Thomas, Philip Robert (1974) The attitude of the Labour Party to reform of parliament, with particular reference to the House of Commons, 1919-1951. Doctoral thesis, Keele University.

[thumbnail of ThomasPhD1974.pdf]

Download (47MB) | Preview


The thesis examines the Labour Party's view of Parliament as an instrument through which the transition from Capitalism to Socialism could be made. The traditional interpretation of the conservatism of the Party on this issue is re-examined and an attempt made to explain the principles governing the attitude of the Labour Movement towards the question of House of Commons reform as a reflection of its broader concept of the role of Parliament in society.
After a preliminary survey of the pre-war conflict that existed in the Labour Movement between those who believed in the parliamentary method and those who favoured industrial action, the study concentrates on the weaknesses of Parliamentary democracy brought about by the Coupon Election of 19l8. The Vigorous Labour response in support tor direct action and the nature of the direct actionist case are examined and a distinction drawn between those who saw it as a substitute for, and those who regarded it as a supplement to parliamentary methods. Its, interconnection with intra-party disputes is examined closely.
A study is made of the relationship between the Labour Party and the Communist Party of Great Britain indicating the centrality of the issue of the parliamentary method as a fundamental source of division between them.
An examination of the intellectual attack on Parliamentarism is made by studying the Guild Socialist Movement and its alternative philosophy with particular reference to the writings of G.D.H. Cole and S.G. Hobson, demonstrating its failure to understand the pragmatic philosophy of the Labour Party.
Basing the argument upon the Labour Party's commitment to the principles of strong government and fair representation the study continues with a detailed examination of the various proposals to democraticise the existing legislative and electoral system. Proposals to increase House of Commons control over the Executive are also looked at. The Party's attitude to women's suffrage and proportional representation is followed in detail throughout the nineteen-twenties, culminating in the case of P.R. in the 1931 economic crisis - which itself is re -examined in the light of recent evidence.
The post-1931 period deals with the intellectual attacks made Upon Par1iamentarism by Laski, Strachey and the Socialist League. It examines the disputes between those who saw the conflict as being between Capitalist democracy and Socialism and the mainstream Labourite view associated with Bevin, Citrine and Morrison, among others, that the real Conflict was between democracy and dictatorship. The intra-party disputes arising from these differing interpretations are fully examined in the Context of the attempts of the C.P.G.B. to affiliate to the Party and to Promote the policy of the United Front. The Party's proposals for legislative and executive reform are also studied in relation to the Party's commitment to an efficient and effective Parliamentary system.
The final chapters are concerned with the changes that took place as a result of the impact of the war. The relationship of the executive and legislative branches of government is fully examined both in war-time and in the period of the Labour Government of 1945/51. Particular reference is made to the divisions between Party members who were members of the different branches of government. The demands for electoral reform and control of administration are studied with an emphasis upon the pragmatic approach adopted by Labour Members of the executive power.
The thesis ends by showing that the Party's commitment to certain principles of reform had not changed, even if the application had, and draws the broad conclusion that British Socialism remained the particular product of a peculiar culture.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Politics, Philosophy, International Relations and Environment
Depositing User: Lisa Bailey
Date Deposited: 03 Apr 2019 09:15
Last Modified: 03 Apr 2019 09:15

Actions (login required)

View Item
View Item