Tuesday, 22 July 2014

"One Nation"; Disraeli meant it!

When the Labour party adopted the "One Nation" slogan, it was widely accepted as reasonable, bearing in mind that it was going to be a party for all the people.
It was Disraeli, of course, who first coined the phrase for his brand of conservatism, aware that the existence of two nations, the "haves" and the "have-nots", was unacceptable. Having enfranchised the working-class male in 1867, he was clearly thinking of elections when he described the working class as the "Angel in the Marble", the ones who could guarantee his party election success. Nevertheless, winning the 1874 election did not stop his courtship of the working people and it is worth looking at a few of the laws passed during his administration, which lasted until 1880.
 Most pertinent of all, in view of Cameron`s promises to make it almost impossible for legal strike action to take place, was the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act, which legalised peaceful picketing! Gladstone`s law prohibiting it had led to the arrest of women for "hooting" at no less a place than Chipping Norton! Also, an Employers and Workmen Act put both on the same legal footing.
 Disraeli continued to gain support from working people with a number of Acts, which historians criticise for being "permissive", but they are worthy of mention. A Food and Drugs Act tightened up laws against the adulteration of food,an Enclosures Act prepared the way for the green belts in cities, an Artisans` Dwellings Act pulled down uninhabitable homes, whilst the Factory Act reduced the hours of the working week, making possible the arrival of Saturday afternoon sport. They weren`t brilliant,the working people were still exploited and inequality was massive, but it was the 19th century, and it was a Conservative government in power.

     Fast forward 140 years and there are lessons for our 21st century Labour party. What is the point of having the "One Nation" slogan if Labour will not fight for the right to strike?

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