- Labour's History
The Labour Party has always been about people. It was formed to give ordinary people a voice and has sought power in order to improve their lives. The fruits of this work have changed Britain for the better, through the most progressive governments in our country’s history.
Ours is a proud history, with achievements – from the NHS to the welfare state – that have made a lasting difference to the lives of people across our country. Over the past century, we have been the Party of the many, not the few.
- A new Party for a new century
The Labour Party was created in 1900: a new party for a new century. Its formation was the result of many years of struggle by working class people, trade unionists and socialists, united by the goal of working class voices represented in British Parliament.
It was this aim that united Keir Hardie and the colleagues who gathered for the famous inaugural meeting of the Labour Representation Committee at London’s Memorial Hall in February 1900. Ignored by the Tories and disillusioned with the Liberals, they gathered together to push for change.
- Early years and into government
Slowly but surely, the Party grew. The first election campaign in 1906 saw 26 MPs elected to Parliament – together they chose Labour as their official name.
That early growth continued, with more MPs elected in the years to follow, leaving Labour well placed to challenge for power by the time of the 1924 election. It was this election which saw the first Labour government in our country’s history with Ramsey MacDonald the Party’s first Prime Minister.
The first Labour government only held office for a short time, but its achievements were notable. Despite having no majority it passed legislation to improve housing, education and social insurance while also addressing unemployment.
The 1924 government lasted only a few months, five years later came the election of the second. Dominated by the world economic crisis, the following two years were focused on action to tackle the unemployment of the Great Depression. It was not an easy Parliament and the 1931 election saw only 52 Labour MPs elected.
- War, the 1945 Government and onto the future
Fortunately one of those who remained after the 1931 election was Clement Attlee. He became Deputy Leader in 1931, working with a new generation like Ernest Bevin and Hugh Dalton to turn the Party’s fortunes around, before being elected Leader in 1935.
By the end of World War II, the British public were crying out for change. Labour would lead that change.
Our manifesto ‘Let us Face the Future’ laid out a bold vision, pledging to destroy the five ‘evil giants’: want, squalor, disease, ignorance and unemployment. It was a message which captured the imagination of the country and took Clement Attlee into Number 10 on the back of a landslide, winning 393 seats.
Attlee’s Labour government wasted little time enacting visionary change, introducing social security, bringing key industries back into public ownership and introducing a major programme of house building, providing safe and secure homes.
But it was the Attlee government’s introduction of the National Health Service which will rightly go down as Labour’s greatest achievement. Spearheaded by Health Secretary, Nye Bevan, the creation of the NHS has transformed our country, removing the anxiety of illness from millions of families. To this day the NHS is a national treasure and Labour will always protect it.