Labour Party and political change in Scotland, 1918-1929: the politics of five elections
In examining these various approaches to the development of modern politics the concentrbation of our attention is on the years 1918 to 1929. This is not to argue that the political achievement of the Labour Party can be encapsulated into an eleven year period which begins twenty five years after the founding of the Independent Labour Party and nearly twenty years after the forging of the Labour Party between socialists and trade unionists. As EP Thompson argues in his essay, 'Homage to Tom Maguire' , there could have been no Labour Party without the decision of socialists in the eighteen eighties to break with the traditional two party*system of the day, and our examination of the post-war period does not diminish -the importance to later years of the resurgence of socialism in the eighteen eighties and the socialist agitation of the I. L. P. in particular from the eighteen nineties onwards. Nor does our examination of the post-war period deny the importance of the changes - brought about by the First World War's impact on society. Winter has argued: "The war-time compression of the class pyramid is reflected both in the merger of the Conservative and Liberal Parties and also in the reorganisation of the Labour Party as the voice of more than the manual working class, or, as Webb liked to call them, the workers by hand and by brain". Winter suggests that not only the advance of the Labour Party but the nature of its socialism is determined by the experience of war: "Clause Four is incomprehensive outside the context of a war in which (1) Class collaboration and not ouvrierism determined the political and industrial response of the party leadership and the vast majority of its working class supporters; (2) In which there was an improvement in the standards of the working class which change both heightened expectations of the working class of social reform and kept those hopes channeled within the traditional party structure; (3) In which the Russian Revolution made the formation of a left alternative to Bolshevism both necessary and inevitable; and (4) in which political alliances between middle . class intellectual and trade unionists in defence of working class interests were established as permanent fixtures in the labour movement." Most commentators have suggested, in spite of their diverse approaches, and theoretical stances, that either the growth. of class consciousness or the effect of war had in 1918 made Labour's political advance inevitable. But even if that were so, it would, in 1918, have been impossible to predict the nature of the Labour Party or the political system over the next ten years, in particular how the cross currents between socialist rhetoric, industrial militancy, economic depression and social reform would conspire to produce a new order, stability and equilibrium in Britain. What the historian gains in breadth he also loses in depth. Although this study extends its range to a period of eleven years, it is primarily a study of the politics of electoral competition in Scotland. While some attempt is made to relate the events in Scotland to the ideological and political changes that characterise the period in the whole of Britian, and also to place these changes in their local context, much moi: e study is undoubtedly required of particular events and issues such as the impact of the Irish question on Scottish politics and of the experience of individual communities and constituencies. There are however, now excellent studies both of some of the events of the period, such as the General Strike in Scotland, and of industrial and political developments in certain areas, in particular Aberdeen, Dundee, Ayrshire, Glasgow, and communities in Fife, Dunbartonshire, and Kincardineshire. Despite the mushrooming of local history, we need fuller-studies of other areas of Scotland, in particular the development of politics in rural areas, despite James Hunter's seminal work, The Making of the Crofting community The study which follows is thus p)! imarily a study of electoral politics in the five 'elections from 1918 to 1929, with all limitations that such an examination entails. As John Vincent has observed, electoral data show 'only the outward and visible signs of an invisible political situation which has to be intuitively appreciated in the light of many variablest. He writes of election results: "They speak of the relation of the many to the few for. that is by definition what they are. They show how the many react to the few, how the few are constrained to respond to the many, while at the same time making them enter a situation which the many alone bad not created".