The Lansbury’s and the Miners’ Institute

Few people realise just how important our area once was to politicians, with the visits of prominent Sinn Fein member and noted suffragette, Mrs Sheehy-Skeffington, to the Moorthorpe Miners’ Institute happening in the same era as visits by prominent Labour Party members and nationally important suffragettes on a regular basis. One of the most high profile visits was that of George Lansbury, pictured below.

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George Lansbury was outspoken on many topics, a stance which saw the vast majority of his political career campaigning for such things as women’s rights and world disarmament. Originally a Liberal he became a Socialist in the 1890’s and was elected into parliament in 1910, but gave up his seat to concentrate on his campaign for women’s suffrage, in 1912. Through the First World War George openly maintained his pacifist stance and also spoke in support of the Russian Revolution, quite possibly both being factors contributing to his unsuccessful attempt to be elected back to parliament in 1918. He was imprisoned a number of times, including for advocating militant tactics and in the Poplar rates revolts, but eventually was re-elected in 1922. Pictured below are peace celebrations at the Moorthorpe Miners’ Institute c. 1919.

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In 1931 the leader of the Labour Party, Ramsay MacDonald, was expelled by the party and formed a coalition, successfully being elected into the National Government of 1931, in the wake of the financial crisis. As George refused to follow his leader out of the Labour Party he found himself left as a senior party member and was thrust into the position of leader. His stance on pacifism continued and he remained at odds with his party, a position made all the more difficult during the rise of fascism in Europe. In 1934 the death of popular Hemsworth constituency Member of Parliament Gabriel Price (who was a coal miner at Frickley Colliery and regularly gave speeches at Moorthorpe Miners’ Institute) led to George sending a message from his hospital bed to the family of ‘Gabe’. By 1935 it was clear that George’s position as leader was impossible and he resigned. Pictured below are peace celebrations at the Moorthorpe Miners’ Institute c. 1919.

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The Lansbury family is arguably one of the more interesting in British politics. Perhaps the best known of his relations is his grand-daughter Angela Lansbury, the actress. However, the father of Angela Lansbury, Edgar Lansbury, led a colourful life. Edgar followed his father into politics with the Labour Party and was later a prominent member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. In the early 1900’s he supported his fathers bids for election and was jailed in the Poplar rates revolts more than once. Alongside his work for his father Edgar was Honorary Treasurer of Sylvia Pankhurst’s East London Federation of Suffragettes. Edgar was first married to Minnie Lansbury who was a leading suffragette of her time and was jailed in the Poplar rates revolts. Minnie was elected as Chair of the War Pensions Committee, campaigning for the rights of widows, war wounded and orphans of the First World War. Her imprisonment led to pneumonia and subsequent death. Edgar went on to be elected as the United Kingdom’s second ever Communist mayor and remarried, leaving politics following the birth of Angela Lansbury. In 1934 Edgar wrote George Lansbury, My Father, which contained references from a number of confidential documents, leading to his prosecution in breach of section two of the Official Secrets Act 1911.

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