| The birth of the Labour Party officially occurs on February 27, 1900. 129 delegates gather in the Memorial Hall in Farringdon Street, London. Among these are Keir Hardie and Ramsay McDonald from the Independent Labour Party. The groups present include: |
Independent Labour Party representatives, 4 delegates from the Marxist Social Democratic Federation, 1 representative from the Fabians, Delegates from 64 different trade unions
What these groups have in common is the fact that they have very little in terms of financial resources and only a vague perception of a distinct political programme. The larger unions, such as the engineers and miners, maintain their pact with the Liberal Party, whilst the Co-operative Societies remain officially apolitical. Among the trade union representation present are those from craft unions, such as vellum binding and french polishing, as well as the gas workers and navvies, who are beginning their defence of conditions for unskilled workers. Railwaymen are particularly important in establishing the LRC.
The decision to form a Labour Representation Committee is unanimous, but is largely disregarded outside the hall, where the Boer War dominates the news and the popular consciousness. This is not the first effort at providing the working class with an independent voice in Parliament, which adds to a sceptical, if not bored public response. The first year is therefore very difficult, with the Fabians not playing an active role and the SDF resigning because of the LRC's refusal to acknowledge the concept of class war. Infancy is to be tricky for the LRC.
|October 1900||After only months of its formation the LRC faces the first of its 'khaki elections.' Only two candidates out of 15 are successful: one of which is Keir Hardie in Merthyr, the other being Liberal-inclined Richard Bell in Derby.|
|July 1901||The capacity of the British Establishment to shoot itself in the foot comes to the rescue of the LRC in 1901. The House of Lords makes the Taff Vale Judgement which establishes a legal liability for unions attempting industrial disputes. Losses sustained by the Taff Vale Railway Company during a rail union strike are claimed as damages from the union. This sets a dangerous precedent for future disputes and illustrates the need for political representation. Membership of the LRC starts rising sharply.|
|December 1903||Membership of the LRC has risen, from 376,000 in 1901 to 861,000 in 1903, bolstered by textile workers and engineers. |
With this comes some amount of financial security and the opportunity to tighten its constitution. Now MPs can actually be paid! With candidates' independence now guaranteed, in 1903 Arthur Henderson is to be one of three new MPs to send shockwaves through the political establishment by winning seats at by-elections for the LRC. Liberals are becoming aware of the threat that Labour is beginning to pose.