Philip Snowden – Parliamentary Election Address 1918

DECEMBER 14th 1918


Mr. Philip Snowden’s Address to the Electors

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have been unanimously readopted as Labour candidate by the Blackburn Labour Party. This invitation has been unanimously endorsed by the National Labour Party and by crowded an enthusiastic meetings of electors in Blackburn.

The Government have decided to rush the General Election before the soldiers and sailor return. It is a scandal that our soldiers and sailors who have endured so much, and whose valour and courage and steadfastness have won the admiration and gratitude of the nation, should be deprived of the opportunity to vote for the new Parliament in their full strength.
The men who have left their homes and families to serve their country, who have sacrificed employment and business, who will return in so many cases impaired in health to begin a new struggle for life, have a vital interest in the constitution and work of the new Parliament; but the manner in which the Government are taking this Election will prevent these men from making their demands effectively known.

The present Government are not. only depriving the Service men of the opportunity to fully exercise the franchise at this Election, but they have arranged over the heads of the electors to continue the Coalition, to crush all independent opinion, and to secure uncontrolled political power for themselves for the next five years.
The war, we have been told, has been waged to make the world safe for Democracy. Mr. Lloyd George is openly aiming to destroy Democracy, and to make Parliament the corrupt and servile instrument of his personal ambition.
No candidate is acceptable to Mr. Lloyd George who will not pledge himself to give unquestioning support to him as Political Dictator. He is seeking to fill the House of Commons with political puppets with halters round their necks.
A Free Parliament, in which men of independent mind can speak, argue, and vote freely, is the only safeguard against violent revolution. The enlarged franchise is a mockery when a political caucus insists that every candidate shall be the branded serf of a Political Autocrat.

To maintain himself in power, Mr. Lloyd George has entered into a compact with all the reactionary forces in the country. The Coalition is supported by wealthy landowners and capitalists who have made thousands of millions of extra profit during the war while the soldiers and sailors and their dependents have been sacrificing themselves on a miserable pittance,
and while their dependents have been trying to exist on starvation allowances.
Mr. Lloyd George has tried by the bribe of office and by specious promises to destroy the independence and power of Labour. He has failed. Labour has realised that if a New England and a New World are to be born out of the sacrifice and suffering’s of this war, the people will have to govern.

THE COALITION’S RECORD.                                                                                   The old political rulers in this and other countries have brought the world to this appalling situation. They have made wars to serve their imperialistic aims. They have kept the people in poverty and ignorance while they have lived in wealth and luxury. The Prime Minister, in his Election Programme, says that the physical condition of the people of England is, through poverty, worse than that of any other great country !
The Coalition Government refused to give a legal wage of Thirty Shillings a week (only equal to 12s. at pre-war value) to the agricultural labourers at the same time it was legally guaranteeing the farmers and landowners double the pre-war prices for corn.
For three years these men refused to increase the soldiers’ miserable pay. So late as August last when I and a few others were demanding improved Separation Allowances (for which we have fought persistently during all the war) the Government resisted any further concession, and when we carried the matter to a division, not one Coalition member voted with us for better allowances for the wives and children of the fighting men.
The Coalition Government has a scandalous record for national extravagance, the suppression of civil liberty, the bribing of financial interests, the toleration of profiteering, the heartless administration of the Military Service Acts, the imposition of industrial conscription, and such crimes as the Mesopotamian scandal.
This record is the condemnation of the men who now ask for uncontrolled power for another five years. These men were in power before the war. They “played with social reform,” as Mr. Lloyd George admitted in a recent speech. They now ask the people to trust them again. They have been tried and trusted before and they have failed.

For four years I have been the object of a press and platform campaign of unparalleled bitterness, abuse and misrepresentation. I have been attacked by those who have always opposed me because I have stood by the. people.
I have been attacked because I stood for peace. 1 believe that wars are the outcome of the antagonism which tears asunder capitalist society ; that they are in the main due to the intrigues of financiers and capitalists who have secretly used Governments and diplomatists to serve their policy of securing valuable territorial concessions for exploitation. The rulers and Governments make wars; the peoples fight the wars; they suffer and die; and those who survive return to the old life of toil and poverty. It has been so in the past. I have worked to make this impossible in the future. This is why I have been attacked and abused.
The people of this country gave their support to this war because their rulers said it was for the rights of small nations and to destroy an aggressive militarism. I have tried to keep these as the war aims of the Allies. I have opposed the expansion of the war aims in the direction of Imperialism. I have urged that it was the duty of the Allied Governments to help the valiant efforts of the Army and Navy by using diplomatic means to achieve a just and permanent peace.

I have for four years advocated those very principles of a settlement to which President Wilson has now secured the adhesion of the Allies and the Central Powers. I have criticised the British Government because it would not accept these peace terms, and because it would do nothing to end the war by understanding; because, on the contrary, it used its whole force to block approaches to peace and to thwart the efforts of International Labour to bring together the democracies of Europe to establish a just settlement.
If the policy which I, and a small band of misrepresented men, have advocated had been followed, the peace we now hope to get could have been secured two years ago, and the millions of men killed and maimed in the meantime would to-day have been alive and well.
During all my political life I have been the unyielding foe of militarism. Before the war I opposed the Foreign Diplomacy of the European Governments which worked in secret for aims which were bound to end in a general war. I exposed in Parliament the intrigues of the inter­national gang of armament manufacturers who know no patriotism but their profits.

The fighting is over, but the peace is still to be made. There is already abundant evidence that the militarists and imperialists are determined to defeat the terms laid down by President Wilson. Only a great democratic victory at this Election can insure that the British Government will stand by such a settlement.
I have always advocated an International Union of the Workers of the World as the only basis on which permanent peace can be built. I am wholly opposed to Conscription and to the maintenance of military systems in any form. This war will have been fought in vain, its tremendous sacrifices will have been wasted, if it does not seal the doom of the old order of rulers, diplomatists and militarists, and if in the tears and blood and sacrifices of the people the New Democracy is not born.

THE TASK OF RECONSTRUCTION.                                                                        The work of reconstruction will require men of courage, independence, and knowledge in Parliament. There must be no more patchwork reform. I have no new programme to submit to you. By carrying out the programme of Land Reform, Taxation, Housing, Education, Temperance, Shorter Hours, State Ownership and control of public services, and industrial reorganisation, which I have advocated for twenty years before the war, the demobilised soldiers and sailors and all workers by hand and brain can be permanently established in comfortable circumstances, enjoying the full fruits of their labour.

I stand by Free Trade. The Prime Minister, to gain Unionist support, has adopted the discredited policy of Protection. This policy will raise the cost of living, discourage production, lower wages, cause unemployment, create powerful vested interests, and transfer taxation from the rich to the poor. Protection will keep alive international rivalries, render the maintenance of armaments necessary, and make a League of Nations impossible.

I have not recanted my views on Home Rule for a United Ireland. I believe that we should show our belief in the principle of self-determination of peoples by granting full self-government to the nations within the British Empire, including the great dependency of India.
The Trade Union rules and customs which have been surrendered for the period of the war must be restored.Every vestige of Industrial Conscription must be swept away.

I am glad to be able at this Election to appeal to women voters, for whose enfranchisement I have worked strenuously in Parliament and in the country for many long years. I believe not only in the political, but in the social and economic equality of the sexes. I stand for equal pay for equal work, and for throwing open the doors of opportunity in every sphere of life to men and . women alike.

THE DANGER OF CONSCRIPTION.                                                                        The Election Programme of the Coalition makes no promise to abolish Conscription or to restore the political and civil liberties which have been taken from the people. I shall, as 1 ha\e done in the past, oppose Conscription in the future with all my powers. The war-time restrictions on the liberty of speech, writing, occupation, and travel must be abolished, and the power of the Executive to impose restrictions by regulations without the authority of Parliament must be destroyed.

I STAND BY MY RECORD.                                                                                              This is my Programme. I have been your Member for thirteen years. My record is before you. I have always fearlessly championed the cause of the poor and weak. . During the terrible four years of this war, I have stood consistently by the principles I have advocated throughout my public life, and on which I have been returned three times to represent Blackburn in the House of Commons.

I ask you to return me to Parliament for the fourth time to continue to devote my experience and knowledge to your service, and to do what one earnest man can do to make this country worthy of the heroic efforts and gigantic sacrifices of this war, and to make the world a place free from the curse of militarism and the nightmare of war. That is the only victory which can ever have been worthy fighting for, the only victory which can compensate for the loss and suffering of this war.
I thank my supporters in Blackburn for the kindness and consideration they have invariably-shown to me in the past, and I await the issue of this Election in the confident belief that they will continue to give me their support.

I have the honour to remain,
Your faithful servant,

Philip Snowden (signature on original)

39 Woodstock Road
Golders Green, N.W.4.
November 25th 1918.