as an attempt to restrict the ILP's freedom of expression though they were demanding just such obedience from the rump of five ILP MPs, reduced from the 37 in 1929 and the 45 in 1923, who remained after the 1931 general election. There was substantial support for Maxton's viewpoint from the Scottish ILP branches which, since the 1920s, had overtaken the Yorkshire and Lancashire ILP branches in dominating the national movement. Consequently, Maxton and his 'Clydeside' supporters were able to press for the amendment of Labour's Standing Orders and disaffiliation with some certainty that their views had wide approval and would be accepted. In the end, their will did prevail, but not until there had been a serious debate and convulsions within the ILP.

The fact is that disaffiliation was the end product of years of. frustration and tension within the ILP. The problems had first arisen in 1918, when the Labour Party became a socialist party. For a number of years the ILP debated whether or not it should continue. In the end it did, with a high level of enthusiasm for a commitment to it acting as the conscience of the Labour Party. In the early 1920s it worked well with Labour, rising to 50,000 fee-paying members, increasing parliamentary representation and developing a growing reputation for ideas; its summer schools spawned many innovative socialist ideas. But from the mid 1920s, when John Wheatley, Jimmy Maxton and the 'Clydesiders' gained the upper hand within the ILP, tensions and conflicts began to divide the party. Representing a more working-class tradition within the party, the 'Clydesiders' were critical of the middle-class leadership which had emerged to power in the early 1920s, under Clifford Allen. a Cambridge academic and a conscientious objector of the First World War.

Allen, described as perhaps the most talented spokesman of the younger generation of middle-class intellectuals who had joined the ILP during and after the war, built up the funds of the party through money obtained from his friends, was able to finance a new paper, the New Leader, and to mount effective political campaigns as treasurer and then chairman of the party.4 He was responsible for putting forward a major policy campaign, 'Socialism in Our Time', with its various published offshoots such as The Living Wage, which advocated the need for a direct attack upon poverty by the redistribution of income to the mass consumers in order to create the home demand which would reduce unemployment. It was this group, and these policies which the more working-class orientated 'Clydesiders' objected to. They removed Allen from power and even amended the preamble to the 'Socialism in Our Time' campaign by positing the view that the 'old order is breaking down' when it was clear that the majority of the policy was designed to make capitalism work more efficiently in the interests of the workers.5

The Labour Party pointed to the contradiction within the policy and there was deep- seated opposition to it within the ILP in the textile district of the West Riding of Yorkshire. Harold Child, an old Bradford stalwart, responded to H N. Brailsford's advocacy of this policy at St. George's Hall. Bradford, in September 1920 by suggesting that there should be the 'immediate nationalisation of everything'.6 Others simply pointed to the contradictions within the campaign documents.

Apart from the tensions which this campaign created within the ILP, confusions over the ILP's policies served to undermine the relations with the Labour Party. particularly since Ramsay MacDonald had openly criticised the programme, in Socialist Review of March 1926, as being a 'millstone' around the neck of the Parliamentary Labour Party. These relations were further tested by the ill-fated Cook-Maxton Manifesto of June 1928, agreed between A.J. Cook, of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain and Maxton, of the ILP, which criticised the Labour Party and appeared to raise the possibility of establishing a new alliance of the Labour left. Labour Party opinion was, subsequently, suspicious of Maxton and conscious of the possibility that the ILP would eventually disaffiliate.

By the late 1920s the ILP was divided and its relations with the Labour Party strained. In addition, it was becoming clear that the ILP branches throughout Britain were losing members - membership having fallen by half since the early 1920s. In this context the party had to look to its future. Was it to continue within the Labour Party, as its socialist conscience, or should it go its separate way? The decision appeared to become more pressing when Ramsay MacDonald's second Labour government failed to introduce socialist measures and vital following the collapse of that government in the fiasco of August 1931.

Gradually, three factions began to emerge. Jimmy Maxton, Fenner Brockway and Fred Jowett led a group who, even before MacDonald's defection, were unwilling to accept the Labour whip on Parliament and threatened secession. Dr Cullen led a group of Marxist supporters who drifted in the same direction, largely because it wished to see the ILP join the Communist Party. There was also a third body, led by Dr Salter, P.J. Dollan and Willie Leach. of Bradford, which wanted to see the ILP remain within the Labour Party, and even questioned the need for the ILP's continuance as a separate body.

In the textile district of the West Riding of Yorkshire there is no doubt that the majority view, generally shaped by Fred Jowett of Bradford, favoured disaffiliation and the continuance of the ILP as a separate political party outside the Labour Party. But, clearly, some leading ILPers dissented. Willie Leach opposed disaffiliation and even contemplated the possibility of the ILP submerging itself within the Labour Party. Yet the debate was largely academic until the Labour Party Conference of October 1931 displayed a strong current of feeling that 'party discipline' was needed. It was determined to stand 'no nonsense from the ILP' and to show the 'rebel left that it could make no capital out of the present crisis'.7 Despite Fenner Brockway's protestations, Arthur Henderson 'thundered against the organised conscience of the ILP' and won a vote, by 2,117,000 to 193,000, against permitting the ILP to ignore the Parliamentary Party's Standing Orders.8 The prospect of the ILP's disaffiliation suddenly became more real.


Bradford played an important pan in the early history of the ILP for it was there, in St. George's Hall and at the Labour Institute in Peckover Street, that the national ILP had been formed in January 1893. It was there, also, that it held its 'Coming of Age' conference in April 1914 at which J.H. Palin claimed that 'Of ordinary historical association, Bradford has none. In Domesday Book, it is described as a waste. and the subsequent periods of capitalist exploitation have done little to improve it. … The History of Bradford will be very largely the history of the ILP.'9 Before the First World War, the Bradford ILP was generally recognised to be the most powerful body within the ILP, providing a substantial proportion of the funds of the national movement and organising more than 1,600 members. The First World War reduced this membership substantially, and organisations in other towns and regions, particularly those in Scotland, became more influential. But the Bradford ILP's organisation did revive quickly reaching almost pre-war proportions by the early 1920s. But by the end of the 1920s the movement was, once again, in decline, many of its members identifying more closely with the Labour Party and drifting out of the ILP because of its changing socialist policies and strategies. Thus it was at a moment of decline and frustration that the disaffiliation debate came to fore in a local organisation which was being reduced to its hardcore diehards, many of whom still looked back to the great days of the Bradford ILP.

Philip Snowden and Fred Jowett, 1916

In Bradford the disaffiliation debate was particularly divisive since it mainly took the form of a personal conflict between Fred Jowett and Willie Leach, who, for forty years or so, had been close friends - Leach having been the one-time employer of Jowett. These were the great figures of the local ILP. Jowett was a founder member of the Bradford Labour Union/ILP in 1891, had been an ILP councillor and alderman, was returned as the first Labour MP for a Bradford seat in 1906 (Bradford West), being MP until 1918, and again. for Bradford East between 1922 until 1931. Indeed, he had been a member of the first Labour Cabinet in 1924, as the First Commissioner of Works. He was also a member of the National Executive of the Labour Party between 1916 and 1932. Leach's political career was hardly less impressive. He was an ILP activist and councillor from the 1890s onwards. despite being an employer in the woolen and worsted trade, a Labour MP for Bradford (Central) between 1922 and 1931, and, at various times, editor of the Bradford Pioneer, the weekly organ of the Bradford ILP. In 1924 he was an Undersecretary in the Treasury in the first Labour government.

These two pillars of the Bradford ILP. so closely linked in their early careers, had begun to move apart in the late 1920s. Part of the reason was the fact that Jowett had deliberately embarrassed the Labour government in October 1930 when he moved an amendment to the King's Speech. He explained later that 'Socialism is the official policy of the Labour Party and it was not recognised in the King's Speech'. Therefore, there was nothing for it but to move to amend the King's Speech.10 As Leach made clear in his later writings, he felt that it was this type of action which contributed to Labour's temporary political demise in 1931. Yet it was not until the collapse of the second Labour government and the mounting pressure for disaffiliation that the the two lionesque figures of the Bradford ILP engaged in an open debate in the Bradford press and in the Bradford Pioneer.

The disaffiliation debate had risen in temperature as a result of the decision of the Labour Party Executive to demand that all its candidates in the 1931 General Election should sign a document insisting that they should accept the Standing Orders of the Labour Party. As a result 19 ILP candidates refused to sign and were thus not endorsed by the Labour Party. Three of them were elected Jimmy Maxton, R.C. Wallhead and John McGovern - and were joined by two successful trade unionists, David Kirkwood and George Buchanan, who also declined to accept Standing Orders. These five MPs formed the ILP Group in the new Parliament and were not admitted to the meetings of the Parliamentary Labour Party. As a result negotiations went on between the ILP and the Labour Party to arrange a compromise but matters were not helped by the Labour Party Conference of October 1931 which, as already indicated, did not contemplate any possibility that the ILP could act as the organised socialist conscience of the Labour Party. Negotiations faltered and the issue of disaffiliation was seriously raised at the ILP's Easter Conference of 1932 where, by a narrow majority [188 votes to 144] the delegates had rejected disaffiliation and voted in favour [by 250 votes to 3] of the Scottish amendment for conditional affiliation. A similar motion at the 1931 Easter Conference had been defeated by 173 votes to 37. There was now a serious groundswell in favour of disaffiliation. Nevertheless, as a result of the 1932 vote negotiations were re-opened between J.S. Middleton, Assistant Secretary of the Labour Party, and John Paton, of the ILP, in the hope that some compromise could be arranged on Labour's Standing Orders. But it was obvious that such an arrangement was not possible and. by the summer of 1932, matters were coming to a head. At this stage, Fenner Brockway sided with Maxton and the Clydesiders, and recognised that
"The ILP must either be wholly in the Labour Party, subordinating its own policy to vote according to the majority decisions, or it must stay outside. He rejected altogether the federal conception of the Labour Party which the ILP urged, there could be no room for freedom within it."11

From June until the end of July , when a Special Meeting of the ILP was to be held at Bradford, the issue of disaffiliation dominated the Bradford ILP and took the form of a personal debate between Leach and Jowett, on the one hand, and between Jowett and Frank Betts, the editor of the Bradford Pioneer and father of Barbara Castle, on the other - though it was the former which raised most passions.

From early 1932, Leach blamed the ILP for weakening the whole movement as it had the second Labour government, 'by its continuous assertion of Labour untrustworthiness, and yapping at the heels of the present leaders'.12 This was a clear reference to Jowett's actions in October 1930. The whole thrust of Leach's argument was that there was a need for unity and that the ILP ought to accept the rather flexible Standing Orders of the Labour Party. To him, the whole idea of disaffiliation was unacceptable and undesirable. He was strident in his opposition to disaffiliation and, in a powerful polemic, he wrote that
"For some years the ILP has been unhappily losing prestige and membership due, I think, to two main causes. Firstly, the disposition towards the belief that its work as a party was finished when the Labour Party adopted a Socialist programme and secondly, because of the irreconcilable and foolish actions of some of its quarrelsome MPs. Vanities and disappointed ambitions have played their part. Besides all this the younger end have keenly desired quicker speed and spectacular action. Certain spectacular actions have, however, served to bring discredit. Leadership has a lot to answer for. [….]"
"I do not know the real will of the I.L.P. membership. I find it very difficult to believe that a full party plebiscite on disaffiliation would endorse the views of Maxton and Co. I fear that branches may pass disaffiliation resolutions at tiny meetings where only the fiery element is in attendance and decisions will be taken which never would be taken on a proper plebiscite vote of the whole membership.[….]"
"MacDonald and Co. have gone East, the disaffiliationists would go West. All the fruits of ill will, antagonism and open war are bound to follow in both cases. It would be the most melancholy situation that has ever arisen in British Labour politics."
"Suppose the disaffiliationists win. They will do so, as I think, on a minority vote of members. They will march into the wilderness with less than half the membership. It is all very sad and disconcerting."13

Such views were incongruous to Fred Jowett who, by this stage, was strongly advocating disaffiliation unless the Labour Party gave up its insistence upon imposing Standing Orders.14 His main concern was that the Socialist debate could be stifled within a Labour Party which operated through the block vote of trade unions and in a Parliamentary Labour Party which expected loyalty to one viewpoint. His concern was one of ensuring socialist advance and, in a trenchant criticism of the Labour Party, he wrote that
"I said that what worries Socialists about the block vote is that it can, and does in fact, smother every new forward movement year after year and, therefore, it discourages all except the most energetic and confident supporters of the new measures and policies almost to the point of despair. However successful Socialists may be in their approach to individual Trades Union branches and constituency Labour Parties delegates at the Conference representing less than half a dozen big unions, on the decision of a bare majority in each of their delegations can defeat every new proposal by throwing blocks of hundreds of thousands of votes each into the scale without regard to the size of the minorities in each of their own unions."15

To this he added, that the exercise of Standing Orders was being used by the Labour Party to prevent Labour MPs from voting for policies which, in 1929 and 1931, had been part of its election programmes. He added that
"If the Labour Party will withdraw the arrogant and undemocratic authority it has given to the Parliamentary Labour Party to prohibit Labour MPs from voting in accordance with Labour Party Conference decision, whenever it thinks fit to do so, the question of disaffiliation will be settled, so far as the ILP is concerned."16

Leach replied to these assertions by noting that Jowett, like others within the Labour Party, was subject to the majority attitude. and that sensitivity about the Labour whip was a mere pretext for the personal ambitions of some ILPers, especially in light of the fact that in July 1931 the 'Maxton-Jowett ILP Group in Parliament' propounded a set of Parliamentary Standing Orders to govern the actions of the 150 or so ILP MPs (more than one hundred of whom had their elections paid for through the Labour Party and were therefore only individual members of the ILP and not obliged to follow its lead), and the 280-odd Labour members, and that they should obey the decisions of the ILP Conferences and the National Administrative Council of the ILP.17 The implication was that the ILP leaders were not being consistent in their attitude and that they were being arrogant in their assumption that they were the protectors of socialism.

As the Bradford Special Conference of the ILP drew closer the personal invectives between Jowett and Leach intensified.18 They reached something of a climax when a Special Meeting of the Bradford ILP was held on 25 July 1932 at which the matter of disaffiliation was discussed. At this meeting Jowett forcibly outlined the reasons for disaffiliation and was supported by Charles Billson, Jack Bailey, Arthur Brown, Norman Fortune and other acolytes. On the other hand, Leach, in countering Jowett, argued that there was immense flexibility within the Standing Orders of the Labour Party which allowed MPs some liberty of conscience. He was strongly supported by Mr McClean and Councillor Ruth. Although there was a feeling that there should have been no vote, since many members were on holiday or unable to attend for a variety of reasons, a vote was held, with 112 for disaffiliation and 86 against.19 This decision provoked a futile 'Open Letter' in the subsequent issue of the Bradford Pioneer which implored the delegates attending the Special Conference not to disaffiliate for 'The rank and file of the ILP must work WITHIN the organisation of the Labour Party to ensure the greater service to the working-class movement'.20 It concluded upon the immensity of the decision that was to be taken: 'The ILP was born in Bradford. Have you come to bury it?'

Maxton, Brockway, Jowett, the leaders of what was dubbed the 'Suicide Squad', won the day despite the entreaties of Leach and the Bradford Pioneer, - the ILP disaffiliated from the Labour Party at its Special Conference held in Jowett Hall on Saturday and Sunday, 30 and 31 July 1932. The decision to disaffiliate was taken on the Saturday by 241 to 142 votes and the Sunday meeting was held to reorganise the ILP constitution and to advise members and branches to resign from the Labour Party, and to get trade unionists to redirect their political levy from Labour to the ILP.21 There was an air of unreality, of enthusiasm and euphoria, about the whole proceedings on the Sunday which bore no relationship to the real prospects of the ILP's potential political success in the future. Some of the delegates were quite clearly carried forward by an infectious enthusiasm and belief that the Party with a 'clear socialist line would sweep the workers behind it'.22 Jowett had no such illusions. for him the issue was a matter of principle. Indeed, he wrote that
"The ILP may have to go down … There would, however, be no uncertainty as to its fate if it did accept this humiliating and useless position in the Labour Party, it would surely die. Indeed. there would, in that event. no longer be any reason to live … If the ILP is to die, let it die honourably, fighting, as befits its past, and not perish miserably seeking to live without function. merely to wear a label."23

Reporting upon the decision to disaffiliate, a rather sad editorial in the Bradford Pioneer concurred with Jowett's fears:
"The Independent Labour Party now joins the numerous small groups engaged in useless and obscure warfare against the organised Labour army. Along with the Communist Party, the Socialist Party of Great Britain and other eccentric groups quite unknown to the general public, the total sterility of a once great and influential party seems assured."24

The Leeds Labour Party also reflected that 'a small section of the ILP will now re-organise itself on the basis of the "Marxian philosophy oft he Class Struggle" to fight the Labour and Trade Union Movement with semi-Communist thunder'.25


The views of Leach and the Bradford Pioneer were prophetic for the ILP collapsed rapidly in its Yorkshire heartland, just as clearly as it did elsewhere. The Bradford ILP faced the immediate difficulty of continuing to meet at Jowett Hall: 'It was only able to meet there due to the fact that the Labour Institute which owned the Hall, had been prepared to wipe off £300 of its rent debts in 1931/32.'26 The implication was that this might not happen in 1932/33. In addition, only one of the 32 members of the Labour Group on Bradford City Council was prepared to leave the Labour Party. The rest issued a statement against disaffiliation:
"No suggestion has ever been made that in our civic capacity we have betrayed any Socialist principles or acted at variance with the agreed Municipal Programme. Further, we regard our tenure of office as having been secured with the endorsement of the Labour Party, and as a contract between ourselves and the elections based upon the Municipal programme agreed by the ILP and issued annually by the Labour Party. Such a contract is not broken at the instance of any section which chooses to become disaffiliated from the main body."
"Having been elected to the Council with the official sanction and support of the Labour Party, and knowing no sound reasons for disowning our allegiance to the Labour Party, we all of us unreservedly declare our loyalty and devotion to the Labour Party, and our determination to service under its banner."27

Placard for ILP conference, 1928

The picture was similar elsewhere in the West Riding of Yorkshire. The Bramley ILP sent a letter to the City of Leeds Labour Party, indicating its intention to 'remain affiliated to the Labour Party.'28 Other branches followed suit and there was a brief attempt to organise an 'Anti-Disaffiliation' group within the ILP. A small group of ILPers who had disagreed with the disaffiliation decision had met at the end of the Special Conference in a belated effort to form a National Provincial Committee to meet with other similar bodies in London on 20 August. County Councillor Hyman, Alderman A. Pickles, Councillor J.J. Wilson and Councillor A.W. Brown, all from Bradford, called a meeting at Jowett Hall on 8 August to help organise an 'Anti-Disaffiliationists' group within the ILP and even arranged a Yorkshire Conference of Affiliated ILPers on Saturday, 24 September, at which Leach was present.29 But in the end these efforts proved futile and many ILP members simply joined the Labour Party. Some joined the Socialist League, a small pressure group financed by Sir Stafford Cripps. The once-powerful Bradford ILP lost more than half of its remaining 750 members.30 Many ILP branches collapsed altogether as they. their members and representatives, were forced to decide between the ILP and the Labour Party.

The anger and resentment of the wider Labour movement was amplificd by the decision of the ILP to ask its trade union members to remain within trade unions and to get them to use the 1927 Trades Dispute and Trade Union Act in order to get their political levy transferred from the Labour Party to the ILP. This was considered. by many trade unionists, to be an act of sabotage: 'The Maxton-Brockway group, in order to make their policy effective, propose to throw a monkey-wrench into the political machinery of the Unions.'31 Trade unionists were not impressed. The ILP expired as a political force in Bradford, the West Riding of Yorkshire, and throughout the nation as a whole. It returned no MPs to Parliament from the West Riding - even Fred Jowett failed to win Bradford East in the 1935 General Election. At the municipal level the ILP achieved only patchy and limited successes in Keighley and Bradford. W. Smith represented Keighley East Ward from 1934 until the Second World War. There was more success in Bradford for ILP ward groups continued to survive in Manningham, Thornton, Great Horton, East Bowling and Tong. A. Tetley won Tong for the ILP in 1932, 1935 and 1937. In 1937 he was joined by A.L. Brown, who was returned for the same ward. The ILP also won East Bowling with J. Cariss in 1934 and 1937. The ILP had clearly lost its political vitality and its main contribution in local politics seemed to be the embarrassment of the Labour Party. In 1933 Foster Sunderland, President of the Bradford Labour Party, just failed to defeat one of the most reactionary members of the City Council owing to a loss of votes to the ILP candidate. The Labour Party reflected bitterly that 'the ILP is able to take pride in the fact that they handed to Mr J.T. Waterhouse the power to cut the milk allowance at Nursery School and to repeat many other economies which Waterhouse has supported'.32

Such events lost the ILP both sympathy and support and even its representatives began to question the value of its continued existence. Tetley and Cariss joined the Labour Party during the Second World War and Brown, though he contested Tong for the ILP in 1945, followed their example soon afterwards accepting, at last, that the ILP could not be resuscitated. Indeed, the death of Fred Jowett in 1944 had robbed the movement of his personal support in the Bradford East parliamentary organisation. Once outside the Labour Party, the ILP could command little support in Bradford and the West Riding: without Jowett it had practically none.


Labour historians have habitually agonized at some length about the reasons for the ILP's decision to leave the Labour Party in 1932. In the final analysis. most put the reason down to a combination of factors rooted in personalities, policies and political circumstances. In the first place, it has been argued that Jimmy Maxton could not fit into a Labour Party now dominated by Arthur Henderson and George Lansbury after the departure of MacDonald, and that his intention to ditch Labour had been evident in the 1920s. Jowett's association with the Maxton viewpoint would also account for the decision of the Bradford ILP to support disaffiliation - for he had been the dominating figure in Bradford Labour politics for more than forty years and had won much personal support. ILP support for disaffiliation was, therefore, something of a foregone conclusion. Secondly, there was clearly some frustration at the failure of MacDonald's second Labour government (1929-1931) to achieve much in the way of Socialist measures. Indeed, several of those in attendance at the Bradford ILP meeting and the Special Conference expressed such concern. Jowett, indeed, made the disaffiliation affair an issue about the future of socialist principles. Thirdly, the fact is that the Labour Party was much reduced in its parliamentary representation after the 1931 general election and this was, perhaps, a propitious moment for change. The Labour Party's weakness also occurred at a time when it was also tightening up on its own parliamentary representatives. Was the ILP going to remain or depart? Perhaps the moment for change might never occur again.

Certainly, a variety of factors were present and may have impaired judgements. R.K. Middlemass's comment on the ILP's decision that it was 'suicide during a fit of madness', does, however, seem most apposite. A small group of ILP leaders seem to have convinced themselves, in a period of intense conflict with the Labour Party, that they could offer a viable and enduring Socialist alternative to the Labour Party when it was obvious, to even the least astute of political observers that the Labour Party's support had waned due to the unusual circumstances of the 1931 general election. In the end, Willie Leach was correct and the 'total sterility' of the ILP was assured. Brockway, and other members of the ILP, if not Jowett, eventually came to recognise their mistake and, as a postscript, it is interesting to note that the ILP eventually ceased to exist as a political party in 1975 and rejoined the Labour Party as a rather small propaganda and discussion group. The ILP had paid the price for cutting itself off from its historical tradition and roots. The irony was that having been formed in Bradford in 1893 it effectively committed political suicide there in 1932.


1. Bradford Pioneer, 5 August 1932. (back)

2. R.E. Dowse, Left in the Centre (London, Longman, 1966); R.K. Middlemass, The Clydesiders (London, Hutchinson, 1965 and New York, Kelley, 1968), chapter 12. (back)

3. F. Brockway, Towards Tomorrow, which is in effect an extension of his book Inside the Left (1943). (back)

4. D. Marquand, Ramsay MacDonald (London, Cape, 1977), p.277 (back)

5. Bradford Pioneer, 1 January 1926. (back)

6. Ibid., 1 October 1926. (back)

7. Ibid., 9 October 1931. (back)

8. Idem. (back)

9. Yorkshire Observer, 13 April 1914. (back)

10. F. Brockway, Socialism over Sixty Years (London, George Allen & Unwin, 1946), p.270. (back)

11. Brockway, Inside the Left, p.238. (back)

12. Bradford Pioneer, 8 January 1932. (back)

13. Ibid., 8 July 1932. (back)

14. Ibid., 29 July 1932. (back)

15. Ibid., 10 June 1932. (back)

16. Ibid., 17 June 1932. (back)

17. Ibid., 22 July 1932. (back)

18. Ibid., 22 and 29 July 1932. (back)

19. Ibid., 29 July 1932. (back)

20. Ibid., 29 July 1932. (back)

21. Ibid., 5 August 1932. (back)

22. Brockway, Socialism over Sixty Years, p.301. (back)

23. Ibid., p.301. (back)

24. Ibid., 5 August 1932. (back)

25. Leeds Citizen, 5 August 1932. (back)

26. Bradford Pioneer, 9 September 1932. (back)

27. Ibid., 5 and 12 August 1932; Leeds Citizen, 19 August 1932. (back)

28. City of Leeds Labour Party, Minutes, 13 October 1932. (back)

29. Bradford Pioneer, 13 August, 16 and 30 September 1932. (back)

30. Ibid., 26 August 1932. (back)

31. Ibid., 19 August 1932. (back)

32. Ibid., 3 November 1933. (back)

KEITH LAYBOURN is Senior Lecturer and Subject Leader in History at Huddersfield Polytechnic. He has written numerous articles and books including Philip Snowden (1988), The Rise of Labour (1988), and Britain on the Breadline (1990).

© 1991, Keith Laybourn and The Bradford Antiquary