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For Class and CountryThe Patriotic Left and the First World War$
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David Swift

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781786940025

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781786940025.001.0001

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‘Our Platform is Broad Enough and our Movement Big Enough’ – The War and Recruits to Labour

‘Our Platform is Broad Enough and our Movement Big Enough’ – The War and Recruits to Labour

(p.81) 4 ‘Our Platform is Broad Enough and our Movement Big Enough’ – The War and Recruits to Labour
For Class and Country

David Swift

Liverpool University Press

This chapter deals with the question of how the war impacted on Labour’s electoral fortunes after 1918. It considers the post-war influx of Liberals who felt that Labour was now the real home of the radical Liberal tradition, the experiences of soldiers and ex-servicemen specifically, and the extent to which the Left made ‘cultural’ appeals to voters: as Englishmen and women, as Britons, as patriots, as Anglicans, as Catholics, and as individual people. This chapter argues that support for the war was critical to the successes of Labour in the inter-war period. Not only did it prevent a Parliamentary annihilation in 1918, it secured patriotic credentials to counter-balance the influx of middle-class radicals; prevented a break with the trade unions; and facilitated Labour’s appeals to a working-class culture based on family, neighbourhood, pubs and patriotism. It will be argued here that this cultural appeal to the wider working class allowed Labour to win support from beyond both the heavily unionised skilled workers and the Nonconformist tradition which had hitherto provided most of its support, and that the experience of the war – and labour patriotism during that conflict – was essential to this cultural appeal.

Keywords:   The Labour party, Class, Working class culture, Patriotism, Electoral appeal

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