Labour and the proletarian city : a study of politics in Salford 1919-1932
The Salford Labour Party seldom appears in studies of the Labour Party during the
inter-war years. This thesis seeks to add to the historiography by offering a study of
the role of Salford Labour Party in municipal politics during the years 1919-1932.
Following discussions of the local and national literature, the thesis explores local
election performance and provides in-depth analysis of the politics of housing,
religion and ethnicity, and unemployment. A final chapter considers these in
comparative perspective with a number of urban centres of comparable size.
Salford Labour made significant progress in two phases. The first from 1919-1921
saw the Party establish itself as a force in local politics for the first time while the
second, from 1924 to 1929, witnessed a serious challenge for power. Studies of
Labour's urban advance in this period have variously emphasised the feminization of
Labour politics and a pro-active housing policy. Neither of these factors was found to
be of great significance in Salford. Here there was little evidence of any burgeoning
focus on women's issues. Moreover, the thesis argues that rate-payers, slum dwellers
and council house tenants found at best limited appeal in Salford Labour's housing
policy. For all Labour's campaigning on the housing issue, the party was slow to
make progress in wards where housing density was especially high.
Salford Labour was more successful in its handling of unemployment and the
complex local politics of religion The Party's policies on unemployment appear to
have attracted voters far more readily than did their efforts on housing. Control of the
Board of Guardians provided Labour with a valuable platform to implement elements
of its programme. The Party also steered a broadly successful course between a
predominantly Protestant working class and the strong support it received from the
sizeable Catholic minority. Debates over birth control and, especially, education
placed severe strains on Labour's relations with the sizeable Catholic community.
Nonetheless, these created only temporary and limited reductions in Catholic electoral
support for Labour.
Labour's failure to gain control of the Borough Council during this period is
attributed to the following factors: the solidity of the anti-socialist alliance between
Conservatives Liberals and Independents; their ruthless manipulation of the
Aldermanic bench; extensive local casual labour markets; and the continued purchase
of Conservatism in Protestant working class communities where sectarian concerns
The thesis concludes that although less prominent than many other urban Labour
Parties, Salford did as much to further working-class welfare as many of its
contemporaries. Many of its experiences and struggles make it a worthy of a
prominent place in the historiographies of the inter-war Labour movement.