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- SBN: 978085681942
- Pages: 208pp + 32 plates
- Size: 234mm x 156mm
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Andrew MacLaren was a Labour MP, but not a socialist. He read Marx but found his inspiration in the philosophy that dominated the great reform movement that swept the Liberal Party to its landslide victory in 1906: The Cabinet of Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman contained three future prime ministers, Asquith, Lloyd George and Churchill, and was determined to introduce the radical reform proposed by the American social reformer Henry George. In this attempt they were blocked by the Tories, leading to the constitutional crisis of 1909, when the Liberal Budget was thrown out by the House of Lords.
‘John Stewart writes with verve and infectious enthusiasm to give an engaging picture of a man and an issue that both deserve more attention’ The Catholic Herald
MacLaren came to prominence in Glasgow as an able speaker in the campaigns to reverse the Lords’ veto. He was persuaded to move to London in 1914 to earn a living as a journalist and cartoonist (several examples of his work are reproduced in the book). As a pacifist, he joined the Independent Labour Party to which many members of the first labour government belonged, including Ramsay MacDonald and Philip Snowden. He first entered Parliament as a Labour member in 1922, losing and regaining his seat twice between then and 1945.
There was considerable support for the Georgist reform in the Labour Party after the First World War – Snowden introduced it in his 1931 Budget, only to have it repealed by the Tories – but large sections of the party did not understand it. When the leadership of the party passed into the hands of the Fabian socialists, the policy of income redistribution through the tax system gained the upper hand.
MacLaren was not against helping those in dire need, but he recognised that it did not solve the problem of persistent poverty. Speaking in the Commons he likened this to people who ‘will shed sad tears when they see men moving down the centre of the stream. They will devise many well-meaning schemes to pull these fellows out of the stream, but they will never think of going up-stream to see who threw them in’.
His aim was to eradicate poverty, which he realised could not be done overnight, but he was convinced that Henry George had shown the way. Because he uncompromisingly pointed to the shortcomings of the socialist approach, he never held office, though his competence was demonstrated during the Second World War in the Ministry of Supply.