The development of Labour politics in Southampton 1890-1945
The debate on the development of Labour politics has become more complex and it is accepted that local economic, social and political experiences are crucial to an understanding of the growth of Labour and the decline of the Liberals. The majority of regional and local studies have concentrated on the north or London. This study tries to redress the balance by looking at how and why Labour politics developed in Southampton. The economic background is considered including the dominance of port related industry and the extent of trade union organisation. The influence of socialist groups and the character of local Liberalism is examined and it is argued that Labour had made a significant political advance by 1914. Despite some wartime divisions, Labour was able to unite around the material interests of the working class and after the war consolidated its position developing a neighbourhood organisation and moving away from a purely trade union based organisation. Labour began to secure more working class wards but this was an uneven process. They faced opposition in the form of an anti- Labour alliance of Liberals and Conservatives first at local and then at parliamentary elections. Restrictions on the municipal franchise excluded parliamentary electors and this was likely to affect potential Labour voters in marginal wards. Throughout the whole period Labour highlighted the material issues of unemployment and housing which helped to establish them as the party of working class interests.